Salon worker, environmentalist, entrepreneur and, most notably, proponent of aromatherapy through his company Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher discusses his mother’s use of plants and herbs, the reasons why he chose Minneapolis for his home, and the growth of the school he founded to train future salon workers.

What happened next?

This interview with Horst was originally broadcast in 1991. In the following years, Horst’s vision and his company continued to expand. In 1992, he and his life partner Kiran Stordalen attended the UN Conference on Environment and Development’s Earth Summit where the focus was on climate change, biological diversity, intellectual property rights for indigenous peoples, cultural appropriateness and environmental destruction. That same year, Horst was part of the founding of Business for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit that works to develop sustainable business strategies. Three years later, he launched Intelligent Nutrients, a company that produced cosmetics made with organic ingredients, many of which were grown on his farm in Osceola, Wis.

In 1997, Horst sold Aveda to Estée Lauder for a reported $300 million. He did, however, continue to maintain an active consultant role through 2003.

In this interview, Horst talks about wanting to start a foundation. He made that goal a reality in 2000 with the founding of the Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation, with the original mission to support social and environmental preservation projects that operate on a grass-roots level. Since its founding, the foundation has also added scholarships to support people seeking licensure in the fields of cosmetology or barbering.

In 2008, Horst revealed the first USDA-certified organic hair care line called Intelligent Nutrients.

Horst also dipped his toes into writing, filmmaking and more. In addition to his 1987 book Rejuvenation, Horst published three more books focused on health, beauty and sustainable business practices. He produced the experimental film Hidden Medicine, about Indigenous peoples and the environment in 1999. He went on to open an organic café in 2004.

Horst was the recipient of many honors and awards, including a 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award by the North American Hairdressers Association, a 2007 Rachel Carson Award for a Lifetime Commitment to Environmental Ethics and Integrity, and a 2013 Visionary Leader Award by the International Spa Association. He was named one of the most influential environmentalists in the U.S. by Vanity Fair magazine in 1995 and 2005 and was awarded the “Decoration of Honor in Gold Services to the Republic of Austria” by the President of Austria.

Horst’s Intelligent Nutrients continued to expand, opening a flagship retail store at the Mall of America and expanding to Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.K., Benelux and Canada. In 2014, Horst died of complications related to pancreatic cancer at the age of 72 at his home in Osceola. A year following his passing, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota opened the Krian Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic, funded in part by a $1.5 million donation from Horst and his life partner Kiran Stordalen. The clinic integrates traditional and holistic treatment with pharmaceutical therapy for pediatric pain.

Stordalen and Horst’s daughter, Nicole Thomas-Rechelbacher, continue to lead the Intelligent Nutrients company today.


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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the Friends of Minnesota Experience.


Even with shelter-in-place restrictions lifted during this period of COVID-19 pandemic, many of us remain a tad on the shaggy end of the spectrum when it comes to personal grooming. So we’ve pulled together some inspiration for your at-home haircut in case the thought of going to your local salon still gives you the shivers.