The Burt's Bees Story
The Unusual Story of Burt's Bees: Minding Our Own Beeswax
Story by: Roxanne Quimby
I guess you could say it all started because there weren't many jobs up there north of Bangor. Though we found, grew, or traded for most of what we needed, I figure a person's got to have at least $3,000 a year in actual greenbacks to survive in this old world, especially if you've got kids. I'd been let go from my 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 over in Dexter. He'd been keeping bees around there for a dozen years or more, and had a right nice homestead up on the hill near Garland. Thirty hives, a flock of chickens, Pony and the 8' x 8' turkey coop he'd hauled off from a neighbor's place that he remodeled and lived in were about all he needed.
The money he made selling honey mostly paid for his property taxes and gas for the pick-up, and it was just about enough. Well, you can see by Burt's picture there what a good-looker he is, so I figured I'd get to know him better by volunteering to help with the bees. By the end of summer we got around to the heart of the matter, which was the beeswax. He'd been storing it in the honey house for years, figuring sometime he'd use it for something. That time had come, and he suggested I make some candles, which I did, and took them over to the local Junior High School in Dover-Foxcroft, where we sold them at the 8th Annual Christmas Craft Fair and Bake Sale for three dollars a pair. By the end of the day, we'd taken in $200, and we knew that our business venture was bound for glory.
Well, as I mentioned, Burt lived in an 8' x 8' cabin and my kids and I were camped in a one room tent, so it was pretty obvious we needed to find more spacious quarters for our growing honey and candle operation. A friend came to the rescue when he agreed to rent out his old one room schoolhouse for $150 a year, which was the cost of the fire insurance on the place. 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. We fixed the broken windows with cardboard, installed a gas kitchen range and some kerosene lamps, and were ready for anything.
How we got started making lip balm and ended up in North Carolina is another story, and a long one at that, so I'll save it for some other time. I do hope you enjoy looking through the website at all the stuff we make now. The honey and candles are gone, the kids are grown, our friend sold the schoolhouse and now it's a tattoo parlor, and Burt bought a classic motorcycle with his earnings, but otherwise everything's pretty much the same here at Burt's Bees.
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