You know the Burt’s Bees packaging: It’s a sunny yellow, with bees right on the package. The message it sends is “natural” and the man on the label, Burt Shavitz, is a cult figure around the world. Sadly, the world lost Burt on Sunday – he was 80.
But Burt was more than just the face of the company. He was the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, which began as a small, craft sale company and blew up into a popular line of balms and potions. And before that? He was a photographer, shooting everyone from Malcolm X to Allen Ginsberg.
But this well-loved company has its share of misery. It was founded by Burt and Roxanne Quimby (a mother and hitchhiker who he befriended and gave a home to when she was homeless) in 1984, and sold to Clorox in 2007 for $913 million. But before the business struck gold, Roxanne bought out Burt from the company for approximately $130,000. Watching the documentary Burt’s Bees, you don’t get the impression that there is too much ill will, and here’s why:
Burt Lived The Way He Wanted
He had no Internet, television or hot water. He told the New Yorker, “I’ve got everything I need: a nice piece of land with hawks and owls and incredible sunsets, and the good will of my neighbours.”
He Didn’t Hold Grudges
While Burt did say, “I haven’t spoken to [Quimby] in quite a while, and I don’t care if I never do,” he never really perceived missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars as a huge deal. Conspicuous consumption just wasn’t that important to him.
He controlled his own destiny
This says it all: “Roxanne really wanted to own me,” Burt states in the documentary. “And no one owns me, no one’s ever gonna own me.”
He was always one with nature
In 1984, he started farming bees. Without that, there would be no product to market. Even later in life, he was still concerned with nature’s bounty. Discussing his personal offering, Shavitz told the New Yorker, “I do fertilize things. It’s a gift I have. I should put the stuff in a bottle and charge for it.”
He liked his privacy
Some may have considered him eccentric and reclusive, but that is how Burt liked to live. “A good day is when no one shows up and you don’t have to go anywhere,” he said.
He really liked his privacy
His number wasn’t listed in the phone book. Instead, his dogs – Pasha Golden and Rufus Golden – were. Rufus, sadly, died in Burt’s arms.
The thing about Burt is that even if you thought he was crazy, he wouldn’t have really given that a second thought. He was at peace, living off his land and the hard work he put into it. He just wanted to hang with his dogs, and chill the heck out. And he did. RIP, Burt.