Everyone from Mariah Carey to Beyoncé is at it. Yes, it’s the new ‘sleb’ thing – bring out your own perfume so that your fans can smell like you for £8.99. Of course, the ‘slebs’ don’t make their own perfume, they just put their names to it.
But you don’t need to be on the front of OK magazine to start selling homemade perfume. You could make and sell your own perfume and perfume-based products for surprisingly little. It’s not that hard or expensive to do, and you can almost always find what you need at a health food store.
First, decide how strong you want your fragrance. Perfumes are the strongest, containing 15-30 per cent essential oils diluted in a base of alcohol, with a small percentage of distilled water. Less potent waters contain 5-10 per cent essential oils, and colognes and body splashes may have 1-2 per cent.
what You need to make perfume:
- your favourite pure essential oils (such as rose, lavender or sandalwood)
- alcohol for cleaning
- small vials
- bottles or jars
The best alcohols are the highest-proof ones, as they contain the greatest concentration of ethyl alcohol: use 95 per cent grain alcohol (190 proof) or vodka (the highest proof available).
Fixatives prolong a fragrance. They are ingredients added to a composition to lend their overall rate of evaporation. Commonly used fixatives are sandalwood, benzoin, myrrh, vanilla and balsam of Peru. Other fixatives, particularly useful for oil and bath blends, creams and lotions, are tincture of benzoin, grape seed oil, castor oil, and liquid from vitamin E gel capsules.
You should use glass containers (rather than plastic) for preparing and storing perfumes. Make sure you record, date and name each blend and be prepared to wait for days or weeks once you have made your perfume as ageing is necessary to smooth out and mellow the raw-ingredient smell – allow your blend to age in a cool, dry, dark area.
When you are constructing a formula, after adding each new essential oil be sure to smell the result to get an idea of how each added ingredient changes the formula and how you might like to modify it in the future. Clean the eye-dropper in alcohol or vodka between each addition of a new essential oil.
‘You can do what you want, of course, but when I’m working with new oils or new combinations, I usually start with equal amounts – for examples, two drops of ginger, two drops of jasmine, and two drops of sandalwood,’ says American Sherill Pociecha, who mixes her own perfume.
If you have a background in chemistry and like technical books, The Chemistry of Fragrances by D. H. Pybus and C. S. Sell is a useful sourcebook for would-be perfume-makers.
But the actual fragrance is just a very small part of the total perfume package, as all the big perfume-makers know. You will need good packaging – attractive bottles, pretty printed labels and possibly extras such as ribbons, dried flowers or coloured plastic wrapping and boxes. If you are artistic, or you know someone that is who will help you, this can be the really fun part about it.
It’s important to work out your marketing concept before you make your final selection of a fragrance. You want the concept – the image of the fragrance – to work in tandem with the scent. Don’t go overboard on frills. Try to find a simple theme and express it in a simple yet creative way – it’s easier and usually much cheaper, but is still likely to sell as well as more fussy things.
If you learn to make soap, candles and creams (none of them too difficult), you can supply a range of products in one particular scent which you can also market as gift boxes.
How much can you make?
The mark-up on perfumes is very high, so if you are successful you could earn thousands a month, but it will take a while to build the business up to this kind of level. Some tips to help you start are:
- Make sure you start with a modest range.
- Keep your overheads low. Make the stuff in your kitchen or your garden shed if you have one.
- Remember the Body Shop. Anita Roddick used sample bottles to sell her creams and potions originally. Look for cheap but effective bottles and containers.
- Presentation is everything. Again, you don’t have to spend big money but you do need to be creative. Use ribbons, even collage using torn-out pictures from magazines, pressed flowers and buttons. All kinds of things could be used to make the packages look attractive.
- Remember to factor in the cost of advertising, travel and marketing as well as the cost of Web design and hosting, if you sell that way, and the cost of exhibiting at fairs or markets.
- Remember that it could take months before you sell anything. Keep your own outgoings low for as long as possible.
How to sell your perfume
You will need to market your product to gift shops – in the high street and online – and possibly independent chemist’s shops and toiletry stores. You could also sell at craft fairs, local markets and gift fairs such as Top Drawer, which takes place annually at Earls Court in London. You could also set up your own website and sell your products direct to the public. Or, even easier, set up your own perfume-selling marketplace on eBay and just sell there.