Feb. 27, 2019
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
In a world where every fashion brand pushed an unattainable image, Katie Echevarria Rosen Kitchens wanted to build a brand that felt like a best friend who just happened to know everything about fashion and beauty. So, she started FabFitFun as an editorial brand. Now, the brand has evolved into a monthly gifting box that showcases her team’s favorite beauty, fashion and fitness products. We caught up with Katie to hear her story and see what’s next for the cult-favorite brand.
Why did you start your company?
We have a rather unique evolution as we did not start with the boxes. FabFitFun launched as an editorial brand where we were writing about everything women need to feel good from the inside out. My background is in editorial. At the time, the market was saturated with glossies telling you what to do and how to look. We wanted to be the opposite. We were your best friend who also knew everything about beauty, fashion and fitness. The FabFitFun box was a natural extension from the online magazine. We had an engaged audience, a robust marketing platform, and we were already writing about our favorite products. The next step was to put them into people’s hands. Our audience was hungry for it. And that first FabFitFun box sold out in just a couple of days.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
For us, one of our biggest pluses and minuses was that so much of what we were doing was both new in general and certainly new to us. On the harder side, there were some feelings — mostly on my end — of not totally knowing what I was doing. Negotiating terms and prices, understanding sourcing timelines and packaging requirement and a million other emerging parts of my job were very new and scary. However, the positive side of the coin meant that we were never held down by the way things were supposed to be. Everything was a possibility.
We were and continued to be pretty nimble. We try and test a lot. And while the truth is that not everything works, we are pretty good at not being overly precious and focusing on the pieces that are actually moving the needle.
I think the other big challenge was that in the beginning, it was not just new to us, but to the brand partners we wanted to work with. People were still very unfamiliar with the idea of a subscription box and even those in the know were confused by the way we were approaching the model. It took a lot of education and quite frankly I got a lot of nos. Aside from my PR friends, it was a lot of cold emails and cold calls and not understanding the platform. And look, I hate the word no. Part of me wanted to give up after the endless stalls in conversations but then there was this other, smaller but fiercer part that wanted to prove all of the people who said no wrong.
Luckily, I eventually got some yeses. And then some very good yeses. When it comes to industries like beauty and fashion and tech, the circles are pretty small. So, when brands did participate and saw that the program worked, word spread pretty fast. It opened the door to conversations that felt like they were glued shut.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have support from a very early age. My parents were both very successful which is a testament to their hard work and determination. Both of them grew up in incredibly poor families and were the first in their family to go to college. I think seeing that hard work pay off was the inspiration behind wanting to really be successful. On top of that, one of the things both my parents really drove home was the idea that it’s so much more important to chase your dreams rather than chase money. Even though that doesn’t always pay the bills, it’s a way of living a much more fulfilling life.
What are some of the ways entrepreneurs today can help raise and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
I think it important to tell the real story. I like social media. I believe in its power to connect the world. But it has some very dark qualities as well. We are constantly comparing our lives to the instaperfect versions of the ones we follow. When we hear about success stories or look at the social media profiles of women we admire, it can feel like their lives are easy and perfect and that’s just not the case. While I truly believe a woman can have it all, it comes with failures and sacrifices. I was much more fab, fit and fun before we started the company. I have prioritized work and family, but the gym, friends, hobbies have definitely taken a hit over the past 8 years. And even with prioritization, it has not been easy. I’ve made mistakes in my career and as a mom — big mistakes — but it’s in the mistakes that I have learned the most. It’s what build strength, tenacity and humility. I think we need to give each other the permission not to feel the need to be perfect. And that only comes when we share our honest stories with each other, the good and the bad. The other piece: make sure you are bringing other women to the table.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Driven, funny, creative.
What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?
I think people would be surprised that I’m an adrenaline junkie. I’ve gone bungee jumping, glacier climbing, black water rafting, and skydiving.
What quality do you love most about yourself?
It’s so hard to choose just one…but if I had to I would say that I am very empathetic. I think it makes me a good friend, but in relation to the company, I have a good understanding who our member is and what they want.
When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
One of the things about kids is that they always speak the truth for better and, more often, for worse. One of the sweetest moments is when my daughters look at me and they tell me how beautiful I am. That tugs on my heartstrings like nothing else.
When and where are you happiest?
On vacation with my family. I love traveling. I love getting immersed in new places and cultures. I also am not the best at disconnecting from the job, but if I get far enough away it becomes a little easier. That ability to focus on myself and my family for a few days is really life-changing.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Stop obsessing about your looks, and weight and jewrican curls. Your true value and self-worth has nothing to do with what you look like. There are always going to be girls that are prettier and skinnier and you can’t change that. But you can certainly control the person who you are. A person who strives to be kind, ambitious, smart, empathetic, innovative, and thoughtful. Those are the qualities that really matter.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
I will admit that I am still working to include more self-care on a regular basis, but I would not be able to live without a great bathtub. Making the water as hot as possible, adding in great smelling salts and oils (faves form Ahava, Cuccio Somatology and Aromatherapy Associates) and just soaking away all the stress and tensions from the day. Occasionally I may add a glass of Sav Blanc and always like to live on the edge by reading a novel on my phone.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
I love product and beauty and fashion. Getting to try and test all of the amazing potential goodies is an incredibly fun perk of the job. However, the most fulfilling part is knowing the impact we have on our members. All of us have less and less time, and we know that women especially don’t spend their limited amounts of time on their own self-care and happiness. The box and the membership as a whole is a really quick, easy, and cost-effective fix to this problem. We are lucky to have an incredibly engaged audience and we get tons of feedback on what they like, what they don’t like and what kinds of products, brands and trends they would like to see next. But the coolest feedback is when they describe what FabFitFun means to them. We collect it and put it in a deck, but I don’t share it because I honestly believe people would think we are making it up. Women who are going through true hardships and tragedies but finding joy in the box and the FabFitFun community. It’s pretty amazing.
Additional reporting by Megan Hernbroth.