Is The Idea Of A "Signature Scent" Antiquated? This Founder Says Yes
This week, we sat down with Erika Shumate, one of the two founders of the wildly successful fragrance company, Pinrose. She questions the long held belief that women have a biological need a for a “signature scent,” and discusses how she's flipping the fragrance industry on its head through playfulness.
How did you get into fragrance?
Throughout my whole life, I’ve always been obsessed with my sense of smell, and how it ties to memory. I ultimately ended up studying the psychology of smell while in college. I dove into questions like, “Why do people in different countries like different types of fragrances?” and “Why don’t the men in the US don’t wear fragrance as much as the men other countries?”
I then went to business school, where I met my current co-founder, Christine Luby. While working with Christine in school, like I had done with many of my other friends, I went to help her pick out a fragrance. Figuring out which brand to trust is hard - salespeople tend to be pushy, and all the scents start to blend together.
After studying the science of synesthesia, I realized that the industry could really benefit from the research that has been done in relation to smell. There’s so much knowledge that exists that the fragrance industry could leverage.
What are some the main learnings you’re leveraging at Pinrose?
Do you know what’s funny? The idea of a “signature scent.” That’s actually not biologically how a woman wants to wear her fragrance. Women want to change the way they smell based on the season, how they feel, and their mood.
We want to create high-quality fragrances that aren’t crazy expensive and are playful enough where they won’t define who you are. Our goal as a brand is to break down those old tales that really mean nothing, and allow women to play.
How is Pinrose different?
We think playfulness leads to creativity. We hope Pinrose sparks a bit of creativity for everyone.
At Pinrose, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That playfulness is reflected in all the colors and imagery we use, and even in our logo (the letters are ascus on purpose!). We want our brand to be multifaceted.
The names of our fragrances are a direct reflection of that mission. We don’t use celebrities or designers in our marketing, because we think that every woman is the star of their own show. If you look at millennials, they have more photos of themselves than of celebrities. We believe that millennials want to feel unique, multifaceted and interesting. They don't need to try to be like JLo or Taylor Swift. They just want to be themselves.
It’s also very important for us not to lead with ingredients, but rather with a story and a mood. For example, “Secret Genius” or “Wild Child.”
Can you tell us more about the Pinrose style quiz?
The main idea behind the quiz is to help people feel playful, and the least stressed out as possible, when shopping for a fragrance.
We collected a lot of data between colors, shapes, and fragrances and created the quiz based on that. When we first launched, we would ask customers what they were currently wearing, and what they had worn in the past, just to see if there was a correlation with what they had bought and what we believed they actually liked. There was no correlation.
Smell lives in the limbic system of your brain, and vocabulary lives in a separate part of your brain. Thus, there is no vocabulary for smell.
That’s why we use images, textures, and sound to communicate with our customers, so that they can further understand their purchases. Ninety percent of women claim they want something “fresh,” but that means something different for everyone. However, if you choose between a “spiky” image and a “cloudy” image we can better predict your taste in fragrance. Actually, shape preference is one of the highest correlating questions in our quiz.
What are your personal favorite Pinrose scents?
I wear different fragrances all the time. I’m really into the idea of layering - recently, I’ve been wearing Sun Saint and layering it with Cuddle Punk and Secret Genius. In the winter, I like layering Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather with Secret Genius.
Are there any other products bringing you a lot of joy right now?
One of my favorite beauty products is the Doctor Dennis Gross Glycol acid alpha beta peel pads. I just love them. I have oily and acne-prone skin, and using these peels 2-3 times a week has been a true savior for me. My other favorite product to use on the daily is Good Genes by Sunday Riley. It’s super brightening, and I really look forward to using it in the mornings.
How do you deal with the stresses of being an entrepreneur?
I think laughter is the best medicine. I am really lucky to be able to lean on my co-founder, Christine Luby. We do our best to laugh and make light of some of the stresses.
Getting restful sleep, and working out at least 5 times a week, are critical to my performance and mood. I spin in the mornings a couple days a week. I consider this my fun, solo time. In the evenings, I love doing more social activities like rock climbing with my husband and friends.
What are some major business challenges you’ve overcome?
I love growing a high-performance team. Getting to work with amazing people is one of the best perks of being an entrepreneur.
One of the challenges we’ve faced as our team has grown is maintaining the flow of information to all employees. We’ve learned that an open floor plan is essential to quick communication. Our office has all desks facing each other; we have personal space and high ceilings that give the office a feeling of levity, but we are all focused together. We also have quick 15-minute standing meetings every Monday morning, to check in with one another and get a pulse on the emotional energy of the team.
Any exciting product launches for Pinrose in the works?
Yes! We have a really fun rollerball trio we are launching on November 1st for the holiday season. Hint: the packaging is so playful - you can twirl and toss the magical trio.
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