Business Superhero: Beatrix Potter

18 Feb 2016

There won’t be many adults who didn’t enjoy The Tale of Peter Rabbit growing up. It’s a British institution, a rite of passage for any child, and despite first being published in 1902, it’s still a much-loved story by the legendary author, Beatrix Potter. 

Beatrix Potter has been thrust back into the spotlight recently with the unearthing of a lost manuscript which is set to be published later this year. The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is due to be released in September but is already topping pre-sales list months before it will hit the shelves. 

She published more than 30 books during her career and had an astute business mind when it came to selling the books. She recognised the importance of merchandising decades before the likes of Disney did: just after the release of The Tale of Peter Rabbit she made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll which was apparently quite a commercial success.
Despite passing away in 1947, her continuing popularity cannot be denied – her books have been translated and sold throughout the world.

She also was a pioneer in her involvement in areas that were, at the time, very male dominated, leaving a legacy the effects of which are still being discovered. Beatrix Potter was interested in science from a young age and carried out her own research in mycology, the study of fungi. She would also later play an integral part in the farming community in the Lake District, becaming a major Herdwick sheep farmer in the area.

In this area again she was admired for her business mind – she willingly experimented with new biological remedies and was known for employing only the best staff which earned her a stellar reputation. 

The author was also a passionate conservationist and a supporter of the National Trust – she shared the same objectives, preserving the beauty of the land and keeping it out of the reach of developers. and on her death, in 1943, she left all of her property – which amounted to over 4,000 acres of land, 16 farms, cottages, cattle and sheep – to the National Trust, which is today part of the Lake District National Park. 

More than a century on from Peter Rabbit he remains a much-loved character in children’s literature – Beatrix Potter was a visionary in her time but her stories, passions and actions remain as important today as they did back in the Victorian era.