Katia studied International Studies & Economics at Vassar College and has an MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS).


After she graduated, Katia worked in commercial real estate investment banking. She quickly decided to go to business school because she was interested in rethinking industries. While she was at HBS, she became very excited about the idea of entrepreneurship as a way to have a challenging and compelling career.


Katia met her Hayley Barna at HBS and together they decided to set up Birchbox. The inspiration for the company was twofold: there was an opportunity to disrupt beauty retail as well as to give beauty e-commerce the potential to deliver on a fantastic discovery experience. As beauty was under-penetrated in online sales, they believed that they could create an experience that would change that trajectory.

MVP (February 2010)

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 6.13.28 PM.png

Customer Problem

The problem that Katia and Hayley identified was that the market needed help in finding new products to buy but at the same time would not commit to buying products before being able to try them.

Customer Segment

The initial target segment were New York women that were tech-savvy and willing to try purchasing beauty products online. Additionally, these were educated and middle-class women as they are willing to spend the money on a subscription to try out higher-end beauty products and then later buy them full size if they were satisfied. Furthermore, they were also women that enjoyed their feminine lifestyles. They liked getting dressed up and wear makeup, which was why Birchbox appealed to them the most.

Value Proposition

Birchbox pioneered a subscription sampling model. Members would pay a small monthly fee and receive a package of five beauty samples that they can then buy on Birchbox's website in full size.

Customer Discovery

The summer before her sophomore year, Katia won an internship at Estée Lauder. During her time at Lauder, she sat on many meetings, which led her to become fascinated with the beauty business and with customer behaviour and preferences. When she and Barna started to work on Birchbox, they reached back to some of Katia's contacts at Lauder as well as cold-emailed people across the cosmetics companies that they admired. After a few meetings, the duo decided to set up and launch Birchbox.

MVP (March 2010)

In a month, Birchbox was able to appeal to more than 200 women, which led mostly to changes on the website.

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 6.52.15 PM.png

Customer Problem

The problem was still the same buying beauty products that fitted a customer's personal needs.

Customer Segment

The segment was still mostly New York women that liked getting dressed up and wear makeup that suited them personally.

Value Proposition

The value proposition was adjusted to include not just a subscription to a monthly box of samples but also access to an online magazine and videos focused on "dot it yourself projects"