How We Created A $200K/Month Fragrance Line And Launched A $900K Kickstarter Campaign
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Kamil Banc and I’m the co-founder of Fragrance One. We help our customers navigate through the jungle of fragrances by focusing on one thing: To create the perfect scents for specific situations.
Our flagship products are our signature fragrances that are specifically designed to get the most compliments when you wear them for example in the office, on a date, or at a black-tie event. My brother Jeremy is the face of the brand. With his years of experience in the fragrance field as a top influencer and reviewer, we searched for the best scents geared towards a high complement factor and longevity. Utilizing the highest quality ingredients and manufacturers along with world-renowned perfumers we were able to
Because of the trust of our community who we love to call the “Fragrance Army”, we successfully launched Fragrance One with our first release, OFFICE for Men, in 2019 via a record-setting crowdfunding campaign in the fragrance industry. There we have pre-sold almost $940k of a fragrance that none of our customers have ever smelled before. We did that by turning our biggest hurdles into advantages.
Today we are selling about $200k/mo B2C at a 70–80% margin depending on promotions and time of the year.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is in industrial engineering, design thinking, and startup funding. Growing up with my brother Jeremy (who is the Face of the brand) in Germany we always knew we wanted to work on something together. After college, I moved to Hawaii and he stayed to work on various projects in the entertainment industry.
In 2014, Jeremy was looking for fragrance reviews online but could not find any helpful advice so he decided to do it himself. He was not the first reviewer but when he started filming reactions and ratings for people he would meet on the street, it occurred to me that people care much more about whether or not a fragrance is well received and gives you compliments rather than the complexity of exotic ingredients paired with unpronounceable names.
I encouraged him to review “the complement factor” of other products as well, but I’m happy he stuck with fragrances. In a matter of 6 months, he was able to grow his channel to about 60k subscribers, separating him from other reviewers in this field at a record pace. Today Jeremy Fragrance has a reach of about 2M subscribers across his channels (an additional 2.5M on TikTok).
I moved back to Europe in 2017, which is when we started talking about Fragrance One. I never had the time to go through a fragrance store and try out different scents. I also don’t trust my nose to know what is good or bad. My brother always helped me with a fragrance choice by saying things like “…this is a compliment beast” or “that one will last all day and you should wear it when in a business meeting”.
We figured that there would be others who have the same problem that I have and decided to create a brand that would solve that problem.
After sourcing many suppliers, manufacturers, fillers, and most of all finding the best perfumers to work on this project with us, we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to get as much feedback and market data as possible.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I don’t think in today’s transparent e-commerce world it is possible to sustainably sell a product at a premium price without aiming for the highest quality.
Here are the basic components of a fragrance:
The juice, the bottle, and the packaging.
As you can imagine, Jeremy’s background was extremely helpful in all of that.
Once we decided on the brand strategy (very long-lasting fragrances that give you a lot of compliments), we knew that as a kid on the block we had to go with a product that people can have trust, even if they never smelled it before.
When it comes to the actual fragrance, Jeremy had a direction he knew he wanted to take and we were able to hire the “Michael Jackson of Perfumers” — Alberto Morillas to develop the final product with us. With no budget limitation on ingredients and after about 45 feedback rounds we decided on the winning formula and our raw juice was ready to go. We were really lucky to work with our manufacturer (Firmenich) which is the biggest privately owned player in the game.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to either grow your own community or work with someone who has a direct reach to your future customers.
The next step is to get the raw juice-filled into our bottle at the right mixing ratio. For that, we have used the oldest fragrance filler in Germany. As mentioned before, because our product is new, we had to give our customers enough reasons to overcome potential concerns. This is why we decided to only work with the best components (including the spray heads from Italy) when it comes to the actual product.
The bottle and packaging design was kept relatively simple (although the bottle was from world-renowned Heinz Glass). We did that to move the project along and get our fragrance brand started and in the hands of our customers.
Ever since the launch, we have refined the bottle and packaging design and this will be an ongoing process as the brand develops.
If you would launch a commercially viable fragrance brand I would estimate the startup budget to be anywhere between $60-$100k.
