Why we reverse scale our natural beauty box

Normally when you hear us talk about our Oui Fresh Beauty Box subscription, it’s to let you know what’s in the box that month, when new spots are available, when it sells out, etc. But today we are taking a little step back as we pull back the curtain and let you know more about one of the big business decisions we’ve come to behind this awesome product that we are so proud of. So if you like knowing about the business behind-the-scenes read on, but if that’s not your jam feel free to skip this post.

First off, just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, what in the world is this product? For the last year, we’ve been building a subscription box that is all about natural beauty, called the Oui Fresh Beauty Box. Every month, our subscribers get a (bright yellow, adorably designed) box filled with top quality natural beauty products. We include many of our own Oui Fresh lip products as well as essential oils, and we also aim to include mostly small- to medium-sized brands that we think are producing excellent products. We’ve tested a number of other beauty (natural and conventional) boxes and we truly feel that our box is the best on the market right now. We are proud of this! And we can tell our customers are happy too as we’ve sold out every single month that we’ve offered the box. (Which we are incredibly grateful for—thank you!).

Next, I need to introduce you to a term that you might not be familiar with (I wasn’t until earlier this year). It’s called reverse scale. I first learned about it from Meaningful Work by Shawn and Lawren Askinosie—a really great book that I would recommend to any business owner. Shawn owns a chocolate factory that works directly with cocoa farmers across the world to produce award-winning chocolate that not only tastes amazing, but is changing the lives of everyone it touches—from bean to bar as Shawn aims to pay farmers a fair price and work within their communities in various ways. It’s hard to sum up in a sentence, but his business inspires me a great deal and although I have no illusions that we are doing the same thing (we are not), I do think we can learn a lot from his model. In the book, he has an entire chapter dedicated to reverse scale. You see, he cannot scale his chocolate business without potentially messing up the direct trade model they’ve created. This means there are major retailers who will never be able to carry Shawn’s chocolate because he cannot scale in the way they would need (price point and quantity). And as business owners we are SO often met with the message of ‘scale or die.’ The siren’s call of scaling big is ever present and sometimes totally appropriate, but when it means losing sight of what you set out to do, it’s not the right choice. And that’s one of the big things I learned from Shawn’s book.

What does this have to do with the Oui Fresh Beauty Box?

We’ve realized that in order to keep the box as high quality and focused on a mix of small- and medium- sized natural beauty brands, we will also have to reverse scale. For us, this means that soon (probably this summer) we will hit a subscriber number that we cannot go beyond. Otherwise, it will become so large that many of the companies we want to work with won’t be able to produce quantities to fulfill the monthly needs. Therefore, once we hit that number, we won’t be able to scale beyond it.

Even though it’s obvious to us now that this is the right decision, it was a hard one to make. As business owners, we too feel the pull to scale, scale, scale. We are ambitious women who do sometimes dream of being the next big leader of an industry. And for some products/businesses, scaling IS the right path. But for the goals of our beauty box, reverse scaling is what ultimately makes the most sense. It’s important to us that the box remains incredible for both our customers AND the brands we work with. We want to showcase other small businesses that are creating amazing natural beauty products. And we won’t be able to do that unless we stay small, too. We are committed to this type of quality. And once we made the decision, we knew it was the right one for us.

If you are a subscriber, or wanting to subscribe in the future, what does this mean for you? The good news is you can count on a box that is natural, a mix of products, high quality, and focused on introducing you to both small and larger brands. We’re aiming to find the very best natural products and brands out there and share them with you! But the bad news, and it’s really not bad news, is we won’t have an endless number of subscribers. Once we get to a certain size, we won’t have new spots open until other subscribers decide to opt out. This does happen, so I know we’ll still get to introduce plenty of you to our box over time. But it’s not going to scale to bigger and bigger proportions. And we think this is good because the focus will allow us to keep the quality high.

That’s it in a nutshell. We decided to share this with you all because we hope it not only signals to our customers that we are committed to high quality products, but I also hope that any fellow small business owners out there who may be facing similar issues will be encouraged by this. Business is tricky, and I know we don’t always feel like we know what we’re doing! Ha! But we think sharing our own struggles, concerns, and decisions might help others. Thanks for always letting us share. And thank you to everyone who has been a part of our business journey thus far—it seriously means a lot to us! xo. Emma, Elsie, and Team Oui Fresh

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with the ACS for Desktop actions.

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