This Is The Millionaire Beekeeper Behind Burt's Bees

"I had no desire to be an upward mobilizing yuppie," says Burt's Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz, who once lived in a turkey coop.
Publish date:
June 3, 2014

Despite his net worth, Burt's Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz lives without hot water or television in a modest (to say the least) Northern Maine home. Fun fact: he lived in an 8x8 converted turkey coop for decades.

But while Shavitz's likeness and name fronts the famous natural product line, he didn't build the business on his own. You can learn about Shavitz's story, and the businesswoman behind the beekeeper, Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, in a new documentary, Burt’s Buzz, debuting on iTunes and in select theaters this Friday.

The daughter of some wealthy folks from Massachusetts, Quimby arrived in Maine in the 1980s, after living in SanFrancisco. Instead of balking at hard labor and dismal weather, she dug in and fell in love with the North Woods.

Then she met Shavitz, a beekeeper who sold honey in pickle jars on the side of the road. Unable to resist a tall, weird, bearded man in overalls, Quimby became his business partner and quickly started marketing the honey. She repackaged it in cute containers, traveled farther out to sell it, and even used the extra beeswax to make candles, furniture polish, and finally, lip balm!

In 1992, at a time when lip balm sales were skyrocketing, the two launched Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. Within five years, the company was worth millions.

Directed by Jody Shapiro, Burt’s Buzz showcases Shavitz’s eccentric and simple lifestyle, because, even though Quimby's savvy is what built the empire, it all started with Burt and his bees.

Shavitz is one of the reasons why I started keeping bees. He happened upon his first hive of bees serendipitously, and often tended them without a beekeeping suit. Since I couldn’t afford a suit when I first started out, I figured, if this weirdo from Maine can do it, I can, too!

Burt’s Bees has been a beloved brand of mine for over a decade. Their products are reasonably priced (for a natural brand), they use simple ingredients, and they actually work. I remember buying the metal tins of lip balm for $1 and keeping them everywhere.

When I had matted hair, I used the Rosemary Peppermint Shampoo Bar. When I started working as a barista--and washed my hands approximately 3,000 times a day--I kept a tin of Res-Q Ointment to help repair severely dry hands and cuticles.

The Coconut Foot Oil is the best--not just for rough heels, but for elbows and hands, too. The thick, greasy formula is perfect for right before bed.

And the Tomato Toner has such a unique herbal scent. It isn’t overly drying, but it clears pores and soothes skin. I like to stick it in the fridge during the summer months.

Everything in the Burt’s Bees makeup line is 99 percent natural. Counted among the ingredients are things like flower waxes, vegetable and seed oils, and mineral colorants. They also offer a wide variety of vegan items, and everything they sell is cruelty-free and made in the USA. All this, and you can pick up one of their most popular items, the Tinted Lip Balm, for just $7.

I could name about a dozen Burt’s Bees favorites, how about you? Which of old Burt’s products do you swear by? I can’t wait to watch the documentary!