In 2009, the beauty industry was no where as saturated and developed as it is today. For Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, this was the perfect opportunity to launch a personalized beauty experience the industry had never seen before.
Katia was a finance major, but didn’t discover entrepreneurship until business school.
“I felt like I wanted to do more with my brain, and I didn’t feel like I was meeting my potential with the work that was in front of me. One of the things that struck me about entrepreneurship was the opportunity to try really hard things and see what was possible if you weren’t constrained by someone else’s rules or expectations. [The only constraints] are your own capabilities, and I became really fixated on entrepreneurship”
Katia and her co-founder noticed, in 2009, that the majority of online businesses targeting the female consumer were focusing on fashion. Beauty wasn’t being considered, and she got curious about why. The answer was simple: people wanted to smell, touch, and try beauty products before committing to buying a full sized product.
Katia wanted to solve this problem. Her solution was Birchbox, a personalized subscription box that delivers customers a curated package of finite choices.
The first and biggest challenge Katia encountered was getting well-known beauty brands to collaborate with Birchbox. Since it was a new company, well-known beauty brands didn’t want to invest their time and money. Eventually, the company got so big – going international just two years after launching – that they needed more samples and time to shift suppliers to figure out where they wanted to invest marketing dollars.
Katia says that they did not use any special marketing strategies, but their timing was key. They didn’t plan for it, but the time of their launch coincided with the rise of beauty vloggers on YouTube and other social media.
“It was honestly serendipity that the person creating content needed content, so they subscribed to BirchBox. We didn’t send them boxes, and we had no idea this community existed. They organically found us and that was really good timing and good fortune.”
As the market became more saturated with other competitors, Katia solidified the company mission, which became helping consumers that don’t know much about beauty or consider beauty to be a big part of their daily routine.
“Every other retailer/subscription service out there is there to help people who love beauty get in front of more beauty.”
With this change came a shift in products and business strategy. Birchbox became primarily focused on skincare and haircare over makeup. The company established algorithms and customer service experiences with this target consumer in mind. Their mission statement became “forever useful always delightful”.
“We are really passionate about being the intersection of delight and ethics. We want to give customers something that is worth their time and money. As well as bringing little bits of joys to customers’ lives. It’s fun to open, but it’s also about learning to take care of yourself and feeling confident. We want every consumer that isn’t passionate about beauty to know that BirchBox is the place for them.”
“If you have an idea, the best thing you can do is to start doing it. Letting go of the idea of a perfect product, but instead launching something to understand if this product has a market. Starting is a really important milestone.”
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