Burt’s Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz has died at 80 years old. (Photo: Burt’s Bees)
You may not know him by name, but if you’ve ever bought a tin of Burt’s Bees iconic Hand Salve, you’ve come face to face with Burt Shavitz, the brand’s bearded cofounder, who just passed away at 80.
The company released the following statement on its website and social media late last night:
“It is with broken hearts that we must convey the saddest news: Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods. We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature. Now it’s up to us, the brand he helped build—and you, his fans and advocates—to sustain his spirit and ideals. Thanks for everything, Burt. We’ll miss you.”
The brand also encouraged fans to share thoughts, condolences thru the social media hashtag #BurtLivesOn.
Burt Shavitz still appears on product packaging for Burt’s Bees. (Photo: Burt’s Bees)
Natural beauty products have become much more prevalent these days, but Burt’s Bees helped pave the way. Shavitz, born in Great Neck, New York, began his career in the ‘60s as a news photographer in New York City covering the civil rights movement, artists, and the early stages of environmental consciousness. He later became a beekeeper, and his life took a turn in 1984 when he met Maine artist Roxanne Quimby. She started making candles out of the unused wax from his beehives, and a partnership — and celebrated brand — was born. By 1991, the indie brand launched its Beeswax Lip Balm, which remains its best-seller to this day. In 1994, the duo relocated to North Carolina to expand their beauty offerings and timeless products like its Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream continued to win over customers.
Shavitz was pushed out of the company in 1999 (Quimby bought him out for $130,000), but the brand went global that year and was eventually sold to Clorox in 2007 for over $900 million. Quimby claims that she gave him $4 million and Clorox paid him to serve as brand ambassador. While Shavitz didn’t end up with a fortune, he took his small share and bought a house in Maine. “In the long run, I got the land, and land is everything,” he told a filmmaker for the 2013 documentary “Burt’s Buzz.” “Money is nothing really worth squabbling about. This is what puts people six feet under. You know, I don’t need it.”
While the marriage of a natural beauty brand and Clorox was one he had some issues with, there was power in his message and the concept of natural beauty reaching a wider audience. The brand continues to educate consumers about the importance of bee populations, the environment, and the tremendous beauty and health benefits of natural ingredients from willow bark to sage to aloe. Another Burt’s Bees achievement: It sends zero waste to landfills.
Let this day serve as a reminder of our relationship with nature and all it has to offer.