Horst Rechelbacher: Game Changer in Cosmetics, 1941 - 2014

Horst Rechelbacher Head Shot

This post is dedicated to Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and a game changer in the cosmetics world advocating for beauty products that are healthier for people and the planet. Horst also founded Intelligent Nutrients, a line of impeccable body care products so organic and clean you could eat them. Horst passed away peacefully at his home in Osceola, WI, on Feb. 15, 2014, at the age of 72. I met Horst in 2007 when I served as Director of The Organic Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing scientific research and education about the benefits of organic food and farming. Horst was a major benefactor of the Center, and in working together at The Organic Center and subsequently as advocates of GMO labeling, we became friends. In visiting with him and his wife Kiran on numerous occasions in Minneapolis, Wisconsin and elsewhere, I learned more of his business philosophy, his commitment to health and the environment, his approach to product formulations, marketing, style and art, his great love for people and the planet, and his kindness and generosity. He enriched the world as much as he was enriched by what he did for it, and us. Though I only met him later in life, he left a great influence, and his friendship is a gift I will treasure.

In April 2012, we had the great honor of featuring Horst as the keynote speaker of At the Epicenter, a quarterly entrepreneurship speaker series my company produces in partnership with Best Organics Inc., a leading brand promotions and organic gift basket provider based in Boulder. In this 14-minute video segment, conducted in a CEO-armchair style interview with Seleyn DeYarus, CEO of Best Organics, Horst shares his story and his approach to business and life.

Donovan and Horst 11-11-11

Born in Klagenfurt, Austria, Rechelbacher learned about the plant world from his mother, an herbalist. That knowledge became the centerpiece of his career and a passion that grew through the decades. An award winning hair stylist by the age of 14, Horst emigrated to the US in the 1960s, settled in Minneapolis and founded Aveda after formulating shampoos in his kitchen for clients who wanted more natural, earth friendly products. Horst was also a prolific artist, photographer and art collector, and he supported a number of causes related to health, clean cosmetics and the environment. Horst sold Aveda to Estee Lauder for $300 million in 1997, after building it into an international brand. With Intelligent Nutrients, he kept pushing the boundaries of organically produced beauty care.

“He saw himself as an environmentalist, and increasingly more so over time,” Horst's wife, Kiran, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He saw the plight of the planet and the ongoing damage we’re incurring. He felt that very intensely, and saw that the way he could contribute to improving that was thinking about choices people were making from the consumer point of view — their purchasing power.”

Horst was one of the early pioneers in beauty care who knew that it's not just what you put in your body, but also what you put on your body that counts, and that should be non-toxic, healthful products that were produced in an eco-responsible manner. He left a great legacy for the cosmetics industry, and health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers worldwide. Horst Rechelbacher will be greatly missed.

Read Horst's book, Minding Your Business, first published in 2008.