Meet the Single Mom behind Burt's Bees Wax…. Sep21

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Meet the Single Mom behind Burt's Bees Wax….

The Burt’s Bees line of natural skin and body products have been a long-time favorite, yet not many people know the unique story of how the company was started. Burt’s Bees has been in business since the early 1980’s.

Co-founder Roxanne Quimby was a divorced mother of twins living in central Maine when she and Burt started Burt’s Bees. She’d been let go from her last three part-time waitressing jobs and had been buying low and selling high at yard sales and flea markets, which brought in about $150 a week during good weather.

Burt was enjoying similar commercial success selling quarts of honey off the tailgate of his pick-up truck every weekend between the Fourth of July and hunting season, from a parking lot in Dexter. Burt lived in an 8’x8′ cabin and the money he made selling honey was just enough to cover his basic expenses.

Burt had been storing up beeswax, figuring that he’d end up using it for something someday, but he wasn’t sure what. Along comes Roxanne Quimby. They met at his roadside honey stand and formed a partnership making candles and lip balm from his beeswax in her kitchen, storing the products in a barn.

The first day they started selling candles was at a local school’s craft fair and they made $200 that day. They decided they needed more space, so they rented their friend’s one-room schoolhouse for $150 a year, just enough to cover fire insurance. It had been vacant for about fifteen years, except for the mice and squirrels, and though it had no heat, electricity, running water, or windows, the price was right, and it became corporate headquarters.

Now they are one of the most successful natural skin care lines, making a wide range of skin, cosmetic and body products with their own state-of-the-art factory in North Carolina.

HILARY Magazine recently sat down with Roxanne Quimby to find out what keeps this incredibly successful business on top.

HILARY Magazine: What made you get started in this business?

Roxanne Quimby: I always had a knack for creating and selling arts and crafts and I put that talent to use to support my family.

HILARY Magazine: What motivated you when you were starting your company?

Roxanne Quimby: Survival! I was a divorced mother of young twins when I started Burt’s Bees. I was living in a very remote area in Maine at the time where there were few “real” jobs for an unskilled art school graduate like me. So I fell back on what I could do—making and selling hand made arts & crafts at local and regional outdoor shows. This way of earning of living also gave me the flexibility I needed to raise my children.

HILARY Magazine: What made you want to work for yourself and was that idea ever scary or intimidating?

Roxanne Quimby: I had very few options at the time but to work for myself. I have strong streak of independence running through me so I found being self-employed was much to my liking despite the lack of financial security that comes along with it.

HILARY Magazine: What has made Burt’s Bees so successful?

Roxanne Quimby: Our commitment to delighting the consumer, hard work, and a bit of luck, of course!

HILARY Magazine: Could you identify the traits you were born with and the external motivations that make you such a strong business woman?

Roxanne Quimby: I think I have a strong point of view on matters that interest me and confidence in what I believe. I was inspired by my grandmother’s grass roots entrepreneurial skills and learned from my father’s small business failures!

HILARY Magazine: Do you have any advice for people who want to start up their own company?

Roxanne Quimby: No matter how trite it sounds, one must be faithful to one’s vision and not settle for less no matter what the odds. Building a business requires a lot of personal and financial sacrifices that were unknown to me when I started out. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

HILARY Magazine: How did you meet Burt and how was the friendship between you and Burt formed?

Roxanne Quimby: I met Burt on a country road in Maine where he was selling honey from his hives. I thought he was a curious looking kind of a guy so I stopped to take a look. A friendship took hold when I figured out he had something of use to me — beeswax and honey which I could turn into candles and lip balm to sell at my arts & crafts shows!

HILARY Magazine: How did the business turn from Burt storing beeswax in a honey house to the million dollar corporation it has since become?

Roxanne Quimby: I think it takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and belief in one’s vision to build a successful company. That sounds sort of trite but one must possess these basic traits to carry on when faced with the daily challenges and sheer exhaustion of running one’s own company. Good luck and good timing also play a role in one’s success. For a product-driven company like Burt’s Bees, I think it’s important to stay ahead of the curve with product innovation and listen closely to what the consumer tells you she wants, and remain faithful to your mission and values.

HILARY Magazine: What has been your vision for the company that has kept you going even in hard times?

Roxanne Quimby: I grew Burt’s Bees with a long-term perspective. I am a very persistent and patient individual who understands that success is achieved consumer by consumer and does not happen overnight. I have always believed that mistakes are important learning tools and I was never discouraged by the many I made in the history of the company.

In late 2007, theĀ Clorox Company purchased Burt’s Bees Wax for over 900 million dollars.