Birchbox turns the ‘cosmetic counter’ idea on its head

Gone are the days of sifting through your best friend’s makeup bag in the hopes of finding an acceptable lip color for tonight’s outfit. Gone are the days of spending $49.99 for a non-refundable bronzer that gives your face the “she’s-been-eating-too-many-carrots” tinge. And gone are the days of grabbing that same old department store cosmetic because you aren’t aware of all the other options.

Welcome to the era of Birchbox.

In September of 2010, co-founders and Harvard Business School graduates Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp created Birchbox, a monthly subscription to today’s most popular beauty and retail products, according to the company website. Think of the stereotypical wine-of-the-month clubs and trade the bottle for liberally-sized samples of Benefit, Dior, NARS and more.

As stated in the Birchbox webpage FAQ section, “Every month, you’ll receive a box filled with beauty, grooming, and lifestyle samples from both up-and-coming and well known brands. Each delivery will include a mix of categories, as well as lifestyle items. Samples are generously sized, with enough product to allow you to figure out if they’re right for you”

The idea is simple and elegant, filling a niche that has members applauding.

“We came up with the idea for Birchbox when Hayley and I were in business school together,” said Beauchamp in an interview with “Hayley and I were intrigued by all of the incredible start-ups that recently started, like Gilt Group and Rent the Runway. We recognized that there were no new concepts when it came to beauty e-commerce and that beauty had specific needs/pain points when it comes to shopping online—touch, try, smell and experiencing products are essential to discovery.”

Roughly half the size of a shoebox, the monthly Birchbox contains a bounty of products delicately wrapped in pink tissue paper. The unveiling of the products is reminiscent of the giddiness of Christmas morning with ‘presents’ ranging from nail polish to moisturizer, neon-colored earbuds to designer perfume.

“Some samples are sent to everyone—these products are chosen carefully to ensure that they’ll work for a wide range of styles, skin types, and colorings,” according to the Birchbox FAQ. “Other samples are chosen specifically for your beauty and grooming needs.”

When signing up for Birchbox, the subscriber is invited to take a survey with questions including: What skin type best describes you? Which of the following describes your hair? Which beauty styles are you interested in?

It is this level of personalization that helps the girls at Birchbox match clients with the best products, tailored specifically for them.

If a customer fell in love with one of the petite products in the Birchbox they can hop online to to the “Shop” section, where all products are available for purchase and can be delivered straight to your door. Customers also have access to the products that were in other members’ boxes in the “Shop” section of the website.

The Birchbox company is growing at an incredible rate, expanding beyond the adult female demographic. In April of 2012, Birchbox extended its reach to men, according to the company website. From shaving creams to boxer briefs, Birchbox Man now features products specifically designed for the needs of a man. In September of 2012, Birchbox launched JolieBox, an international branch “operating in France, UK, and Spain.”

Birchbox can be purchased at three, six or 12-month subscriptions at $10 per month, and Birchbox Man at $20 per month. For more information,