How I won $1.3 million in first-round funding

how-i-20130201Emily and Sarah Hamilton didn’t have any experience in the beauty industry when they started Bellabox, a subscription-model business that delivers boxes of sample beauty goods to customers.

Despite a lack of experience, the company has found success with tens of thousands of customers. More recently, the company scored $1.3 million in Series A funding from a syndicate that includes Elevation Capital, along with Monash Private Capital, SquarePeg Ventures and Apex Capital Partners.

We spoke to Sarah Hamilton about how the company got started, and what the pair plans to do with the $1.37 million.

This is still a fairly new concept for a business. Where did you come up with the idea?

We saw the beauty box subscription concept at work overseas. My sister lives in Singapore, and we came over to New York for a week and discussed it. We had talked about doing something together previously, and she actually saw the concept before I did. We thought we could do the same in Australia. Emily comes from a digital marketing and eCommerce background, so we don’t have any background in beauty at all.

We wanted to make sure it was relevant to our markets, and we saw a wide space in the eCommerce field. The fact you can order something for $1,000 and wait three weeks here to get it delivered…I came back with my impatient New York attitude! We apply that to everything we do.

And when did you launch?

We launched in October 2011 in both Australia and Singapore.

What’s the attraction here? Who are you marketing this to?

The great thing is our customers are beauty enthusiasts and time poor, so they can’t sample products before they buy. It’s gone crazy with being time poor, and part of the investment here is getting in touch with those professional women. It’s something we’re aligned to do. Here we’re just used to going to David Jones and Myer, but this encourages people to look outside the norm and start exploring different brands.

Given you have about 10,000 in your customer base, I’m going to assume your revenue is at least $1 million or even above that.

It’s moving all the time, but…yes, that’s about fine to say. But we’re not giving away too many numbers because it changes all the time.

Did you always intend to bring on investors?

We wanted to, definitely. When the conversation first started between us we’d only been operating for about five months, but it was definitely in our plan. We were happy with the organic growth we were seeing, and we wanted to make sure we got the concept right before we started expanding quickly and securing funds. But we chatted with other interested parties, and they were just interested in so many different aspects of our business. It was important to us that anyone could help us out.

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