StyleNest caught up with Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, co-founders and co-CEOs of the Birchbox, the discovery commerce company changing the way women and men shop for beauty, grooming and lifestyle products.
Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp met at Harvard Business School. Taking inspiration from Hayley’s beauty editor best friend Mollie Chen, they created Birchbox to help consumers cut through the clutter of the retail world to find products that really work for them.
StyleNest caught up with them both to find out more about the company and the women behind it.
Congratulations on the UK launch of Birchbox. How have you been celebrating?
Katia: We were very excited to bring our brand and discovery service to the UK so we’ve celebrated with a lot of hearty thanks to the team members who made it happen. We’re focused on the months ahead now that we’ve officially rebranded.
Birchbox has already had huge success in the States. Why do you think this is?
Hayley: Thanks. When we dreamt up the idea for Birchbox nothing like this existed. No one was paying for samples and monthly boxes were not a trend. We were simply committed to creating a service that helped women discover new products that they might not have tried otherwise by providing them a customised set of samples, great editorial info and an easy way to buy full-size products. We focused on the customer need which really struck a cord. Our growth over the past two and half years has been driven by happy customers sharing their Birchbox experiences with others.
You’ve got some amazing brands on board, tell us a bit about them.
Katia: We have over 400 brand partners and are always adding new brands to the mix. We believe in a portfolio approach where we mix large with emerging prestige brands. The mix is fun for consumers, who love experiencing products from brands they recognise and exploring a brand that they would never have known prior to Birchbox. For brands, it is a great way to stay fresh when you are well known, or raise awareness as you are building your brand.
But there’s more to Birchbox than just the box, isn’t there?
Hayley: The box is just the beginning. The Birchbox experience is everything from trial to education to purchase. We invest a lot in high quality editorial videos and articles as well as creating an amazingly easy shopping experience. Our US customers love our points program which is a great way to earn points for reviews, referrals and purchases so you that you can buy the products you love more affordably.
You’re both from the States – do you feel at home over here in the UK?
Katia: We’ve loved our first small tastes of the UK so we can’t wait to explore more. We still get a bit lost as we walk around, but the accidental cafes, shops and parks that we have stumbled across remind us of when we first moved to New York and were learning the basics. Discovering new places is one of our favorite pastimes.
Have you always been interested in beauty?
Hayley: I was a late bloomer with beauty. I’ve learned so much since starting Birchbox.
What do you think of the beauty industry here, compared to across the pond?
Katia: It feels similar, though maybe even bolder and brighter then what we see in the US. From what we are hearing, there is a real interest in discovery and experimentation, which is exactly what we want to deliver.
What are your favourite beauty brands? Have you got a favourite Birchbox product?
Katia: Too many to list, but a few favourites are Jouer, Kiehl’s, Caudalie, Benefit, Tatcha, YSL, Fresh and Serge Normant. I’m always discovering new products, but today I am loving Jouer Luminizing Moisture Tint, Benefit Fine One One and Serge Normant Dry Shampoo.
There are so many beauty brands out there, what would you say to a woman struggling to find the right ones?
Hayley: Well, signing up for Birchbox is a great start. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know you might find your new favourite product.
What can we expect from Birchbox now that it’s arrived in the UK?
Katia: Expect surprise and delight, both in the monthly boxes, from the content we create and from the events that we will start hosting. Also, expect us to ask you what you think and what you want – we are building this for you.
Do you have a personal motto?
Katia: I don’t have one motto, but when my mind wanders for inspiration I sometimes find myself thinking about this quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Finally, what is your ultimate handbag beauty essential?
Hayley: I love my rollerball fragrance of Oscar De La Renta Live In Love.