Burt Shavitz, the Bearded Hippie Co-Founder and Face of Burt's Bees, Dies at 80 Burt's Bees, famous for its lip balm, got its start after Shavitz picked up a hitchhiker in 1984.

By Laura Entis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Burt's Bees | Facebook
Burt Shavitz, Co-Founder and Face of Burt's Bees.

Burt Shavitz, 80, who spun his affinity for nature and beekeeping into a multimillion-dollar personal care products company, died on Sunday in Bangor, Maine.

Burt's Bees origin story is an unlikely one, and Shavitz, a bearded, free-spirited beekeeper, was an unlikely co-founder. But in the summer of 1984, the universe aligned when Shavitz picked up a hitchhiker, artist Roxanne Quimby. The two hit it off, and soon, according to the company's website, Quimby was making candles out of Shavitz's extra beeswax and selling them at craft fairs. From there, they expanded the line to include lotions, soaps and Burt's Bees most recognizable product, lip balm.

Related: Weight Watchers Founder, Who Turned Her Personal Struggle Into an Empire, Dies at 91

Despite becoming the name and face of Burt's Bees – his bearded likeness, rendered in woodcut, serves as Burt's Bees distinctive logo – Shavitz walked away from the company he started, in large part due to the disintegration of his relationship with Quimby (according to the New York Times, the two were business partners as well as lovers). In 1999, she bought him out, trading him a house in rural Maine, worth approximately $130,000, for his one-third stake in the company. While the reasons behind the move are murky, last summer Shavitz claimed that his departure was prompted by his affair with a Burt's Bee employee.

In 2007, Burt's Bees was bought by the Clorox Company for $913 million. If Shavitz had kept his original stake in the company, he would have walked away with $59 million, according to the Times. While he was compensated in other ways besides the Maine house – Quimby claimed to have given him $4 million after the sale was complete, and he was paid an undisclosed sum by Clorox to serve as Burt's Bees "brand ambassador – the total never came close to $59 million.

Shavitz spent the rest of his life in Maine. While his relationship with Quimby never recovered, the lost windfall didn't appear to upset him much. Last summer, 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 neighbors."

Related: A Digital Marketing First? Burt's Bees Wants to Pollinate Your Electronic Calendar

Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business Models

A Company With a Conscience — How to Make High-Priced Products Accessible to Working-Class Families

Some products are inherently expensive. Companies can offer leasing programs, financing options and other marketing approaches to make them accessible to working families.

Growing a Business

How to Get Your Business Noticed (and How to Brag About It)

Knowing how to go after important recognition awards and then leverage them can have a long-term impact on your business.


What's the Best Social Media Influencer Option for Your Business?

The success of an entire marketing campaign involving influencers hinges on the meticulous selection of the right social media blogger. Do you know how to choose the right one?


7 Reasons Why CEOs Need to Develop a Personal Brand — and How to Build One.

Here's why crafting a captivating personal brand and origin story is pivotal in today's landscape and how these seven tangible advantages can redefine your success as a business leader.

Science & Technology

ChatGPT Is Powerful — and Can Wreak Havoc If You Don't Know Its 5 Fatal Flaws

There's no denying that ChatGPT is powerful. It should, however, be used with an awareness of its limitations to maximize its potential.