The Co-Founder of This Celebrity-Favorite Subscription Box Shares Why Failure Is So Important for Success
FabFitFun's Katie Kitchens reveals what keeps her going during tough moments.
Editor’s Note: Inspire Me is a series in which entrepreneurs and leaders share what motivates them through good times and bad, while also sharing stories of how they overcame challenges in hopes of inspiring others.
When Katie Kitchens co-founded FabFitFun in 2010, she wanted to create an online magazine to write about products that would make women feel great, inside and out.
Three years into the company’s tenure, she and her co-founders Michael and Daniel Broukhim decided to make a change. Instead of just writing about the products they loved, they wanted to get them into their readers hands so they could try them for themselves. While there were other subscription box services on the market, the FabFitFun team aimed to make their idea stand out from the pack.
“Nobody was really looking at the whole woman. All of them were focused around little sample products,” says Kitchens, who serves as the company’s editor-in-chief. “It’s not just about sending people stuff in a box. We still consider ourselves storytellers and whether it’s founder stories or ingredients or how to wear -- the idea is that we are really bringing these products to life.”
Kitchens says that while the company’s rapid growth -- in 2013 they sent the first boxes to 2,000 members and today the business has more than 350,000 members -- has been gratifying, it has also created its own stressors.
In the beginning, Kitchens says one of the biggest issues they faced was getting brands to believe in what they were doing and convincing them to come on board. “While sample boxes are generally understood in the beauty world – the idea of full size products is still pretty new. On top of that, getting non-replenishable brands in fashion, home, fitness and tech was probably the biggest struggle,” she says.
And initially, with an audience that was largely in a similar demographic as her, Kitchens said it was an easier process to choose what would go in the boxes. She was confident about what would appeal to the members, because she knew she liked what she was choosing. But having the broader audience has kicked things into a higher gear.
“Now that we are curating for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of women, it’s a different game. The members are much more diverse,” explains Kitchens. “A 17-year-old in San Diego probably does not want the same product as a 65-year-old in Kansas City.” Another new wrinkle is that while now brands are more eager to be a part of a FabFitFun box, they don’t necessarily have the capacity to fulfill that scale Kitchens and her team are after.
But Kitchens says that it is the feedback from her customers that inspires her the most when things get challenging. She says the biggest lesson she has learned over the last several years is to not be afraid to seek help from from her support system, and trusting that the people she has empowered to lead, like the company’s consumer insights and merchandising teams, will find products that will most resonate with their members.
Kitchens shared her insights about why you should never play it safe.
When you know you're facing a serious challenge or obstacle, how do you motivate yourself to tackle it?
In the beginning, it felt easier and faster to try and do things on my own. It took me awhile to get rid of that mentality. We have spent the last few years building a really amazing team that has been the absolute key to our growth. We are definitely not ones to shy away from new ideas and challenges. Between my co-founders, co-workers, other founders and entrepreneurs, my husband, my parents and friends, I have a pretty amazing network that allows me to bounce ideas, work through challenges and find new solutions.Related: This Founder Explains Why Self-Care Must Be a Priority When You Have Big Goals
What is a quote that inspires you and why?
"The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere." -- Barack Obama.
The reality is that it is impossible to be successful without some kind of failure. While I have certainly had more than my fair share of failures, it hasn’t stopped me. When we first launched the boxes, I would try and cold call brands to convince them about the opportunity. I got far more no’s than yeses. It was quite frankly the worst. But I kept calling and eventually got some yeses. You have to keep going.
Who really encouraged you when it came to launching the company?
I am probably one of the rare people who has quite a few cheerleaders in my life. My co-founders tell me often that I am capable of anything. My husband is an amazing support system. He believes and encourages me in everything I do and makes what I do possible by sharing in all of our parenting and other adult responsibilities. And my dad has always been my number one supporter, instilling a love of creativity and teaching me from a very early age that you should always chase your passion rather than the money.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
My mom. She is a psychologist and got her PhD when I was a kid. She was the first in her family to go to college. And while I know it wasn’t easy, she made it very clear that it is 100 percent possible to be an amazing mom while having a great career. I think true work and life balance is a bit of a myth. But if I do half as much as she did, I will be in a good.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.