Here’s how Katia Beauchamp, CEO and Co-Founder of Birchbox, answered this question on Quora.
I am going to bullet these out, because it seems more useful:
Shared our idea with everyone. We were the opposite of stealth and trust me when I saw that we received every reaction. A lot of “that will never work” and “I had/have that idea”. Some encouragement for sure, but that definitely wasn’t accompanied with “that is genius”. The most valuable part of it was that all of that feedback helped us build defensibility into our idea, helped clarify a few of our biggest open questions, and helped us refine how we described the concept.
Cold emailed partners to ask for help. We had no contacts in beauty, but as a burgeoning no-name company, we knew that we needed to stand on the shoulders of well-known and well-loved brands to gain customer trust. We reached out to brands that we knew and loved, and tried to make the request hard to say “no” to, and respectful of their time. We started with a request of a meeting, and then just asked if they would participate as we “tested” the idea. Then we confirmed with them prior to testing what results would make them continue working with us.
Great team and good timing. We were early in the days of “online influencer” and even in social media. We were so lucky that our first employee was passionate about social and helped us stay very attuned to what was happening in the UGC world. Also, our first investor understood YouTube and helped us learn more about the potential of that platform. All great, but the reality is that we did not understand the power of social until our customers, who organically joined, started creating their own content and then the multiplier started. We had the great fortune of timing and were able to build with them, side by side as their audiences grew.