Starting a perfume business
with a shop of your own

Is starting a perfume business in India or the Philippines any different than starting a perfume business in North America or Europe? While regulatory issues and supply chains differ from country to country and sometimes from region to region, the business fundamentals are the same. To have a perfume business you must be able to make profitable sales. To make profitable sales you must have product you can sell at a profit. Today I want to write about getting started.

How does a business that sells goods to consumers get started? Sometimes it gets started when you buy a franchise or when you put up a lot of money to open your own store. But how can you do it if you don't have that kind of money? Would you be surprised to learn that people have been doing it, successfully, for years?

More than one American fortune was founded by someone who peddled goods from town to town, traveling on foot, working out of a backpack. In New York City I recall seeing African men staking out sidewalk spaces and, seated on the sidewalk, selling out of duffel bags.

American peddlers who started out on foot invested their profits, first in a horse so they could travel farther, then in a wagon so they could carry more merchandise, and finally in a store. As profits grew, sometimes they opened a second store.

Today we have shopkeepers whose "shop" is a folding table set up at a flea market, craft fair, or farm market. And some people sell out of the trunk of their car. They have found that even with these low profile "store fronts" they can make money.

Regardless of whether you start with a peddlers pack, a folding table, or a store, the dynamics of your business are the same. You have set yourself up as a "shopkeeper" or "retailer" and you confront all the problems and opportunities of others in your trade. Let's look at some of what is involved.

First of all, your shop must become the center of your life. You must be passionate about it, proud of it, and totally committed to it. You must be constantly focused on making your shop, no matter how small, a more effective money spinning machine. Making your shop make money must become everything.

Whether your store is brick and mortar or a folding table, feeling comfortable with the "traffic" is essential. If you want people to take an interest in your merchandise, your first step is to take an interest in them.

Always be clean, neat, and nicely dressed. You want people to feel comfortable with you. You don't, by your dress or mannerisms, want to distract them from the merchandise.

Charm your customers by talking to them, finding out what they might like and helping them find it and buy it.

Honest dealings build trust and trust brings additional sales and new customers.

Be prepared to be present at regular hours. You are the store's image. People will want to talk to you and feel they know you. Schmoozing with customers helps build business. Arrive before opening time and stay a bit past closing time. Show that you are the captain of the ship.

How you display your merchandise matters, even when you are selling off the top of a folding table. Make your display an example of the pride you take in your business. Feature the items that should be featured. Highlight the winners. Don't give every item the same amount of shelf space or the same treatment.

Start-up money isn't really an issue because, if you have the right motivation, you can get started with a folding table. If you invest in a store but don't have the right motivation (perhaps because someone gave you the money to open the store and you didn't earn that money yourself), you are likely to fail. To succeed you are really going to have to put your back into it.

One final warning. Ego and the wrong kind of pride can block you from opportunities. If you have no money but could sell successfully off a folding table BUT are too proud to "lower yourself" to that level, beware! If you have money to rent an inexpensive store but, due to your ego, will only consider a fancier store and location, beware! Starting your own business may be a bad idea for you. (FOOTNOTE: Barneys, the famous clothing store which became a chain, was started by Barney Pressman in New York City at 7th Avenue and 17th Street, not a great location. Yet I remember finding that store and buying some very nice Burberry trousers there before the store became famous – and the goods far more expensive.)

I haven't mentioned inventory; how to find it and how to buy it. Buying right is your ticket to success and I'll write about it next week.

Now available: "Creating your own perfume from dropper bottles: Methods, mechanics, and mathematics"

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Photo of Phil Goutell
Philip Goutell's Signature

Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.