Call it the Birchbox effect.
Most beauty subscription services that have recently appeared on the Web are looking to find their niche, and My Shade of Brown is looking to embrace its customer — women of color.
My Shade of Brown was launched in February as a subscription service and began operating by word of mouth. The privately owned company, founded by Meki Adefris, an Ethiopian American, has acquired 600 subscribers in the past four months. “By women of color we mean, Asian, Southeast Asian, Latina, African American, etc. — women with a bit more melanin in their skin and with diverse hair textures,” said Adefris.
Adefris was reading an article about Birchbox before it gained momentum. She immediately signed up to start receiving her monthly box. According to Adefris, within the first three to four months she wasn’t satisfied with the items being sent to her. She claimed most of the products didn’t match her skin tone or worked well with her hair texture. When speaking with African American, South Asian and Hispanic friends, Adefris found that many had the same gripe.
“If you’re a woman of color, you’re usually looking at CVS or Walgreens,” said Adefris. “But when you go to purchase a new foundation, they tend to not stock the darker colors. It’s crazy to think about what people in Middle America have. New York is such a diverse city and they aren’t even supplying what we’re looking for. We have a lot of choices, but we’re still very limited.”
My Shade of Brown costs $10 a month, which can be canceled at anytime. Every month users receive a “pillow box” with four to five samples. Those products are on the Web site’s e-commerce shop for purchasing. According to Adefris, a lot of the products she has discovered are from smaller brands that come from Chicago and Atlanta. “As we expand, I hope that some of these bigger brands will come to us,” said Adefris. “In a sense, this is a non-controversial way to get your products in your target customer hands.”
According to Packaged Facts, a consumer sales tracking Web site, women of color spend $7.5 billion on beauty due to the amount of items they purchase that don’t work, and therefore continue to buy new products. “Birchbox launched a men’s category before they even expanded on shades and products for women,” said Adefris. “My needs and frustrations are very similar to other women of color and we feel they are being ignored by the industry.”