Birchbox, the New York City-based startup that tipped off the subscription services craze launched an testosterone-approved new vertical today: Birchbox Man. Like the OG lady Birchbox, the men’s version will combine a personalized subscription box with four to five samples a month (except shave gel and stylish socks instead of lip stain and bronzer), along with a “handpicked” online shop and magazine-y editorial content. “Winter is over and it’s time to emerge from your man cave,” reads the intro for a manly-sounding section called Great Outdoors.
Cofounder Katia Beauchamp said she had an inkling there was a market for Birchbox among the other half of the population after getting tweets and “real life” inquiries from men requesting grooming and lifestyles of their very own. Not to mention a curious observation from existing female subscribers. “When their box would arrive, the men in their lives would hover around and were so curious about what’s inside the box,” Ms. Beauchamp told Betabeat over the phone.
Last November, the company did a trial run. Thousands of limited edition boxes at $48 a pop sold out in three days with just a few tweets.
The women’s vertical, however, has been growing largely via press and word-of-mouth. (A quick YouTube search for “Birchbox unboxing” turns up 342 enthusiastic results.) “Women were really comfortable sharing,” said Ms. Beauchamp. “We couldn’t imagine that all men would be comfortable talking about this amazing pomade.”
To mitigate any potential unease, she said, Birchbox decided to include items within a potential buyer’s comfort zone like headphones, pocket squares, and shave creams. “It might be a little easier than saying, ‘Doesn’t my skin look well exfoliated.'” We think any human should be able to get behind the idea of smooth skin and minimized pores, but point taken.
So does she see the Birchbox Man customer as someone embarrassed to walk into a Sephora or an enlightened male unencumbered by issues of heteronormativity? “I know it’s kind of a cop out, but I guess we see it as both,” said Ms. Beauchamp, pointing out that female customers range from avid shoppers those who find the task daunting and have stuck to the same products for years.
Unfortunately, self-quantifying devices like FitBits and Nike FuelBands are a little hard to sample, otherwise we’d say Birchbox could have the tech bros on lock.
The company, which launched in 2010, has already picked up $11.9 million in financing from investors like First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures, and Facebook’s Sam Lessin. Its subscriber base is more than 100,000, with a monthly growth rate of more than 20 percent over the past year. The company’s data shows that 40 percent of subscribers have gone on to purchase full-sized products within their first year, which helps explain why they’ve been able to partner with more than 200 brands.
Birchbox has 60 employees in its Park Avenue and 19th Street headquarters and is looking for new offices. Better hurry, guys, the niche copycats are nipping at your heels–armed with venture financing . . . and dollar razors.