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We Should Always “Bee” Happy: The story of Burt's Bees

Although I never personally met the man or knew his full name, I had seen his first name and his profile pictures for years with a growing interest and amazement.

I was very sad to see that he had passed several weeks back.  His company was Burt’s Bees and his name was Burt Shavitz.    The Maine based business started with Roxanne Quimby in 1984 as a candle making company.  The candles were made from left over bee’s wax from Burt’s honey business.  As many new businesses, it started slowly but by the end of the first year, it had grown to $20,000 in sales.  

After taking a large order for a boutique in New York, Burt’s Bees expanded their business.  Around that time, Roxanne found several recipes for personal care products after reading one of Burt’s old bee keeping books and the company started to make additional products.  This expanded line still included the candles but now also had natural soaps, perfumes and one of their best selling products, lip balm.

But it was not always blue skies for them.  In 1993, Roxanne forced Burt basically out of the business due to “issues in their personal relationship”.  Roxanne kept the company growing and by 1998, now based in North Carolina, they had sales of over $8 million dollars and 100 natural care products.  In 1999, Roxanne bought out Shavitz’s share of the company for a house worth about $130,000.  

In 2004, an equity company bought most of the Burt’s Bee Company for $173 million dollars from Roxanne (who kept 20% of the company).   Burt renegotiated his compensation and was given $4 million dollars.  After several years of growth with several executives from high power companies like GE, Garner and Unilever, the company was once again sold this time to Clorox Company for a reported $925 million. 

So the next time you see a little bee that weighs a few grams and think it does not do much for you, remember these little facts:

  • One tablespoon of honey represents 36 bees total lifetime production
  • The average American eats 1.1 pound of honey a year
  • It takes pollen from two million flowers to make one pound of honey
  • The hive of bees will travel 55,000 miles over 12 square miles for that one pound of honey
  • A bee flies about 15 mph and lives for about 45 days but does not sleep
  • Mead is honey wine

So my personal thanks to Burt of Burt’ s Bees for keeping the science of Apiology going strong and for superior lip protection in the winter.

A little 'off-topic' from our usual animal nutrition, but interesting none-the-less!   

Posted on 10/7/2015 by Dr. Ed Bonnette  |  Category: Specialty
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