Careers

Birchbox CEO explains how emailing strangers can help you get ahead

Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp
Heidi Gutman | CNBC
Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp

Katia Beauchamp had no experience in technology or beauty when she co-founded the company whose name would become synonymous with the subscription-box model.

"My co-founder and I, neither of us were in tech. Neither of us were in beauty," the Birchbox CEO says, speaking at a recent CornellTech@Bloomberg event.

The company, which has raised more than $86 million in venture capital, delivers sample-size beauty products each month to more than one million subscribers.

Not only did Beauchamp and co-founder Hayley Barna lack industry experience, but they were told by investors that the company wouldn't catch on.

So the duo, then students at the Harvard Business School, turned to cold-emailing.

"I cold-emailed every CEO of the beauty industry you can imagine," Beauchamp says. "And it worked."

Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox

The business landed key partnerships early on with big beauty brands like Kiehl's and Benefit, something Beauchamp says was crucial to landing investors as well as customers.

Here's her recipe for the perfect cold-email

1. Have a "very compelling subject line." The CEO used "Reimagining beauty retail online," according to Inc, and credits the snappy line to the high response rate.

2. Make sure the email is short enough that a person can read it without having to scroll down on his or her smartphone. The less time and energy it takes to read it, the better.

3. Don't attach a business plan. That's asking too much. Instead, include a "one-pager" with more information.

4. "Ask for something that's pretty hard to say 'no' to," she says. Beauchamp did not ask CEOs for big favors or free products. Instead she asked, "Do you have five minutes to give me advice?"

"Ask for something that's pretty hard to say 'no' to." -Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox co-founder and CEO

For Birchbox, the well-crafted cold emails had a snowball effect. The emails "turned into a meeting. And the meeting turned into a pitch."

Those pitching meetings led to partnerships with "massive brands, early on."

Beauchamp says that cold-emailing isn't just for young professionals or early-stage entrepreneurs. It's a way to continually grow your business and your career.

"My cold-emailing still persists," she says. "It works."

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