From journalism major to Vice President and General Manager of Burt’s Bees, Mariah Eckhardt shares lessons she’s learned on her career journey, her take on conscious beauty and one guilty pleasure.
Tell us a little about your backstory.
Mariah: My stepfather worked in advertising, and I remember being around the creative culture and energy and seeing the concepts and work on the wall. It was so inspiring to be in that environment, which ultimately helped direct me toward an advertising and journalism focus in college at UNC.
After school I moved to New York, one of the great meccas for advertising, and Revlon was a client at the agency where I started. Working on that business was thrilling and it also made me realize I wanted to influence not only the advertising but also the products and broader business choices. I was fortunate enough to get to know the folks at Revlon and ended up working there for several years. One of my great mentors and friends was my first manager at Revlon.
I’ve always been interested in fashion and beauty—that love started early. Watching someone try a product and creating a moment of delight, inspiring confidence in them, is incredibly motivating.
Why do you think people have that reaction to beauty and personal care products?
It might be putting on lipstick, or it might be taking a bath, or you might really enjoy the smell of your shampoo. In those little moments, we’re taking care of ourselves in a way that builds our confidence and makes us feel good. That’s a feeling that lights people up.
"Watching someone try a product and creating a moment of delight, inspiring confidence in them, is incredibly motivating."
How did you end up at Burt’s Bees?
I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason, at the right time. I grew up in North Carolina, and I’d been wanting to get closer to home and to my family when I was introduced to the person who was the CMO for Burt’s at the time.
I had known and loved Burt’s Bees for years. When I first started working here and would tell friends or people I met, the reaction was always "Oh, I love Burt's Bees!". Fifteen years later, I still get the same response. It’s such a joy to see how the brand has grown yet held on to that brand love.
You got to work with the founders in your early days with the company. What sticks out in your mind about their philosophies?
The values that came from co-founders Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz are still very embedded in our company and culture today. Roxanne would always say “We take from the earth, so we must protect and provide for the earth.” That is at the core of our Greater Good business model and our natural standards. Our founders inspired the values and principles that ground our triple bottom line—we’re good for people, planet and profit.
Burt was a bit of a muse. I remember sitting with him on his porch of his turkey coop—he knew everything about the land and the cycle of life on his land. He was so connected to nature in a way that was primal and real and powerful, where I think, today, we are so disconnected and scattered. He had a very grounding presence.
To share his wisdom and unique views, a documentary was produced several years ago called Burt’s Buzz. I love how the film brings into view such a unique and interesting story.
"...we like to think our lip balm is making a difference in the world."
What advice do you have for people just starting their career?
First, you have to find your voice and use it in a way that works for you. The other advice is just do something and keep pushing the ball forward. Don’t wait to get out there. Don’t wait for the perfect job. My first job was not the perfect job, but it helped me get the experiences that led me to the next. Focus on the experiences more than the title and learn and build from there.
Also, work with people you like. We spend most of our time at work, and working with people who I genuinely like and learn from every day has been a great privilege.
Can you share your perspective on being in a leadership role?
I’ve gotten invaluable support over the years that’s allowed me to follow a unique career and led to opportunities that have helped me stretch and grow, personally and professionally. Now, I’m eager to focus on fostering the same kind of leadership that helped me to succeed and ensure that we’re giving back not just to the people we work with but to our communities as well.
I do think there's this perception that there's only one type of leader, but our group of leaders could not be more different. We all have different paths. All of us have failed at some point. I am a believer in being candid with where we are and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with each other. That's the only way we're going to be able to really stretch.
I don't know that I'd have been ready for this role had we not been through what we've all been through in the last two years. It’s created such empathy for each other as well as a new energy and drive to do something new and different for our brand and for each other.
"I’m eager to focus on fostering the same kind of leadership that helped me to succeed."
What does conscious beauty mean to you?
For me, conscious beauty is about balance. It’s about how you live your life and being intentional about what you choose to put into and onto your body.
For Burt’s Bees, it’s about better ingredients, better formulas and practices that positively impact the livelihoods of those in the supply chain. We are intentional in how we make our products in a way that is better for the consumer and better for the world.
I am a total skin care junkie and I think I always have been, but certainly more so in this job. As I’ve gotten older and after having children, my skin is more sensitive. My skin feels better when I use natural products—they work well and feel good to use, it feels like I’m making a good choice for my skin and my body.
What are your top three Burt’s Bees favorites?
The Cleansing Oil is my favorite product. It is such a delightful formula that works so well. It rinses without leaving any residue. Number two would be the All Aglow Lip & Cheek Stick. It’s so portable and so easy to use. Third, I love the Baby Shampoo & Wash because I’ve used it on my kids for nine years. They know that mommy’s company makes it.
What do moments of joy look like for you?
My morning run. Having that start to the day is so powerful to me. My guilty pleasure at the end of a long week is tequila.
I have an untouchable block of time 6 PM to 8 PM to spend time with my kids to do family time and bedtime together. It’s the most important part of my day—my kids are amazing little people. These phone-free, tech-free moments keep our family connected. I’m grateful to work for a company that values and respects that time with family.
"For me, conscious beauty is about balance."
What has you excited about the future?
There’s a quote I heard recently: "What got us where we are, won't take us where we're going." And I think that is so resonant for this brand right now, because we're at a pivotal point where the “clean” skin care category is becoming very crowded and less meaningful to people. It's ready for reinvention, and Burt’s Bees is the brand that can do that. Our founders helped create this category, and now we get to prove that, even today, no one does it better.
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