The two ladies behind bellabox are not only 36-year-old women rocking the business world but they are also sisters…twins in fact. How cool it that? I have an intriguing fascination with twins and although I wanted to ask the girls a million questions about feeling each others physical pain and sharing clothes, I resisted and instead picked their fabulous business brains.
bellabox was created from the girls passion for discovering and buying ‘hard to get’ luxury beauty items online, and a mutual dislike for crowded malls. bellabox is a beauty sampling concept that allows us Aussie dames (and blokes too) to discover, trial and purchase beauty and lifestyle products.
In a nut shell the girls pop together a fabulous goodies box each month and send it out to your front door with yummy samples of beauty goods. The well known branded products you receive each month can range from nail polish to lip stick to the latest beauty trends. It’s a fab idea and Aussie’s are LOVING it.
bellabox only launched at the end of October 2011 and already have an office in Melbourne and Singapore. The girls also have over 20 staff members working for them too.
I picked Sarah’s brain about running bellabox…
I was living in New York when the pioneer of the beauty box concept, Birchbox launched. Emily and I had been looking for a way to combine our skills in marketing, entrepreneurialism, media (and working way-too-hard!) and we were very attracted to the fact that a beauty box didn’t discriminate – you didn’t need to be a beauty expert to enjoy it.
Despite living in New York where the concept was growing, Emily came up with the bellabox idea and jumped on a plane from Singapore to pitch it to me. This product was fun and represented a much needed, monthly indulgence for lots of women (predominantly) so we were excited about the scale and opportunity of the beauty box business.
What steps did you take to turn the idea into a business?
Blind-faith and determination!
We went into planning mode from May 2011 and Emily focused on building the website. She read the entire Magento (an ecommerce digital platform) manual and we hired brand managers to procure products while we equipped them with the necessary sales presentations.
We then split up the two markets – Australia and Singapore – and separately worked on the aspects that required a regional focus, like packing, distribution and customer service.
In the early days we did as much of it ourselves as we could, from transporting samples to the warehouse and dropping off daily e-commerce store orders to Australia Post outlets, preparing contracts for our Brand Partners so we could collaborate, through to answering all customer queries. Even the customer service phone calls went to our mobiles!
What positives and negatives are their working with your sister?
The best parts about working with your sister is that you know how hard the other works and you can trust that they will always do an amazing job. You are driven to make the business succeed.
The hardest; well, we are sisters so get annoyed at each other and I don’t know if anger can be conveyed by the pressure applied to the keys on your laptop as you are scripting a rather annoyed reply on Skype! But I’m sure the words get the message across.
So yes we argue, and Alex (Emily’s husband), was able to sum up the ‘hard parts’ aptly in a recent conversation. Apparently we are really logical, level headed and rather non-emotional, 98% of the time. And then for the other 2%, something petty will set off an argument that he finds hard to mediate, as it doesn’t really make sense!
How have you managed to grow bellabox into the success that it is?
Hard work and a non-acceptance of the status quo in every area of our business, we always focus on our two main stakeholders – the customers and the brands -and every day we focus on improving the experience for both groups. Like most businesses, outward facing bellabox looks like a glamorous and fun business full of beauty products and launch events, however our investors pointed out pretty earlier on that we were a back office and logistics operation with elements of glamour, which is very true!
The investment of $1.3m, and the strategic investors that we brought on in early 2013 have also driven our success. Two founders of one of our Brand Partners, Lance & Ido from Yes to, bolstered the value of bellabox and showed that our hard work was paying off. They loved what we delivered to them as part of their sales and marketing campaign with bellabox so much so, that they in turn put their money where their mouths were and invested.
What is the best and worst part about being your on boss?
We have both worked in senior positions previously and Emily has run her own businesses so we understood the level of work and dedication required. Plus, we have been involved in the ability to shape the future of a company.
The best is the opportunity to choose really amazing, intelligent and fun people to work with. The worst is not knowing when you might be able to go to bed and think only about how you can relax the next day! But I’m not sure anyone has that ability or peace of mind.
What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own business venture?
- Assess the opportunity carefully and understand what you can add to the gap in the market.
- Additionally, have a good understanding of the time you can devote to this venture
- Be prepared to go without a salary
- Find a business that you can appreciate
- Prepare a business plan
- Be in it for the long haul, see it as a 5 year+ vision
- Consider your exit strategy
Check out more on bellabox here