"Eye on the prize" is a phrase most entrepreneurs repeat as they chase expansion. For Birchbox co-founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, that means focusing on their core mission of introducing consumers to beauty, lifestyle and grooming products through personalized monthly boxes. Speaking today, May 5 at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC at the Manhattan Center, Beauchamp and Barna shared some of Birchbox's plans as it expands from an entrepreneurial beauty startup to a multinational company.
"There is a line between taking over the world and building a sustainable business model," Beauchamp said during the show. That means building a business model that will survive, not a cute little idea that will be acquired by a multinational monolith. For that to happen, Birchbox needs to remain true to its beauty origins.
According to Barna, while Birchbox is considering an extension into other verticals, the real opportunities lies in its focus on beauty, lifestyle and grooming as the core of its business.
Birchbox considers it both a marketing partner and a retail partner for the brands it distributes in the monthly boxes, particularly since 90% of beauty transactions happen offline, according to Beauchamp. "We were always very comfortable with leakage," she said, adding that Birchbox believes that growing the beauty industry as a whole is a positive thing.
However, with the addition of a retail location in SoHo later this year, Birchbox may be able to catch some of that leakage. It will be an opportunity to provide a wider selection of brands for consumers to play with in person, "a Birchbox Disneyland where people can interact with products," Barna said.
The retail store "is a megaphone to the world that we're a retailer," Beauchamp added. Birchbox has already experimented with pop-up shops, and the success of those has encouraged the company to take this next step.
Additionally, in September 2013, Birchbox expanded to Europe with the acquisition of another company. It's a great opportunity for both European and American consumers to try brands from across the pond - but Birchbox doesn't plan to abandon any of the markets it already operates in, according to Beauchamp. "We definitely have a global vision...but we're not going to do it at the demise of our...markets," she said.