Scent Trunk

Scent Trunk is delivering fragrance the way Millennials want to buy.

For Cincinnati-based entrepreneurs William Yin and Richard Smale, a trip to Sephora to buy cologne found them overwhelmed by the range of options, the imagery of shirtless men and confusing olfactive lingo. So they sought to create a fragrance selling model that would resonate with other Millennials. Thus was born Scent Trunk, a direct-to-consumer fragrance company designed to get Millennials interested in the category again, offering customized scents based on personal preferences and selling them via subscription model, along with basic instructions on use.

Scent Trunk is set to launch today at

“I walked out of Sephora thinking ‘There has got to be a better way,’” Yin said. “Better packaging, better distribution, the whole thing could be [less confusing]…’Bergamot, vetiver…I literally didn’t even know what those terms meant.’” Yin said Millennials like himself — he’s 23 — aren’t attracted to the hard-sell tactics of department stores and the main problem is they’re not even sure what fragrances they like, let alone what words like “bergamot” and “vetiver” mean.

For a $4.95 shipping fee, Scent Trunk sends customers a sampling kit (called a Scent Test) containing six “core” scents representing different fragrance genres — Woods, Citrus, Aromatic, Chypre, Oriental and Floral. Yin said he and cofounder Smale chose these genres because they represent the most common fragrance categories. From there, customers fill out an online form about The Scent Test, detailing what they liked and didn’t like about each genre. Based on the customer’s responses, the company’s in-house perfumer Sarah McCartney then custom-blends a fragrance to match each customer’s fragrance, using a host of raw ingredients she has sourced from small-batch producers. Perfumes are then dispersed in 5-ml. bottles — a 30-day supply — and shipped every month for $11.95 per month.

Each fragrance also comes packaged with instructions for optimal use — something Yin said even he didn’t know before founding Scent Trunk.

“We want to be like the Warby Parker of fragrance,” Yin said. “Direct-to-consumer offers a better experience for customers, you get a direct relationship to the consumer. And it allows us to get direct learnings on what our customers do and don’t like.”

Yin and Smale studied to be engineers in college, but decided to go the business route and found an investment with The Brandery, a Cincinnati-based start-up of which Procter & Gamble is a key sponsor. An industry source noted that ultimately there could be a more formal relationship between the personal-care giant and the start-up in regards to using the data Scent Trunk collects on consumer fragrance preferences.

For now, Yin sees the line expanding into bath and body care and home fragrance. “Eventually, we want to follow in the Warby Parker model and open our own stores,” Yin said. “We just want to make sure we have a good variety of products before we go into retail.”

Industry sources estimate Scent Trunk’s subscription model could bring in $1 million in revenue in its first year.

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