Take a tour of the New York City subscription startup where you’ll find swings, sneakers, and gnomes

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Business Insider’s Gillian Dukoff (left) and Amanda McKelvey (right) give the Birchbox office swings a test.
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Courtney Verrill

In 2010, beauty box service Birchbox launched the subscription-box craze.

Now, companies offer subscription services providing everything from chocolate to liquor to dog toys – not to mention competing beauty-box services. Faced with stiff competition and a cooling environment for startup financing, Birchbox has had to make some changes.

In March, Business Insider reported that Birchbox held a round of layoffs, and in June, CEO Katia Beauchamp announced another round. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was also putting expansion plans on hold and consolidating its two-story office to one floor.

“We have to be focused on the fact that the economic environment is changing for all startups,” Beauchamp told Business Insider. “We want to make sure that we are mindful and that we keep in front of that and we’re ready to weather whatever this is.”

And weathering it they are. The company’s new floor is in NoMad, the neighborhood north of Madison Square Park in Manhattan. Aside from the sparkling kitchen and cheery conference rooms you’ll see in many startups, the office is peppered with unique tokens of employee recognition, from bright pink Nike sneakers to a surprisingly large population of gnomes.

Scroll down to take a tour.


Birchbox moved to its NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) location in December 2012. Its 130 employees work in a casual, open-plan office.

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Courtney Verrill

Among the cubicles, there are swings to entice employees looking for a mental break.

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Business Insider’s Gillian Dukoff (left) and Amanda McKelvey (right) give the swings a test.
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Courtney Verrill

The company makes a point recognizing staff members publicly and often. It celebrates new employees, employees of the month, employees celebrating anniversaries, and those who have achieved individual milestones.

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On this employee’s desk is a sign that reads, “Say hi — I’m new!”
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Courtney Verrill

On this employee’s desk, you’ll find “Gnomi Watts.” The employee of the month signs her cap, keeps her at his or her desk, and gets a $1,000 bonus. At Dashboard, the weekly company-wide meeting, CEO Beauchamp explains why the employee and their work embodies Birchbox’s values.

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Miss Gnomi Watts sitting proudly on this employee of the month’s desk.
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Courtney Verrill

The gnome phenomenon started because the company’s CFO, Mike Cohen, wanted to find a way to celebrate and recognize employees for their achievements on an ongoing basis. He chose the gnome as the company mascot because it is a symbol of hard work, community, and collaboration.

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Gnomes can be found in all shapes, sizes, and forms at the office.
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Courtney Verrill

Other forms of appreciation include yearly presents, like these customized Nike sneakers. They’re given around your first-year mark to represent the anniversary “sneaking” up on you.

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These customized Nikes are in Birchbox’s signature hot pink shade and tagged with the company name.
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Courtney Verrill

After two years at the company, you get a pair of headphones for your “two (y)ears.” For three, a “tri-batical” which is a paid three-week vacation, plus a travel stipend, a Birchbox weekend duffel bag, and dinner with the leadership team. For four, a vest to represent that you are fully “vested” in the company. At your fifth year, you get a watch from Shinola to symbolize how “time flies.”

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You get these headphones for your two-year anniversary at the company.
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Courtney Verrill

Behind the swings is the “Shop,” a conference room in the middle of the office where the company teaches merchandising employees of Birchbox’s SoHo retail store.

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Courtney Verrill

In the Shop, you can find many of the company’s in-house brands. Around the office, you’ll find goods from other brands as well.

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And some cool Birchbox collaboration boxes.

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Courtney Verrill

But the mother load is in the “PR Closet,” where a huge array of colorful products bide their time, waiting to be tested and sampled.

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The company holds its own version of a sample sale three times a year. Employees, their friends and family, and neighbors from the office building come shop the products. All proceeds go to an employee-selected charity.

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Products are also found on almost every employee’s desk (along with colorful stationary and decorations).

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Courtney Verrill

No one has their own personal office, so you can find the executive team sitting at the same-sized desks as everyone else. Some teams, such as customer operations, like to change desks frequently. They find the physical changes influence the way they listen and talk to customers.

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Courtney Verrill

One of the rooms that gets crowded is the kitchen, which is fully loaded with snacks, drinks, and cold brew coffee on tap.

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Courtney Verrill

There are candy machines filled with customized M&Ms sporting Birchbox’s logo.

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A wall decal reads “best day ever,” to remind employees of the experience they are aiming to give their customers.

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There are 12 conference rooms in the office, and each is named after a room in a home.

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The “Veranda” conference room.
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Courtney Verrill

There are phone booths at the end of the office, where employees can find some personal space and privacy when needed.

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For daily props, this gong is available for an employee or team who wants to announce a milestone or accomplishment any time, whether it’s big …

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Courtney Verrill

… or small.

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Gnome Chomsky, a retired employee-of-the-month figurine who no longer has room for honoree signatures on his cap.
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Courtney Verrill