“Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener files and wilder woods. We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature. Thanks for everything, Burt. You will be in our hearts forever,” a company statement read on the Burt’s Bees website.
In a press statement released on the day of his death, July 5th, Shavitz was described as “free-spirited”, and “an uncompromising individual of his own invention”.
Photojournalist, beekeeper, cosmetic guru
Born on May 15, 1935, in Manhattan, New York City, Shavitz had spend time in the army and then became a photojournalist in the 1960s, enjoying success that led to his photographs being published in both Time and Life magazines, before he opted for a a quieter life in Maine and took up beekeeping.
Shavitz stumbled into the cosmetics and personal care world, having begun the business with co-founder Roxanne Quimby in the 1980s, originally as a candle-making venture from leftover beeswax from Shavitz’s honey-making business.
The company diversified into edible spreads and furniture polish, before eventually hitting the big time by entering into the personal care arena with natural soaps, perfumes, and eventually the eponymous lip balms that really bought the company into the limelight.
From humble beginning to corporate big time
Ultimately the company was sold to Clorox in late 2007 for $925m, at a point when the company had evolved to include a range of almost 200 products that included body care, skin care, lip care, hair care and men’s grooming products that were sold worldwide.
A documentary film was released last year that included a personal and candid look at Shavitz’s life, illustrating how he was often at odds with the corporate environment and the evolution of the business it thrust him towards.
The film also portrayed him as an intensely private man, who was happiest living a simple life, surrounded by animals, bees, nature and his dogs.