Once upon a time, Birchbox was a beauty industry darling. Birchbox raised nearly $90 million and was once valued at almost $500 million. But the brand's future has been tenuous for years, as growth and profitability were a constant struggle.
Founded in 2010 by Harvard Business alums Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox redefined how people discover and shop for beauty and grooming by pairing a monthly subscription of personalized samples with relevant content and a curated e-commerce shop. At its height, Birchbox operated in six countries, reaching more than 2.5 million active customers with a portfolio of 500 best-in-class prestige brand partners with flagship stores in New York City and Paris.
The brand's first lifeline came in 2018 when Viking Global acquired a majority stake after agreeing to invest around $15 million of new cash into the business in a deal that wiped out Birchbox's other investors. Walgreens followed, taking a minority stake in Birchbox that extended into a strategic relationship that included piloting a series of "Birchbox retail experiences" inside 11 Walgreens stores and selling subscriptions via Walgreens digital properties.
Then in November of 2021, a healthcare start-up founded by Dr. Kimon Angelides called FemTec Health launched with $38 million in funding at a $380 million valuation and bought Birchbox with plans of revitalizing the business. The $45 million deal also saw Birchbox co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp sell her remaining interest in the company and become a strategic advisor.
FemTec Health also acquired tech start-up Mira Beauty, which uses data and artificial intelligence to match a consumer's attributes with beauty products and content they might find relevant, for $28 million around the same time, as well as Liquid Grids, a social marketing company focused on the healthcare sector.
Last week WWD reported that Birchbox's parent company, FemTec Health, sent a letter to creditors advising them of bankruptcy proceedings and suggested they consider opting into shares of FemTec. "We believe, in the best interests of Birchbox and the entire FMTC family of companies spanning the US and Europe, a Chapter 11 or some equivalent structure may be necessary," the letter read.
The letter allows creditors to receive shares in FemTec Health in the full amount of their obligations. "We cannot negotiate separate deals with more than 150 creditors," the letter continued. "If we can come to an agreement regarding this new Class A Preferred Stock, FMTC will commit to continue to building Birchbox."
Birchbox is not FemTech Health’s only issue. The business furloughed staff last month, including the CEO, Chairman Kimon Angelides, and its Chief Scientific Officer.
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