Far from his native Israel, Joe Martin (BBA '07) was studying at Florida International University when he ran out of money. Desperate for cash, he knew he needed to come up with something. With $375, he launched his first business in 2005.
Fast-forward 15 years and BoxyCharm, the subscription beauty box brand Martin founded, is on track to hit $500 million in sales this year. The company will merge with Ipsy, another subscription beauty box service, creating BFA, the largest firm of its kind in the industry, with Martin joining the board and managing BoxyCharm.
How did this FIU College of Business alumnus, son of a hairdresser and once-aspiring lawyer, reach such beautiful heights?
"In order to not waste too many resources on trying new ideas, you have to be clear on what your company's mission and goals are," Martin said. "Have more winners than losers – and whenever you have a bad idea, kill it fast!" To the outsider, it surely looks like Martin has never had a bad idea.
In 2005, Martin became an early master of internet marketing, teaching himself Google rankings and search engine optimization back in the early days of the internet to help sell off the overstocked goods he bought by the truckload. "I beat the algorithm," Martin said. "Anyone looking for a truckload of stuff would come to me."
His liquidation business thriving, Martin enrolled at FIU Business, a move that helped him discipline his time between business and school and learning Spanish. As his company reached $10 million in sales, he went looking for his next move, which arrived in a shipment of makeup he had not expected. A female employee convinced him that a tube of lipstick could sell for a dollar instead of the five cents he thought it was worth. Martin sold all 10,000 units in one day, spotted a clear opportunity, and BoxyCharm was born.
Martin decided BoxyCharm would offer fullsized products in its boxes rather than the sample sizes other subscription companies used. This allowed beauty companies to offer a full product experience and consumers to perceive a high value for their purchase. "It changed the beauty industry," Martin said.
While BoxyCharm lacked the connections with beauty companies that other box purveyors had, Martin understood the rising power wielded by influencers. He was among the first to befriend them, sending them hot new items and waiting for their social media responses to roll in – and they did.
"People would say, ‘How did BoxyCharm always find the diamond under the rock?'" Martin said. "They didn't understand that we trended the brand by going to the influencers with our product, trending the product, and then putting it in the box."
"We took a weakness and turned it into a strength," he said. "Every brand wanted to work with BoxyCharm because we move the brand." Today, Martin works with a staggering 2,000-plus influencers.
"People are passionate about their makeup and will be ambassadors as soon as you show them a product they like," Martin said. "It's very rewarding when you see you have made someone smile."