co—, launch, discussion
CO— launch party, February 2019. — Elena Olivo Photography

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce feted the launch of CO—, a new digital platform to help business owners grow, with a candid conversation on entrepreneurship between the Chamber’s senior executive vice president, Suzanne Clark, and Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of beauty brand Birchbox and Sarah LaFleur, co-founder and CEO of women’s workwear brand MM.LaFleur.

CO— is designed to help business owners tackle pressing problems, break down barriers, jump-start growth, and navigate the complex journey of nurturing a business with timely, deeply relevant content, according to the Chamber. “It’s a fully realized platform with insights and practical solutions … that meet the entrepreneur where they are,” said Clark during the event held at New York City’s NeueHouse.

 co—, launch, screen
CO— launch party, February 2019. — Elena Olivo Photography

Targeting growth-minded business owners outside the Fortune 1000 with a “relentless focus” on that audience, Clark said, CO— sets out to offer targeted advice, trends and news affecting small and growing businesses, featuring the voices of respected, buzzy entrepreneurs, like Beauchamp and LaFleur, business experts, industry leaders and the big players across business sectors — from to Pinterest — in a variety of content series.

It's led in New York City by journalists and creatives from Inc., Fast Company, The Atlantic, Forbes, and Business News Daily, with a site designed by digital agency Code & Theory.

Regular content features include The Leap, spotlighting stories from high-profile entrepreneurs on pivotal moments in their journey; Ask the Board, delivering answers to user-inspired questions from a revolving group of executives from AT&T to Bank of America; and Midnight Oil, weekly newsletters revealing an entrepreneur’s around-the-clock perspective.

 co—, launch
CO— launch party, February 2019. — Elena Olivo Photography

The road to success is paved with hard ‘kitchen table moments’

At the event, which drew attendees including media from Inc., Fast Company, USA Today and Women’s Wear Daily, Clark noted the disruptive impact Birchbox and MM.LaFleur have had on the beauty and fashion industries.

With its online subscription box service, digital-first brand Birchbox tapped into beauty—the $500 billion mature-yet-growing industry—with a mere 2% online penetration when the brand launched in 2010, Beauchamp said.

Meanwhile, MM.LaFleur is tackling the gap in the apparel market for women’s workwear, offering minimalist garments with a high-fashion feel and personal styling services at an affordable price, selling clothes that say, “’listen to me,’ not ‘look at me,’” LaFleur said.

For both entrepreneurs, there’s been a rollercoaster of highs. Birchbox beat five-year numbers within seven months of the company launching, Beauchamp said. “Our revenue tripled overnight,” said LaFleur. The pair also recounted their lowest moments as startup leaders. “It was intoxicating but awful,” Beauchamp said. “In the first two years, we could not find growth,” said LaFleur.

 co—, launch, panel
CO— launch party, February 2019. — Elena Olivo Photography

Indeed, for entrepreneurs, the road is pockmarked with dark times that are about being a business owner alone at your kitchen table, said Clark. “Those kitchen table moments are very poignant and real.”

Beauchamp and LaFleur recounted the pivots they had to make along the way: MM.LaFleur moved from trunk shows to e-commerce and showrooms, while Birchbox expanded beyond the crowded online playing field to Walgreens stores.

"You have to use your inexperience as a weapon, and not be afraid to step into that space,” Beauchamp said.

Recounting the best advice she received, Beauchamp said the key to staying the entrepreneurial course and seeing your vision through is understanding that inventing something new is such an exceptional ambition, she said. “So it should be exceptionally hard.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

U.S. Chamber Senior Executive Vice President Suzanne Clark interviews Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and CEO of Birchbox, and Sarah LaFleur, co-founder and CEO of MM.LaFleur.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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