Co-founder Anthony Dao is riding the subscription box wave, having started Lipstick Junkie with his wife Diana back in 2017. They found a new shared passion: a subscription box for bold lipstick palettes! We sat down with Dao one afternoon to chat about Lipstick Junkie!
How Did This Idea Come To You?
Before all the exciting lipstick palettes, Dao was working with his wife at “the same insurance company but in different departments. We still work there and we run Lipstick Junkie as a side business.”
“We love the whole subscription box thing and getting stuff delivered to your home.” But they struggled at first with what product they’d sell. “We didn’t really know what idea to go with.”
But when his wife started wearing lipstick, “she would get so many comments about how great her lipstick looked. People loved the bold colors.” They went full steam ahead with a subscription box encompassing lipstick. “We created Lipstick Junkie for people who want bolder colors than what they would normally wear, something that would help them break out of their shells.”
How Was The Feedback from Your First Customers?
“Customers were very responsive to us. We reached out to them, like ‘we’re brand new and we appreciate your business. How did you feel? What made you subscribe?’”
Dao learned from his customers and incorporated their feedback into the subscription box’s brand and products. “We used their answers to shape our boxes to what they are now. We cater to a specific type of client.”
What Surprised You Most about These Customers?
Dao and his wife were surprised with “how willing they were in trying purple or orange lipstick colors. We didn’t think people would be that interested in those colors.” Dao originally expected his customers to prefer the relaxed, simple colors that wouldn’t draw much attention.
And through these interviews with his first customers, Dao learned that “they hated going to Sephora and Ulta because they felt people would be judgy. The sales representative would push what they wanted to sell.” Dao’s customers loved the idea of getting bold lipstick colors delivered straight to their houses to sample and combine with outfits, “not worrying about people giving the side eye.”
Dao and his wife really took that to heart. “We want everyone to feel confident in expressing themselves!”
What’s a Challenge You’re Dealing With?
“Marketing,” Dao replied quickly, “We use Cratejoy as our backend, which is great. They do a lot of the heavy work for us - we host our site on them and use their features.” Marketing Lipstick Junkie in the world of makeup can be difficult, especially combating Sephora, Birchbox, or Ipsy. “But we’re learning something new every day.”
What Were You Doing for Packaging Pre-Arka?
Dao always envisioned starting a subscription box company, so when it came to packaging needs, he set his eyes on boxes - specifically mailers. “The company we first used was BoxUp. We weren’t really happy with them. The designs weren’t that good and the prices were higher.”
“We wanted more options to choose from,” and that’s when Dao found us!
How Did You Find Arka?
“You were first company we used [after BoxUp].” Dao couldn’t even remember how he found us, “I think someone mentioned Arka on a Facebook group. I decided to check you guys out. You were running a promotion at the time, so we bought some - we actually loved it and decided stick with you guys.”
When we asked what got him to stick with us, he replied, “I love how easily it was to customize the box, and you guys were more affordable.”
How Did You Come Up with The Packaging for Your Subscription Box?
When it came to custom packaging design process, Dao admitted, “We didn’t have any idea what we were doing.”
Dao and his wife went to a graphic designer, “We told her what we were kind of looking for. She gave us 5 or 10 different sample designs. We designed on your site - we played around. We didn’t have a design background, and we really liked that we could use your designer tool!”
Dao iterated a bit with colors and designs, but wanted to stay faithful to the mailer box. “A lot of the beauty boxes started using these handbags. We decided to stick with traditional boxes and it worked out well! Customers love the design of the box, and that it’s a box! They don’t like these bags. They can see the box wherever they put it - it’s bright, it stands out, it helps them remember us.”
Dao even received great feedback from his vendors, “They asked us where we get our product boxes from, they were impressed.”
What Advice Would You Lend To New E-Commerce Entrepreneurs?
“Just stick with it.”
Dao explains, “There’s a paralysis before they jump into entrepreneurship. Just do it. We didn’t have any experience.” Instead of waiting and browsing, Dao and his wife “stopped talking about it and just did it.”
“It’s the best learning tool: jumping in it, fixing one problem at a time.” And this scrappy, two-man operation is enjoying every minute of it!