Birchbox is one of New York’s most successful tech start-ups. And not just because “Netflix-for-beauty” was a brilliant idea.It was a well-executed idea by co-founders Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp. We caught up with Katia briefly to discuss one of the biggest challenges for start-up founders: building a staff.
During our last interview, you said that your investors told you to spend 50% of your time on hiring.
Yes, that was earlier this year, around January.
[Birchbox launched in September 2010 with funding from Accel Partners and First Round Capital.]
What was the first position you hired for?
A customer service person. We get a ton of customer inquiries. People want more information about Birchbox. They want to know how it works. We needed someone to answer emails, even though Hayley and I were still really involved answering them.
Then we hired someone to help with operations, with strategy, and with the beauty partners. For technology, we hired a consultant, Liz Crawford, who was previously at Aprizi — we were connected to her via Phin Barnes at First Round Capital. She’s now our chief technology officer. Finding a tech hire in New York was definitely challenging. We’re a tech company, so we have very technical problems. Early on, it wasn’t obvious what the tech challenges were. We now have eight engineers.
What other teams have you grown?
We’ve had to build all the teams. The partnerships team is growing. Working with several beauty brands, that list has grown. Our editorial team has really grown. Our operations and customer service team has grown as well.
How big are you today?
About 45 employees.
What was your approach – how did you find candidates?
Initially, they found us – in fact, they beat us over the head to get our attention. This includes friends or people who read the first press that came out. They told us how they were going to help. At first, it was really challenging to write job descriptions. We found amazing candidates. Hiring is hard.
What was the hiring process?
We’d talk to candidates and send job descriptions after we met them. Over this summer we’ve created a job descriptions on our site.
Do you have an HR person?
We have a hybrid office manager/HR person that we hired two months ago.
How much value do you put into a resume and cover letter?
We put a lot of value into resumes and cover letters. It helps us determine how much value people can add to our company.
Did you use social media to hire?
We definitely used LinkedIn. And we put internships on job boards, especially with hiring junior graphic designers.
What are the top characteristics you’re looking for in an employee?
We want people who are inspired by what we’re doing. We’ve set out to do something pretty big. The person must be optimistic. We have a huge goal, so we need doers who have ideas — and know how to execute on those ideas. People who thrive well on teams. Their communications skills need to be excellent. And a generally positive attitude.
Did you have experience hiring before launching Birchbox?
No we didn’t. We spoke with other entrepreneurs and talked to investors who provided great tactical, strategic advice. These people are a few years ahead of us, and remember what it’s like to be in the trenches, hiring the first 10 people.
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