The Burt’s Bees iconic namesake and co-founder, Burt Shavitz, died on Sunday, June 5, at age 80. He was described as a free-spirited, wild beard, wisecracking, Golden Retriever-loving, beekeeper from Maine. He grew up in Great Neck, New York, was a U. S. army veteran, who served in Germany, and at one time, worked as a photographer for Time-Life. After inheriting a sum of money, Shavitz moved to Maine.
Shavitz, with his hippie lifestyle, began peddling his small honey business in the early 80s along the side of the road from the back of his bright yellow Datsun pickup truck. The idea came as a result of bees swarming his fence post after a rainstorm. He already possessed all the tools to have the business. He believed this was an “act of God.”
Burt’s Bees, the million dollar natural cosmetic company, was founded in 1984 after a partnership evolved with Roxanne Quimby, an artist from Massachusetts. The two met while hitching and the relationship grew as she impressed him with her self-sufficiency and ingenuity.
Quimby created candles, their first product, from unused wax in the hives. Shavitz became Burt’s Bees iconic namesake when his face and untamed beard appeared on the labels of their products. The products have utilized this label for over 30 years, although he has not played a role in the company’s success in over 20 years.
By chance, Shavitz and Quimby’s company’s success flourished from $200 at their first craft fair to $20,000 within their first year. In 1991, the company quickly experienced growth with the creation of its best-known product, the lip balm.
In 1994, the company was moved to North Carolina and the business relationship between the two was severed. However, Shavitz moved back to a remote area in Maine and was given an undisclosed amount on a yearly basis for his beard and face to remain on the products. Additionally, he received 37 acres of land. During an interview in 2014, Shavitz stated he was forced to leave the company because he had an affair with one of the employees. His ideas of a simple life and subsequent struggles are in the documentary, Burt’s Buzz.
By 2000, the products with the Burt’s Bees iconic namesake earned much notoriety as revenues climbed to $23 billion. The company expanded from candle making and lip balm to lotions, soaps, face washes, and other personal care products that are now available in 40 countries.
By 2003, the multi-million company of natural care products was auctioned to a private firm of investors from New York. Quimby received $141.6 million in exchange for the company relinquishing 80 percent.
Burt’s Bees was sold in 2007 for approximately $925 million dollars to the Clorox Company by Quimby. Nevertheless, the Burt’s Bees iconic namesake products continue to be one of the most well-known natural care products. Currently, the company emphasizes the rights of animals and maintains a high regard for its natural ingredients.
Shavitz’ mantra from his life for all to remember is to “never lose sight of our relationship with nature.” Shavitz stated he was not concerned about making money, but relished the privilege of living on his land with the beauty of the seasons.
By Marie A. Wakefield
Reuters – Burt’s Bees Cofounder Burt Shavitz Dead at 80
NBC News – Burt Shavitz Iconic Co-Founder of Burt’s Bees Dies at 80
USA Today – Burt Shavitz, the Burt Behind Burt’s Bees, Dies at 80
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