Behind The Scent was created to give our community an open and honest look behind the scenes of our journey. Staying true to this promise, this month we wanted to share some of the hurdles we have faced so far, the mistakes we have made, and why we have decided failure doesn’t exist.
Trust us when we say this is by no means an exhaustive list of our mishaps, but we wanted to give you an insight into how we made a very expensive mistake when designing our bottle, why we can’t get our products to some of our customers, and why it's taken us longer than it should to launch.
HOW WE MADE A VERY EXPENSIVE MISTAKE WHEN DESIGNING THE BOTTLE
When we started THE 5TH, one of the creative processes we were looking forward to the most was the bottle design. Little did we know 18 months later the closing line to a 2am design meeting would be “I feel like I am in a nightmare.”
In hindsight this was dramatic but after an incredibly long design process and numerous failed attempts, we thought we finally had our design. Then it arrived…
This was not an ‘oh wow it looks better than expected’ reaction. This was a ‘this is a disaster’ reaction.
Without completely revealing the design before launch, what went wrong was that we had tested the design without putting liquid into the bottle first. When you see our final product on launch day, you will realise how silly that was. We couldn’t believe that we had made such an obvious, yet devastating mistake. As a result, the bottle design was completely distorted, had the wrong dimensions and looked nothing like it was supposed to.
Since we are using a process called screen-printing, our manufacturers have to design and build machine templates specifically for our design. This is not cheap and we didn’t have the budget left for it. Yet we had no choice but to change our design and pay to build new templates. Not only did our mistake cost us, but it also meant pushing back our launch date.
Despite all of this though, we went back to the drawing board (and tested with liquid in the bottle this time!!!) and ended up with a design better than all of our earlier attempts, and eventually a small part of us was glad we made the mistake we did.
For those subscribed to our newsletter, we promise to reveal all of the before and after images taken throughout our design process blunder, after we have launched.
WHY WE CAN'T GET OUR PRODUCTS TO SOME OF OUR CUSTOMERS
One of the hardest things to do as a business owner is to tell your customers who are excited to buy your products that you can’t get it to them. We have reluctantly had to come to terms with the fact we can’t currently ship our fragrances internationally. This was not a problem we anticipated at the outset. Our fragrances are designed, created and bottled in Grasse in France, yet with one our founders living in New York and the other living in London, our brand awareness grew across both sides of the pond. We saw this as only positive. Yet with more research, we have come to learn that one of the biggest pain points fragrance brands face is the logistical and economical barrier to international shipping due to them being a flammable material.
Thankfully, shipping product from our perfumery in France over to England is possible (still expensive though - Brexit). However, our hearts sank when we suddenly realised it was not going to be feasible right now to ship further afield to New York since it would ultimately cost more than the purchase itself. As more excited customers in New York ask when they can get their hands on the new release, we wish we had known the difficulties with transporting fragrance sooner so we could have better managed our customers, and our, expectations.
Whilst it may not be possible by launch day, we are working hard to find a feasible solution to shipping our products to our customers internationally in New York, and beyond. Make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter to get updates as we expand our shipping capabilities.
Despite our current struggles with shipping internationally, this process has made us aware of how fortunate and grateful we are to have customers who support us from afar and it motivates us to overcome hurdles such as these as a matter of priority.
WHY IT'S TAKEN LONGER THAN IT SHOULD
“Move fast and break things” is the internal motto at Facebook instilled by Mark Zuckerberg to encourage his employees to take risks and bring ideas to market long before they have been perfected.
Unfortunately for us, we were late getting this memo and to the contrary, indecisiveness and the pursuit for perfection seems to have been the underlying theme of THE 5TH.
One reason for this is that from day 1 we have held ourselves to the same standards as the big sudo-niche fragrance brands in the industry, which have millions of dollars and hundreds of staff at their disposal. One glaringly obvious problem with this is that we have neither of those. As a result, everything has taken us significantly longer.
In hindsight, and going forward, taking a leaf out of Zuckerburg’s book may not be a bad idea. As a young business, we are never going to get everything right 100% of the time, yet neither do our big competitors. Taking risks and getting our products to market faster is something we intend to do in the future and is a lesson we are glad we have learnt early. This is not to say we are prepared to give up our high standards, or compromise on producing the highest quality products, but we are learning that this is constant process both pre and post launch, and that the changes and improvements made post launch are often the most effective.
It has also taken us longer to launch than it should because we underestimated how long so many of the moving parts of starting a fragrance brand can take. From finding and visiting our perfumer in the south of France, to the iteration and testing process of the ingredients, to packaging design and building a website, to the research involved in ensuring all of our partners share the same values as us, particularly their sustainable and responsible business practices, it has taken us nearly 2 years. Part of this is because we were both working full time jobs on opposite sides of the world at the same time, and partly because we had not anticipated some of the long lead times that are common in the industry. For example, between each fragrance iteration, it took over 5 weeks for a process called ‘maceration’ to take place which enables the scent to develop to its full potential, before we could re-test it.
In hindsight, we probably jumped into the project head first, overly excited, and without a full understanding of the processes involved. Yet part of the excitement for us has been learning along the way, educating ourselves when faced with the unexpected and being forced to think on our feet. Perhaps this is the ‘move fast and break things’ element we did adopt.
WHY WE HAVE DECIDED FAILURES DON'T EXIST
We have definitely made some wrong turns and mistakes so far on our journey, and whilst we are happy to admit to these, we have decided we are not going to frame them as failures. If we learn from them and use them to make better decisions going forward, then ultimately they can only be positive. We have made a conscious effort to identify and discuss our errors together throughout the process, instead of blindly sweeping them under the carpet and just praying it doesn’t happen again.
We are confident we are a better company because of the mistakes we have made and as long as we continue to improve because of them, we prefer to think failure doesn’t exist.
A lot of you are asking us when the new launch will be. Until we can be 100% confident we are not releasing the date just yet, but we can say that it is very soon. If you subscribe to our newsletter you will be the first to find out our launch day and get first access to our pre-sale.
See you on THE 5TH.
H & G