Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, who has given up New York’s luxury for the landscape, has shown that you can build a business with what you love.
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What should a millionaire businessman look like? Surely you would never have thought it like a bearded hippie who lives in a hut and warms his feet in a wood stove. However, it was so Burt Shavitz, a man who loved nature, his three Labrador Retrievers and bees, and who in turn founded one of the most consumed beauty brands in the United States, Burt’s Bees.
Shavitz may have everything in terms of natural wealth, but chose a piece of land in the mountains where he could live peacefully in the midst of nature. At one point he owned a third of the shares of a company Clorox had bought for almost a billion dollars. However, Roxanne Quimby, her ex and co-founder of the company, decided to buy 100,000 acres in Maine so that she could safely retire.
The story of how Burt’s bees came about is incredible and Shavitz, a free-spirited man, was his impressive co-founder. The entrepreneur was an amateur beekeeper who sold small bottles of honey that his bees produced on the streets of Maine. It used to be sold in the summer before the start of the hunting season (and before winter) to prevent the product from solidifying. He wasn’t rich, but he sold enough not to be in debt.
Ironically, the entrepreneur was born in New York City, but his life in the turbulent 1960s made him increasingly disappointed in urban life. After working as a photographer for several years and capturing the city’s misery, he decided to buy a pickup truck and live in the forest.
He had no money, but growing bees allowed him to survive and eventually run a relatively successful business. The funny thing is, he didn’t even buy the bees, he found a swarm while driving. A friend from New York had already taught him how to grow and take care of them. So he took the meeting as a good sign and started a company.
Shavitz’s predetermined encounters didn’t end there. One day in 1984 he met a cute hippie named Rozanne who was hitchhiking. The young woman made nudist lotions and balms, and Shavitz decided to donate 200 pounds of beeswax that he had at home. Together they produced furniture wax, candles, lotions and a strange lip balm that sold like hot cakes. Roxanne and Burt devoted themselves to selling their products in local shops and fairs in the region. By the year 200, his “small” company had sold $ 23 million a year.
Roxanne took over the part of the company, while Burt was content to be just the image of the products. The company is actually called Burt’s Bees because Shavitz had this name engraved on the beehives to prevent them from being stolen.
Business was not for the weird bearded hippie and in 1999 he sold his stake in the company for $ 130,000 to do what he wanted to do in order to live in peace. Roxanne and Shavitz finally stopped being a couple (another reason he moved away from business) and their relationship never recovered. By the time Clorox bought the company, Shavitz would have received $ 59 million if he had held his stake. The company gave him $ 4 million in founding compensation.
It didn’t go wrong. Clorox paid him an unspecified amount each year to be the brand’s image. Shavitz traveled the world to release balms, but his favorite hobby was lounging in his garden and seeing foxes play.
I love my lad’s bees for my hands, my nails look so beautiful? pic.twitter.com/ZiN4MaVtSM
– Andrea Vera (@andreeavera) February 22, 2017
Shavitz never left Maine and his relationship with Quimby never recovered, but he used to say that he had everything he could want. “I have a beautiful piece of land with hawks and owls, breathtaking sunsets and the love of my neighbors.”
The brand is less than five years old in Mexico and is available in Walmart stores.
With information from Laura Entis