Career Code: Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp
In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s upcoming book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($12), we’re kicking off an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the beauty industry.
Unless you've removed yourself from society and all media for the past six years, there's a good chance you've heard of the beauty subscription box service giant Birchbox. The first of its kind, the company's original basis is that for $10 a month, five custom-tailored product samples will be sent to your door along with corresponding information on how to use them. If you fall in love with the samples (which you're sure to do), you can purchase the full-sized product on the Birchbox website, or if you're in the NY metro area, you can visit their brick-and-mortar store in SoHo. But it doesn't end there—Birchbox is growing by the minute, breaking into a social-only brand campaign where you can purchase products on Instagram using the hashtag #BirchboxCart. But enough of our side of the story—we tapped the brain of co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp to learn how she's helped grow and cultivate such a beloved brand.
"I'm obsessed with building a beauty company for women who aren’t obsessed with beauty. We're awakening their interest in the category through a shopping experience that’s easy, delightful, and personalized. On a day-to-day basis, I spend a lot of time in meetings getting updates from the team and speaking to external partners."
"I’m not the one with all of the answers and ideas. I know it's so much about the team, their ideas, and their ownership. My job is to set them up for success."
"I wore an unfortunate black suit with unfortunate shoes. This was to my Estée Lauder internship interview."
"Elon Musk. His level of thinking is going to change the world. I love how big and bold his ideas are. It shows people that even if every idea doesn’t work, they should allow themselves to ask bigger questions and face things that are completely impossible."
"WWD, John Oliver, NPR—five-min podcasts sometimes two times a day—and CEW. I quickly scan Twitter and look for things that are relevant in the business world from Forbes, Fortune, Pando, Inc., etc. Oh, and I also love the 'What’s Trending?' segment on Today."
"I didn’t negotiate my compensation for an internal transfer. I encourage people to practice the behavior of asking for more and set the tone that you think you’re valuable in a reasonable way."
"Jeans and a jacket, and I take a little more time on the eyebrows."
"High energy but very deliberate. She knows I try to make the most out of every minute and am devastated when a meeting is a waste of time. I like to set a good example for caring about people’s careers and personal lives. And I must eat all three meals a day."
"Family time. Seeing the kids and my husband refuels me. Their dancing and silliness is so fun, it just grounds you. I also love SoulCycle."
"Openly. In my mind, it’s important to tell the person as early as possible and be open about why so your manager has an opportunity to learn. Do so from a calm and cool place—if there are heated feelings, wait for it. The world is a small place, you never know if you’re going to work together again."
"Not salad. It’s a lot of dumplings, pad-Thai, and tacos."
"I’m a contrarian—I think millennials are amazing to work with. My personal take is that even when I graduated college, we didn’t have enough access to information. The amount of knowledge people consume—even at age 22—impacts who can contribute more to the larger organization. Junior-level people need to have a level of self-awareness of consumed experience versus actual experience. They need self-awareness on how to best contribute. The most common mistake I see among my peers is not being excited to harness the beauty of the millennial—they have many qualities that make them huge assets, like their creativity, ability to multitask, willingness to try hard things, and just go for it."
"@marieclairemag—it's the level of celebrity news that I want to consume and they widen the definition of celebrities to include business people; @sincerelyjules—I love her fashion;
@tataharper—mom, entrepreneur, truly passionate about her craft. Friend goal: @evachen212—I’m going to learn something from her every time, whether it’s fashion-related or a new feature on Instagram; it’s fun and cool and I’m learning all the time. And @yoga_girl—it's inspirational."
"In the morning, I spend 30 minutes with the kids and no phone. It helps ground me and center myself and actually have off time. In the evening, I try to get in an hour per night at the very least just with the kids and my husband."
"Trying to build an exceptional company is supposed to be exceptionally hard—that’s what we signed up for."
"Right now, we’re changing the perception that we’re just a beauty subscription company. We’re laser-focused on building a destination for the everyday beauty consumer. We like to think of ourselves as a beauty company for non-beauty people—we help them explore beauty in an efficient, non-intimidating way. We’re excited about rallying around our customer. We recently launched a new social-first brand campaign featuring two real Birchbox customers who are busy badass women. They’ve been able to discover new beauty products around Birchbox that work for their multi-tasking lives."
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