Attached is a rough timeline of things we did to get from idea to first delivery.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We were able to build a community of fragrance enthusiasts first and launch a fragrance that they like. At the launch date, we had about 6,000 orders from people around the world (not a good idea with a product that contains alcohol BTW). We did not even set up our shipping solution before our crowdfunding campaign which turned out to be very costly afterward, in the end, we were still able to make a small profit and release the following batches.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to either grow your own community or work with someone who has a direct reach to your future customers. When you calibrate your product to solve a need from that community, it can work wonders. As an example, we also had about 25k subscribers to a very basic newsletter and a staggering 18% of them converted into paying customers.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We tried the following:
Advertise on our own channels
This strategy helps best with keeping our products on top of our customers’ minds. Subtle messaging, e.g. a company logo in the corner of a video or a quick shout-out at the beginning usually works best.
We really like when our actual customers and micro-influencers share their honest (and hopefully positive) reviews. This helps us validate the product in any potential customer’s mind.
Because we can not afford to ship tiny samples we have decided to offer a 10ml bottle at a way more affordable price. This has helped us because our fragrances are relatively expensive but the 10ml bottles give our customers a good entry into the brand.
Everyone loves a good discount and because we have a relatively high margin we can afford to create discount codes. However, we had two issues with that in the past: 1. Our average order value was very low (therefore we had to implement a $50 purchase minimum to get free shipping, 2. It devalues the brand and we decided to move away from it.
We were able to create a WIN-WIN situation with bundles. They have been selling like crazy because we can always offer free shipping, the discounts are really good at certain bundles and the brand image is not being deteriorated.
Facebook / IG / Google ads
We worked with some really great advertising partners but in the end, it was not a good channel for us because our customers were just bombarded with ads that track you everywhere which seemed very intrusive and secondly, we were able to generate more revenue with one targeted promo video on our channels than the entire paid ad campaign that month. We will work on this channel in the future to figure out a strategy that supplements our other channels.
In general, and across all channels, our compass has been to inform our potential customers about our offer and to make it as easy as possible to find what they need and pay us for it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are very healthy and because our team is literally just two guys and a logistics partner, we have a lot of breathing room. Because we are direct to consumer brand we are very flexible with our promotions and pricing. At the same time, we have released a record number of fragrances in a very short timespan and each launch costs about $80k-$100k.
We now are focusing on new customer acquisition and a slower release schedule. While at the same time working on a few side products like scented candles or deodorants.
Working with family can be a curse and a blessing. Just make sure all expectations are discussed, roles are assigned and you communicate everything.
Here are a couple of graphs on how we have been doing this year so far:
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Focus on the problem you are solving for the customer.
Even though we are a fragrance company, we are actually in the compliment business. We are selling compliments and our customers love it. One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome in the beginning is that nobody ever smelled our fragrance and there was no customer testing. We turned this around and literally said during our campaign — it does not matter if you like the smell or not. It has been developed with the highest quality ingredients and the best partners in the industry just to focus on one thing; getting you compliments.
Working with family can be a curse and a blessing.
We used to bud heads a lot when it came to company strategy and customer needs etc. My brother and I were arguing a lot about operations and responsibilities. But in the end (or better said in the now) we are doing great as a team and I can only recommend trying it out. It can be tough but when it works, it’s great. Just make sure all expectations are discussed, roles are assigned and you communicate everything.
Jeremy and Me after we concluded our Kickstarter campaign
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Youtube / Instagram
- Mailer Lite (Newsletter)
- Sales Supply (Logistics partner with warehouses in the EU and US)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
- The Sell: The Secrets of Selling Anything to Anyone
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (RIP Tony)
- The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
- Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life
- I Love Marketing
- How I Built This
- Deal Makers
- Business Casual
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
- Adapt and Create. (My life motto)
Everything you need to know is at your fingertips and there is no magic trick.
- Surround yourself with the people you want to become
- As long as you are single you can get by with very little and not having debt will take away a lot of stress and gives you the ability to dabble with different ideas.
- You can go broke as often as you want until you are 50 (one of my mentors told me that before I turned 20… it saved me a lot of nerves)
- Don’t go to college if it’s not a worthy investment
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not currently looking for a fixed position but if someone would like to reach out and get some real-life experience we could probably create an assistant role.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Kamil Banc, Founder of Fragrance One