THE BLOG
01/09/2015 11:15 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Going Against the Flow: Hayley Barna, Cofounder of Birchbox

Hayley Barna is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Birchbox, the ecommerce company changing the way women and men discover and shop for beauty, grooming and lifestyle products. Through its multi-channel platform, the Birchbox experience features personalized sampling, informative editorial content and a hand-picked online store.

After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2010, Hayley began her career as an entrepreneur with classmate and Birchbox Co-founder Katia Beauchamp. Their connection grew into a friendship that inspired the pair's collaborative idea for Birchbox, which debuted in September 2010.

Hayley learned the foundation of strategy and psychology behind successful consumer businesses through her previous roles with Bain & Company, Christie's and Amazon.com. Appling this experience to her current role at Birchbox, Hayley spends her days weighing a mix of analytical and creative, strategy and execution, keeping close to Birchbox customers and products.

Hayley has a master's degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a bachelor's degree in Economics from Harvard University; she grew up in Armonk, New York and currently resides in New York City.

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Hayley Barna, Cofounder and Co-CEO of Birchbox

What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?

HB: To me, entrepreneurship means taking an idea and making it a reality. Starting small and growing it bigger. Seeing problems and running right through them.

I've heard it said that entrepreneurs have a certain mix of heart, smarts, guts and luck. I believe that magic combination allows founders to stomach the roller coaster that is starting a business. These traits don't guarantee success though, there's an element of luck and timing, as well.

What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?

HB: I'm most proud of the team we have grown at Birchbox. It is such a diverse group of smart individuals who bring their enthusiasm and creativity to work with them every day. And in particular, I'm very proud of the relationship that my co-founder Katia and I have as friends and business partners.

If I could get a do-over I would re-live the first few months after launching Birchbox with the perspective and the skills that I have now. There are key learnings we picked up along the way, an example being to make hiring a priority so you can build the team needed to scale.

Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.

HB: I think going against the flow is the most fun way to go. When I was 24 I decided to temporarily move to Hong Kong, a place I had never been and where I knew no one, in order to gain a broader business perspective and experience more of the world. It was an atypical choice, but one that paid off in terms of personal and professional growth.

What specific lessons learned from your experience as a consultant have come in most useful to you in your current role?

HB: My early career as a strategy consultant directly after college taught me that smart people who aren't afraid to ask questions can quickly create value. That experience contributed to the fearlessness required to launch Birchbox back in 2010 without having any prior experience in the beauty field.

LinkedIn style - If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?

HB: Relax, have fun, and don't forget to slow down and enjoy yourself.

Follow Hayley Barna at @HayleyBay, and check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ or thestartupsutra.com.