(Founder Stories) Birchbox: Selling Subscriptions To Surprise Beauty Samples For $10 A Month

Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp are co-founders of Birchbox and stopped by our studio to tape Founder Stories with Chris Dixon.

Beauchamp tells Dixon that “Birchbox is a new subscription retail model” where customers fill out profiles and receive curated beauty products in the mail. The monthly fee is $10. If a customer is completely satisfied with a sample she can purchase a retail sized item through Brichbox’s online magazine.

The idea for Bichbox sprung from real-life experience. Barna’s friend was a beauty editor and asked Barna to test top products that she had curated for her. Wanting to recreate the experience for others, Barna says they launched “a subscription model” and “put some editorial content around it.”

Beauchamp adds, “every woman wishes that she had a friend that lived in New York and had access to this editor’s closet so that was kind of the customer side of the inspiration.” On the business side the thought was, “what industries haven’t really had their technical renaissance yet?”

With an idea and industry in hand, they began testing the concept.

In the video below, Barna tells Dixon they initially tested with 200 customers and eight brands over two months. They wanted to see if brands would be “excited about the fact that what we can give them ROI data” on their sampling efforts, data that had traditionally been lacking. And on the customer side, they wanted to see if customers would pay for samples if samples were delivered in an attractive presentation.

In both cases the answer came back yes. Birchbox now claims more than 45,000 paid subscribers and is growing. Last August the New York City-based startup raised $10.5 million series A from Accel, First Round and others.

Make sure to hear more of Barna’s and Beauchamp’s story by checking out both videos.

Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring leaders including Soraya Darabi and Lauren Leto here.