Can Burt's Bees Turn Clorox Green?
By LOUISE STORY The New York Times, January 6, 2008 Straight to the Source
In the summer of 1984, Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Maine, picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 33-year-old single mother down on her luck, as she hitchhiked to the post office in Dexter, Me. More than a dozen years Ms. Quimby's senior, the guy locals called "the bee-man" sold honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck. To Ms. Quimby, he seemed to be living an idyllic life in the wilderness (including making his home inside a small turkey coop).She offered to help Mr. Shavitz tend to his beehives. The two became lovers and eventually birthed Burt's Bees, a niche company famous for beeswax lip balm, lotions, soaps and shampoos, as well as for its homespun packaging and feel-good, eco-friendly marketing. The bearded man whose image is used to peddle the products is modeled after Mr. Shavitz.Today, the couple's quirky enterprise is owned by the Clorox Company, a consumer products giant best known for making bleach, which bought it for $913 million in November. Clorox plans to turn Burt's Bees into a mainstream American brand sold in big-box stores like Wal-Mart. Along the way, Clorox executives say, they plan to learn from unusual business practices at Burt's Bees - many centered on environmental sustainability. Clorox, the company promises, is going green.But not even Clorox can sanitize the details of a fallout between Mr. Shavitz and Ms. Quimby that began in the late 1990s - when Ms. Quimby managed to buy out the bee-man for a low, six-figure sum. She has been paid more than $300 million for her stake in Burt's Bees, and she spends her time traveling, refurbishing fancy homes in Florida and preserving large tracts of land in Maine. Burt himself, now 72, makes his home again in the converted turkey coop - expanded but without running water or electricity - but with $4 million or so to his name.As unlikely as their journeys have been, Ms. Quimby and Mr. Shavitz are pioneers in an entrepreneurial movement that has lately won the affection of corporate behemoths.Full Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/business/06bees.html