Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Beautiful World of Birchbox

Facebook is not the only outstanding business created inside a Harvard dorm room. College roommates Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna loved to take advantage of online deals for luxury cosmetics, but would get frustrated every time they received a product that did not live up to its online description. Tired of wasting their hard-earned money, Beauchamp and Barna created Birchbox, the first online beauty subscription service. These Harvard business school students combined their love of cosmetics, their creative ability to solve problems, and the excitement they felt while swapping cosmetics with friends into a successful online business, thus paving the way for more than thirty-five different subscription box services currently in operation.

Since its creation in 2010, Birchbox has grown from a small, dorm room operation into a multi-million dollar business. For only ten dollars a month, Birchbox subscribers receive a box of four or five deluxe beauty samples individually picked to meet each subscriber’s unique wants and needs. If the subscriber loves a product, they can conveniently purchase the full-size version on the Birchbox website. As one of over 100,000 Birchbox subscribers, I eagerly await the arrival of my Birchbox each month and desperately check for online sneak peaks to get an idea of what I will be receiving in each box. Unfortunately for my wallet, the amazing service Beauchamp and Barna offers is borderline addictive. Who wouldn’t love receiving a surprise in the mail every month?

Starting Birchbox required a lot of hard work, determination, and creative thinking. Because they created the beauty box industry, the Birchbox team had to rely on their own ideas instead of following the examples of others. Barna said she and her business partner faced difficulties, but were motivated to continue their process of creative thinking because they genuinely loved what they were doing. Through creating Birchbox, they were able to successfully combine their passion for beauty with their training and aptitude for business. When asked about the difficulties faced during startup Beauchamp said, “There is no secret to doing this. You start with a vision, and then it is about problem solving, getting things done, and remaining tenacious even when the uphill pursuit becomes steeper.”

According to Mary Ann Colins and Teresa M. Amabile’s writing on motivation and creativity, a major motivator behind creativity is the feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction that a creator receives from working in their chosen field. Beauchamp and Barna both agreed they would not have been able to endure the grueling startup process if they were not passionate about what they were doing. Furthermore, it is also argued that effective motivation, which is a person’s desire to control his or her environment, also plays a major role in creative motivation. In the case of Beauchamp and Barna, their desire to control their environment is evident. They wanted to solve the problems they faced while online shopping. In order to do so, they took charge and created a brand new outlet for women interested in trying new and unfamiliar cosmetics. Instead of passively accepting the burdens that beauty lovers originally faced, the creators of Birchbox proved their autonomy and ability to be the masters of the world of beauty.

Barna and Beauchamp’s hard work is continuing to pay off with both financial compensation as well as the internal rewards of satisfaction and pride, which are also major motivators for many creative individuals. Each year, the number of Birchbox subscribers has grown drastically, the business’s revenue continues to increase, and new subscription services are added constantly. Watch out Zuckerburg. These ladies could dethrone your title as the best Harvard inventor.  
Check out Birchbox.com to learn more about Birchbox and to subscribe for a monthly box. Trust me, it is well worth ten dollars!

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