Subscription boxes are an awesome way to dive into whatever you love, sample different goodies and discover new products. If you’re obsessed with cats, there’s a box for that. You can get cool stuff for your kiddo — like secret spy missions and curated books and toys — mailed to your door. If you’re a beauty maven, you can get nail polishes, makeup and drugstore buys sent to you every month. If you’ve ever wondered how to launch a subscription box service that caters to the luxury crowd, we’ve got you covered. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Rachel ten Brink, co-founder of the perfume subscription service, Scentbird.
Meet the Perfume Pro: Rachel ten Brink
Before co-founding Scentbird, Rachel had a very successful career in the beauty industry, working for top brands like L’Oreal, Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder. Through her years in the business, she gained invaluable management skills, a network of key players in the fragrance field and a deep understanding of the marketplace. She wanted to start her own company and tried to start her own beauty line, but quickly realized that it was too hard to go solo. Rachel shifted gears. She was seeking co-founders at startups who had a different skill set than she did. “I spoke to about 15 startup companies before meeting my co-founder, Mariya Nurislamova (pictured on right), and it immediately clicked. I loved her vision, and I personally identified with the problem she was trying to solve. I was also impressed with the other two co-founders she already had on board who had deep technical knowledge,” says Rachel. Now, the company, which has been around for two years, has grown, introducing their customers to fresh new scents every month.
1. Seek out people with different experiences to support you. Rachel loves that her fellow co-founders have tech backgrounds, while she’s from the beauty world. Scentbird’s Chief Technology Officer Andrei Rebrov is an actual rocket scientist who is able to look at things analytically that Rachel might not have considered. “We are a very close team that really cares about each other. I always feel they have my back and vice versa. You will go through lots of ups and downs in a startup, so you really need that kind of trust,” says Rachel. She shares that her and her team agreed on day one that they wanted to go big or go home, and that motto has united them through all the challenges of a startup subscription-based company.
2. Make your members happy. With a subscription service, it’s all about bringing new and interesting products to your customers that they will love, particularly with something so specific like perfume scents. Rachel knows that the sense of smell is tied to individual memories, so the experience of perfume is unique to her loyal members. “We carefully listen to our customers and often ask them on social media what brands they’d like to try,” says Rachel.
3. Work with influencers. One of Rachel’s favorite parts of her job is working with key influencers in the beauty space to get the word out about Scentbird. “We do a ton of influencer marketing and I manage the relationships. It’s a huge range of personalities. I love to see what ideas they come up with and their creativity,” says Rachel. Tapping into the right people who can share your brand with their audience is huge for a millennial-focused company (or any biz for that matter).
4. Don’t fall in love with your baby. When you work really hard on your passion project, it’s easy to become enamored with the final outcomes. After all, you put blood, sweat and tears into the process. But Rachel warns that sometimes you have to give a good, hard look at your company and its pitfalls. “We spent almost a year trying to make a different business model work, like Warby Parker for perfume, and there were huge issues and no growth,” says Rachel. Scentbird switched over to a subscription model, and it clicked. “You have to always remain objective no matter how hard you’ve worked on something.”
5. Communication is key. Rachel admits that — as an entrepreneur and mom — her life is particularly hectic and time is very scarce. “My family lives in Costa Rica. My husband is in Venezuela. My other three co-founders moved to California while I commuted back and forth and managed our New York-based team,” says Rachel. She stresses that her husband, Herman, deserves a lot of credit for supporting her career, especially with two young kids. “Communication is hugely important, like talking through issues, agreeing on priorities and asking for help. My husband knows I always try my best for the family, even if I am not always there,” says Rachel. It’s a delicate balancing act juggling her family and her work, but like most working moms, Rachel does the best she can to be present for both parts of her life.
6. Get excited about your products. If you want your potential customers to be excited about your company, you have to love it as they much as they do. Rachel confesses that her dressing table is exploding with perfume bottles, but she’s always on the hunt for just one more bottle. “I get very excited when we try new scents. I particularly love meeting with niche brands and speaking with perfumers and founders, as their artistic inspiration and creativity never cease to amaze me,” says Rachel. She shares that, for every 50 fragrances that they sample, Scentbird adds about one to the company’s platform.
7. Talk about your idea. When you’re just starting out, it can be scary to discuss your future plans, because you might worry that things won’t pan out as perfectly as you had envisioned. But Rachel suggests that you talk about your idea and get feedback early on. “It can be intimidating at the beginning because you will feel it’s too premature when it’s not perfect. That’s the point,” says Rachel. Listen to the feedback, take the criticism that works for you and keep going.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Take Beginning Classes at The Institute of Art and Olfactory (starting at $50): Located in Los Angeles, this nonprofit organization offers open sessions for beginners to learn the basics of making perfume. For more advanced sessions, snag a spot with perfume professionals in two-day workshop intensives.
2. Build Your Brand on Social Media Online Class ($39): Figure out what platforms would be best for your business, set up a weekly editorial calendar and learn how to find your target audience with social media guru Melanie Ham.
3. Learn How to Run a Successful Subscription Business (Free): Subscription School offers dozens of online guides, videos and webinars on how to start a subscription-based company. Topics covered include Building the Perfect Box: A Guide to Product Procurement, Four Best Practices for Facebook Page Management and Communicating With Customers — Dos and Don’ts.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Scentbird)