EARLY in our interview about the 20-year success of Lush, Mark Constantine is keen to mention the role played by a Daily Echo journalist.

The founders of Lush had already known success as suppliers to the Body Shop, when their next business, Cosmetics To Go, lost money and went under in 1994.

They picked themselves up and began selling freshly made cosmetics at 29 High Street, Poole.

Mark recalls: “Part of what encouraged us was Faith Eckersall writing a nice piece in the Echo, saying ‘What’s the world coming to if Cosmetics To Go is gone?’

“When you’re feeling particularly crap about everything, that type of kind word goes a long way, especially in the local paper.”

Lush is headquartered in Dolphin Quays, where another world-renowned Poole brand, Poole Pottery, once stood.

There, staff play ping-pong in the reception area, products can be mixed in a kitchen-style lab and the company’s digital team sit at laptops set on rustic desks.

Mark was working in a hair and beauty salon when he met beauty therapist Liz Weir in the 1970s and they set up Herbal Hair and Beauty Clinic in Poole High Street.

In the 1980s, they began selling Mark’s products to the fledgling Body Shop.

The company grew and thrived until 1984, when the Body Shop was advised that it was relying too much on one supplier. Anita Roddick’s company then bought Constantine and Weir, its two founders receiving £11m.

The partners sunk their money into Cosmetics To Go. “It was a business that lost a pound on every order it sent out. Unfortunately, we were really successful,” says Mark.

“For the individuals – 200 of us lost our jobs – I was feeling pretty bad about that. Then after a while, you find most people who lost some money on the whole thing didn’t care.

“People who had worked for us had a very good background so they were wanted by other companies. The suppliers said we had been paying them for 17 years and had two or three unpaid invoices.”

The Constantines launched their shop in 1995 with Liz Weir, Helen Ambrosen, Rowena Bird and Paul Greaves. The name Lush was suggested by a customer after a competition in its newsletter.

Fresh fruit and veg were used for the cosmetics, creating the distinctive Lush smell.

“Everyone says ‘Are you pumping that out?’” says Mark.

“No, we’re not pumping anything out. That’s our products. I always say it’s the smell of the future.”

The success of a second shop in King’s Road, Chelsea – visited by the likes of the Princess Royal – saw the brand take off.

“We used to have 1,000 enquiries a month from people wanting to do business,” Mark says.

“Adam Faith wanted to do something with us. I went out for a meal with him. He said ‘I’m here with my mate Eric’ and it was Eric Clapton.”

Today, the business has more than 900 shops in 49 countries.

The brand is known for its cruelty-free and environmentally friendly credentials and also for its campaigning – against hunting, culling of badgers and fracking, for example. And it hands out a lot of money to causes, giving away £5m last year.

“We gave it in small amounts, £10,000-£20,000. A company like M&S will give far more than £5m,” says Mark.

“A lot of it is small but makes it all the more effective. You’re giving it to people who are probably desperate for it and are really going to work that money much harder.”

The Constantines are still based above the Poole shop where Mark, now 63, has worked since he was 22. They have three grown-up children involved in the business, but Mark and Mo are “more involved now than we’ve ever been”, he says.

“Don’t retire before you’re retired,” he adds.

He plays down their recent ranking in the Sunday Times Rich List as the 28th richest husband-and-wife team in Britain, worth £205m.

“Ninety-two per cent of that notional wealth is based on the business. Since we don’t intend to sell it, that’s not going to happen,” he says.

“We live in the same house we did 30 years ago, but we’ve done it up a bit.”

Mark’s passions include the birds of Poole Harbour. He has published a book about them together with CDs of their song.

“I love everything about Dorset. I love the traditions, the history, the nature of the people. I’m really comfortable there. The stronger the accent, the better I like it,” he says.

What has given them the drive to succeed? “I think an entrepreneur needs to be psychologically flawed,” Mark muses.

“You’re psychologically flawed,” Mo chips in. “I’m a doer. I’m happy to stay up all day and all night to get things done.”

Mark thinks the absence of his father from his childhood may have driven him.

“When I was two, he left me. When I was 16, the relationship had finished with my mum and stepdad,” he said.”

“Then I got to find my dad. I told him about what I had done.

“Then I wondered: ‘Is that what it was all about? Is that what it was?’”

Of the reunion, which happened when Mark was over 60, he says: “It was lovely. He was wonderful. I met two wonderful sisters. It was one of the greatest things of my life. Did it help? I don’t know.”