AROMAPHARMACY’S ODD ROAD TO PERSONAL CARE

Byline: Julie Naughton

NEW YORK — What happens when you transplant three nice boys from Minnesota to the wilds of Southern California?
For Matt Mogul and brothers Duffy and Seamus Culligan, it resulted in a $2 million, Gen-X personal care company. And it all started with an unlikely milk bottle business.
“When we first moved here, someone gave us a sandblasting machine,” remembered Mogul, who moved to L.A. four years ago with Duffy Culligan to break into the movie business. “We needed to pay the rent while we were getting famous, and there were some milk bottles laying around, so we headed to the garage and started experimenting with the sander.” Their efforts resulted in milk bottle vases etched with words like hope and faith that were picked up by Fred Segal Apothia and a number of upscale specialty boutiques in L.A. and New York.
And the boys soon outgrew their garage — something that their neighbors, irritated by the sound of the compressor running late at night, were grateful for. The overwhelmed entrepreneurs officially started a company, Design Division, and put in a frantic call to the Midwest to get Duffy’s brother Seamus out to the Coast. They were ready to expand.
The rest is beauty history.
Seamus, a former advertising executive, moved his new partners into a 9,000-square-foot warehouse and office in downtown Los Angeles and two years ago helped them start a beauty division called Aromapharmacy. Their first fragrance venture was a line of essential-oil infused aromatherapy candles. “We didn’t know anything about candles,” said Duffy Culligan, who, in addition to being an aspiring screenwriter, was a business major in college. So the savvy team hired people who did. The candles, which are packaged in amber glass resembling prescription pill containers, have names like Lowzac, a mood-lifting blend of sage and geranium, and Coldex, a sinus-clearing blend of eucalyptus and lemon. Two sizes are available: a 2 oz. for $7 and a 6 oz. for $12.
The guys’ latest venture is personal care products. For Father’s Day, Pre-Op Shaving Cream and Post-Op aftershave toner will hit the shelves. This July, they will introduce a shower gel in a.m. and p.m. versions; Bath Pills, effervescent bath tablets in four mood-setting varieties, Invigorate, Sensual, Relax and Mood Lift; Pre-Op, an antibacterial hand soap, and AromaAid, a portable aromatherapy first aid kit with four blended vials of essential oils. They will expand the line this fall with a.m. and p.m. versions of hand and body moisturizer, and Pied-a-Cure, an energizing foot lotion. The items range in price from $9 for the Bath Pills to $18 for the Mind and Body Cleanser. They will be available in specialty stores, including Fred Segal Apothia and Anthropologie; through the company’s toll-free number, 877-55-DRUGS, and through the company’s Web site, http://www.aromapharmacy.com.
Seamus Culligan admits that in many ways, the three have luck to thank for the success of their business. “We definitely do things our own way, and we’ve had a lot of help along the way,” he said. “We ask a lot of questions, and whatever happens we’re all in this together. And we’re not done yet.”

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