When Katia Beauchamp left her Private Banking job (where she worked on big corporate real estate deals) to attend Harvard Business School, she had no idea she would be running one of the most successful New York City startups just three years later.
At school she met her future co-founder, Hayley Barna, with whom she brainstormed the idea for a business that would help women (and now men too) discover and experience new beauty products. They reasoned that women have a difficult time buying online because there’s no good way to touch, smell, and try before you buy. Their startup, Birchbox, sends a monthly, personalized box of hand-picked items to each customer to try and then buy more if they liked them.
To say the idea is a success is a bit of an understatement. In just five years, the company has grown from their student apartment (while the partners worked to complete their degrees) into a fashion industry giant. And customers love it. Birchbox hit their five year goals in just seven months. Today the company has more than 800,000 subscribers in the USA, UK, France, and Spain and is worth more than $500 million.
In part because of their success, the two partners have been asked many times for their advice to other (especially women) who are looking to start a business. Here are a few of the things Katia has said that we think are inspiring:
“[Forget] about the concept of work/life balance. There is no such thing. That balance is overall life, not this week or this month; you don’t have to be balanced, just prioritize different things at different points in your life.”
“I don’t think you can be prepared for [starting a company]. I don’t think that’s in any way feasible. I think if you knew what was coming, it would feel daunting because it’s crazy.”
“When you get to work with people who are your friends, spending time with them makes work that much more enjoyable.”
“…keep your head down and focus on your brand and your service or your product and what makes it unique and special. Don’t take too much time obsessing over what somebody else is, versus what you really saw and started, because nobody can copy your vision.”
“The reality is that there are many paths to success; there is no one path. Realizing that frees you to move fast and get things done in the best way that you can. Once you start executing and realizing that you can make reasonable decisions that lead to successful outcomes, you gain the confidence to keep going. For us, it is critical that we all keep that in mind, because every day brings new firsts.”
“Work hard and own it. You make your own success and your own luck. Ask for what you deserve.”
“If you work hard, ask questions, and learn from every opportunity, you are going to have a fulfilling journey in your career. Be thoughtful of the people you work for including your manager. Find someone who is open and respects you. It makes work more enjoyable and gives you the opportunity to learn… It is also highly important to remember to enjoy building your career.”
“Nothing is more delightful than being efficient.”
“I don’t think you just have one mentor; there are so many people we have the chance to meet, so I am constantly looking for new perspectives. There are definitely people I go to for the big questions, but mentors are there to be helpful. They aren’t there to give you the answers but to help you see that your perspective can answer the question.”
“Authenticity helps with anything you’re doing.”
—Katia Beauchamp, Founder and CEO of Birchbox