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Birchbox Founder Katia Beauchamp on Embracing Challenges

Katia Beauchamp, founder of Birchbox

In honor of Women’s History Month 2021, we’re spotlighting the female founders behind some of our favorite subscriptions and brands.

If you know subscription boxes, you know Birchbox. It’s the OG beauty subscription (we’ve been reviewing it since 2012!) and remains a great pick for established beauty-lovers and just-starting-out beauty explorers alike. In June of 2020, Birchbox rolled out a curated box option called “Katia’s Picks,” which offers a peek into what products Birchbox’s co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp is loving and how she’s using them.

Innovative Beginnings

How did Beauchamp rise to her role? To start, she and her partner came up with the idea of a beauty subscription box in business school and just had to act on it.

“We came up with the idea for Birchbox in a whirlwind 48 hours, and once the idea took root, I believed in it whole-heartedly,” Beauchamp told My Subscription Addiction. “I knew we had created a win-win equation: this experience would make discovery better for consumers, and it would help both established and nascent beauty brands acquire customers.”

The seed was planted, but things really picked up with an epic insight Beauchamp and her team identified in the early days.

“Only ~20% of shoppers are motivated by an obsession with beauty products — yet, almost everything in the beauty industry is designed with this group in mind. The majority of us are underserved and find navigating products to be confusing and unenjoyable. So I asked myself: How can we put an end to being underwhelmed with our routines or overwhelmed with all the choices?” Beauchamp recently told us.

With the goal of making the process of finding beauty products fun and simple for women who aren’t living and breathing the latest trends and brands, Beauchamp thought of Birchbox as a “best friend/secret shopping weapon” to help consumers find items they’ll love.

Katia's Picks curation from Birchbox.

Image from our review of a “Katia’s Picks” curated Birchbox.

Try, Try Again

Birchbox wasn’t Beauchamp’s first endeavor. She started her career in real estate investing before realizing what her true calling.

“It wasn’t a fit for me — I was frustrated and unhappy. So, I invested in myself and applied to business school. I didn’t really know anything about entrepreneurship prior to that, and it was a big reckoning moment for me. I wanted to find out what I was capable of, and this was the thing that forced me to meet myself,” Beauchamp said.

Even after she rerouted her focus and founded Birchbox, she had a steep hill to climb. Her new company—which was a completely new category in the beauty industry—experienced quick growth. This meant tons of excitement paired with lots of on-the-fly decision-making. Beauchamp and her co-founder had to convince big beauty brands to believe in them, and convince the male-dominated world of venture capital that their idea had wings. They had to find the balance between thinking big and saying “yes” selectively.

“Challenging and rewarding all at the same time, those experiences really helped us learn our limits and boundaries. It taught us how to walk away from really incredible opportunities when the fit, timing, or partnership just wasn’t there,” Beauchamp said.

The Payoff

Now, Beauchamp smiles looking back on those early days as a startup.

“I vividly remember spending an entire day running across town to gather signatures for a lease on a new office so that come Monday, new team members would have a desk and space to work in,” she told MSA.

But that doesn’t mean it’s just a joyride every day. Beauchamp believes in shifting one’s mindset from goal-oriented thinking to finding joy in the daily challenges.

“It’s supposed to be hard! If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I’ve come to recognize that ‘hard’ is a constant state, and that is a good sign. It means you are pushing yourself, you are growing, and each day you are strengthening yourself for the challenges of tomorrow. Challenge is not the enemy. It’s a frenemy of learning. And that constant growth and education leads to you becoming a better version of yourself,” Beauchamp shares.

As a CEO, mom, wife, and so much more, Katia Beauchamp wears many hats. So, with all those roles to juggle, how does she define success?

“The definition of success is not static. It’s constantly shifting, and you can’t judge your success in each on a daily, or even weekly, basis,” Beauchamp said.

But, as it relates to Birchbox, it’s all about finding a way to do good work every day. She is proud to continually create a space where integrity is prioritized through a positive employee experience, supporting growth in smaller brands, and creating pathways for new voices.

“It is important to me that this company I founded is grounded in using our place to help build the world we want to live in, and that we are addressing that on all fronts.”

All contents of Birchbox Clean Beauty Box from February 2021

Image from our review of a “Clean Beauty” curated box.

About Birchbox

The Cost: $15.00 per month. Sign up here!

The Products: 5 beauty samples including as makeup, skincare, haircare, and fragrance items.

Ships to: Worldwide

Check out our Birchbox reviews & details to learn more!


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Written by Christen Russo

Christen Russo

Christen is a smile collector, outdoors enthusiast, and appreciator of soggy French fries. Her favorite subscriptions involve eco-friendly products and clothes, nature supplies, stationery, and coffee. She can be easily won over with a good sheet of stickers.

Comments (14)

  1. I loved the read absolutly but some of these comments are appalling… Why nit pik how she wrote her story….

  2. I really enjoyed reading this! It’s crazy thinking about how much the subscription box industry has exploded since 2011

  3. I really enjoyed reading this! It’s crazy thinking about how much the subscription box industry has exploded since 2011

  4. Thought it made her feel more human and personable! Easy, fun read.

    Because we’re subscription-addicts here, though–and since the story focuses on “challenges”–it would’ve been nice to hear more about recent challenges. The decline in business, increasing prices, shifting economy. And, very importantly, exactly how she’s paving the way for women there at Birchbox and in the world.

    I’m a current subscriber and I also know that they feature women-owned brands and brands founded by women of color, so that’s where I’m pulling some knowledge in. Maybe we could get a part 2?

    • I totally expected the kind of article you described and was underwhelmed. I was a Birchbox sub from the very beginning, but they weren’t able to retain me as a customer, though I still shop in their store occasionally, so I was really interested in the “now” state of things

  5. Great feature. I was an OG Birchbox subscriber- starting with the 2nd or 3rd box. The joy of those first few boxes, total surprises, some full size items that seemed so fancy/grownup to me 11 years ago! Nars orgasm! I don’t sub anymore but the boxes I do had the way paved by BB creating this whole space. Katia and her co-founder are amazing.

  6. Nothing she hasn’t already said in the multitude of articles that have been published about her and are easily accessible online.

  7. I’m a firm believer to give credit where it’s due and I find it very “one sided” that the name of Birchbox co-founder was not even mentioned. What a shame. This was such a self-centered presentation that it was appalling. I used to subscribe to Birchbox for years as an Ace but quit last year (Ipsy & Allure, before price raise, are so much better). Though I still buy Birchbox kits & LE boxes.

    • A lot of American business history/mythology focuses on the “lone genius” trope.

    • Same, disappointing

    • My bet is the co-founder had a choice in revealing his or her name for this interview. She mentioned the co-founder, so it’s not as if we’re led to believe the whole company was started by her.

      It’s probably something you’d be able to find if you really want to know, but again, perhaps it wasn’t desirable.

      • So instead of guessing, I googled it. Per Wikipedia, Birchbox was founded by Katia and Hayley Barna. Hayley left Birchbox in 2015 to work for a venture capital firm. This was around the time they started seeking more capital for birchbox. Then, in 2018, Birchbox was 80% bought by Walgreens. It appears that Hayley doesn’t seem to mind being publicly named as a co-founder for Birchbox, so what makes you think she didn’t want to be named in this article?

  8. I enjoyed this article very much. Great words that mean so much to me. Thanks.

  9. What a great story! This was a great motivational morning read! 🙂

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