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Empowering Women—Beyond the Box

Empowering Women—Beyond the Box

When Katia Beauchamp cofounded Birchbox with her Harvard roommate in 2010, she was following her dreams. Little did she know, that company she founded would serve as a launchpad for others to follow their dreams, as well.

After eight years in business and multiple philanthropic initiatives that Beauchamp describes as “one-offs” attributed to Birchbox’s culture of doing things with purpose (including raising money to build a school in Guatemala in 2013), a member of her team became inspired by the staff’s passion for such initiatives.

“It was actually not my idea, it was someone on our team who thought, ‘Let’s get organized,’” Beauchamp recalls. “Her insight was very simple—she said, ‘There are a lot of things supporting women who start companies and specific things like entrepreneurship, but what we talk about here is just having the passion, being excited and fulfilled by how you’re spending your time. What if we could broaden the aperture and help take away one point of friction for people in doing something that brings them that kind of purpose and passion by giving them some money?’”

And with that idea, The Future Starts Now Fund was born. As its website states, “We all face obstacles in our everyday lives that hold us back and challenge our sense of self-worth, so we created The Future Starts Now Fund to help you clear those hurdles. . . . Whether that’s a career change, a passion project, or helping your community.”

The fund launched in 2018 and received more than 3,500 applications, awarding four winners with $5,000 each—but that’s not all. The winners were flown to New York City and met with the Birchbox team in both group sessions and one-on-one mentoring, further empowering them to overcome their challenges and take the next step in following their dream. Their stories were also amplified via Birchbox’s content and community platforms.

“For us, it had to be much more than just giving them money,” Beauchamp says. “How can we also help them achieve this? We can give them the resources that we have access to, and help just talk them through the challenges they have.”

Beyond the capital, Beauchamp explains that a big part of the winning “prize” is simply being recognized. Winners felt their dreams were validated, and that they now had a support system. “Hearing the winners talk about it, you wish you could have everybody win, because everybody’s dreams are valid,” she says.

One winner in particular moved Beauchamp—and the entire Birchbox staff—to tears. South Carolina mom Vicki Humphries lost her teenage daughter in a tragic car accident, and, together with her family, launched the Guard Your Life Challenge. The nonprofit uses BMW’s performance driving school facilities for professional instructors to teach teens safe driving.

“They are wonderful, beautiful people who just decided that this tragedy was not going to ruin their lives, that they were going to make others’ lives better,” Beauchamp says. “They’ve had kids call them from ambulances where the police told them had they not known how to drive that way, they’d be dead. I was so inspired by Vicki’s strength and her attitude towards life, and her ability to save people’s lives.”

“I’m very impressed by the strength I see in women and their ability to bring so much love into people’s lives, as well as maintain these incredibly ambitious outlooks for the world.”

Beauchamp herself is a mother of four, and says that one of the biggest lessons she’s learned at many different stages in her career and her life is: it’s never the right time. “You can get caught up in that mind-set of, ‘I can’t do this right now and here’s a million reasons why,’” she explains. “It’s a decision to be in the mind-set of ‘it’s happening because of me’ rather than ‘it’s happening to me.’ That mind-set is something I really strive for because I can see how transformative it is to believe something is possible.”

Helping women in particular is also a priority for Beauchamp and Future Starts Now. “After becoming a mother, I am constantly aware and in awe of all the things women are balancing,” she says. “I’m very impressed by the strength that I see in women and their ability to bring so much love into people’s lives, as well as maintain these incredible ambitious outlooks for the world.”

This year, four more winners will be chosen, and the initiative will continue to pay dividends to Birchbox’s staff, as well. “Doing things like this at a regular cadence is a really good reminder to all of us about how valuable it is to think about real people,” Beauchamp says. “We can have someone in mind and feel more connected to what we’re doing.”

Photos: Birchbox