CINCINNATI -- “Having a nice scent makes you feel better. It makes you more presentable. But going to the store really sucks.”
That’s how William Yin sums up the rationale behind Scent Trunk, the direct-to-consumer fragrance subscription service he founded with fellow Toronto native Richard Smale.
For $9.99 a month, subscribers get a 4-ml. supply of a fragrance designed by one of Scent Trunk’s independent perfume designers. That’s enough to last a month if worn every day.
Whose idea was this?
Smale, 23, and Yin, 22, met while students at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, where their four employees are still located.
After they graduated, they began thinking about starting a business and knew they would need to look and smell good. They went cologne shopping, where they found out how “overwhelming and uncomfortable” it is to buy cologne at a department store, Yin said, especially for men.
They learned that the scent-buying supply chain is very fragmented, which inhibits manufacturers’ ability to offer personalized products. Different manufacturers spend lots of money trying to persuade customers to buy products that are virtually the same, he said.
So in January 2015, they founded Scent Trunk, with the intent to use money saved by eliminating middlemen to offer luxury scents at reasonable prices. In June, they moved to Cincinnati as part of the latest class of The Brandery.
Are there investors?
The Brandery makes a $50,000 investment in its companies in exchange for a 6 percent stake. Scent Trunk also recently closed an angel round of investment, mostly from Canadian investors, Yin said, though he declined to say how much was raised.
After Sept. 22, the demo day for The Brandery’s latest class, Yin and Smale hope to raise about $1.2 million from institutional investors.
What else is coming?
Over the next few months, they plan to hire three more employees – a warehouse packager, digital marketer and software developer.
They also plan to refinine their marketing with help from a mentor provided through The Brandery – the downtown digital marketing and advertising agency Possible.
Their first step should be to create a very focused story about why Scent Trunk can help the consumer, Possible account supervisor John Kladakis said.
To succeed, he said, they will also need to make the process of getting fragrances to the consumer as tight as possible.
Scent Trunk has tapped into some very relevant trends and insights, Possible executive vice president for strategy and insight Brian LeCount said, including the fact that consumers want convenience, but also unique products.
“(The company) gives people a pleasing and enjoyable experience of finding something just right for you,” he said. “You are a part of designing it for yourself … you get to know what you like and don’t like.”