"We always bit off a lot," says Birchbox co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp, sitting in a conference room at the start-up's Manhattan headquarters with a fistful of eye and lip pencils spread within arm's reach. These were the fruits of Birchbox's latest self-assigned challenge: developing and selling its own color cosmetics.
The goods, some of which are live on Birchbox's site now, are branded under the name Love of Color. The collection is not designed to be a comprehensive line but rather a distillation of the season's most on-trend colors. For fall/winter 2015, that means a few classic lip colors and easy-to-use eye sticks in champagnes, rich plums and deep rose golds, all developed in collaboration with Tati Westbrook, a makeup artist and creator of the YouTube channel GlamLifeGuru. Formulated for busy women who want speed and simplicity in their cosmetics, the shades dry in about 30 seconds and don't budge once they're set. You won't get these off with water alone. I tried.
Like Glossier, the product line that launched as an offshoot of beauty blog Into the Gloss with the full wealth of the editorial team's experience guiding its development, Love of Color was informed by Birchbox's five-year history of surveying its subscribers and helping brands fine-tune their strategies.
"We realized we had competency in house," Beauchamp says. "We had a small team that was helping our brands extend their lines, repackage their lines and change their strategy. That [was] the same team that worked on developing this brand."
As Beauchamp saw it, the opportunity at hand pertained specifically to color cosmetics. Immediately gratifying to customers and often inexpensive — Love of Color's lip pencils are $8 each and the eye pencils go for $10 — the category is a good business for any beauty retailer. To put together a twice-yearly collection focused on seasonal trends, Birchbox leveraged its merchants, its data team's intel about what might be successful and Westbrook's personal perspective.
"I have a series on my channel called 'Hot or Not,' where if the product doesn't work, I share with the audience why it doesn't work and what I would like better from the product," Westbrook says. "I approached LoC the same way. It has to be the right colors, the packaging has to make sense, the texture has to be right."
If Birchbox expands into other product categories, they would likely live under different franchise names. Until then, the team is watching to see how Love of Color's inaugural collection fares when samples go out in subscribers' November boxes.
Homepage photo: Imaxtree