If there’s one thing that your favorite Instagram influencer knows how to make look cool, it’s the FabFitFun box. All across your social media feeds, you can find familiar faces showing off the products featured in their recently received package, sharing the benefits of a particular skin care product or painting a picture of a sunny day spent on the beach with a funky new towel. They know how to make those products look good — so good, in fact, that you or someone you know has probably jumped aboard the FabFitFun train themselves.

Long before influencers became the face of the company, though, FabFitFun was a fledgling media outlet and a lifestyle newsletter. When the team began to take stock of the product samples they received in the mail, they started to wonder if there was a business somewhere in the gift bags that they were so frequently getting at events. The box launched in 2013 as an extension of the existing newsletter, because co-founders Katie Rosen Kitchens, Daniel Broukhim, and Mike Broukhim began to dream of “bringing the swag bag/beauty editor experience to everyone and decided to create a true lifestyle box,” Daniel tells us.

There were other subscription services in the mix at that point. FabFitFun’s goal with their box was to break out of niche markets — which the founders say were the bread and butter of other subscriptions in those days — and appeal more generally to a newsletter audience that was always looking to further uplevel their lifestyle as a whole. Subscribers also get a full-sized product instead of a sample size, a perk that the FabFitFun team is still proud to offer.

“Our original members came from the newsletter list because they saw us as a valuable source to come to for all things beauty, fashion, and fitness-related,” Kitchens says.

The FabFitFun subscription box launched with just 2,000 boxes, but has grown 300 percent annually in the years since. The company closed its Series A funding by raising $80 million in capital and now has a customer base of one million subscribers.

While the growth itself has been satisfying, Kitchens says that the most rewarding part of the process has been the impact that FabFitFun has on the lives of its members. Among the posts in the FFF community forums, the founders have been especially touched by reflections of how meaningful a box has been to a victim of a recent natural disaster, or how the boxes have encouraged people struggling to leave the house because of anxiety and depression to find community among other members.

“We strive to inspire happiness and well-being, and we are seeing lives being changed through this membership,” Kitchens says. “There’s nothing more I can ask for.”

FFF may not have asked to blaze a trail in the world of influencer marketing, but they’ve played a role in doing so, anyway. The practice of getting the word out about a product through social media was new in 2013 when the box launched, and Kitchens thinks the team has been successful with that kind of marketing because of its focus on diversity.

“We don’t just work with super high-end fashion Instagrammers or the popular beauty gurus on YouTube,” Kitchens says. “We really work with a wide variety of women that represent who our members are. Mom-trepreneurs, fitness influencers, and, yes, a lot of different reality stars, but we work with influencers of all different ages, ethnicities, and geographies. We believe our goal is to ensure that our members are being represented with the people we partner with.”

Next time you see your reality TV star of choice showing off their latest FabFitFun box in their Insta story, know that it hasn’t all been glamorous. The FFF founders share that they struggled to get “good brands” on board in the early days, and that it took a lot of unanswered phone calls to get to where they are today. Even with all of the milestones they cite, the trio continues to hustle to give FabFitFun members the best experience through personalization and customer connection. Kitchens herself is in the community interacting with members “night and day.”

The company’s founders want people to know that they do more than ship out subscriptions full of cool products. Members get access to exclusive content, offers, and events, along with a community of women. “It’s a pretty special place that’s hard to describe unless you’re actually in it,” Kitchens says of the community.

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(Photos via FabFitFun)

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