About seven years ago, Mair Emenogu was working the front desk for an engineering company in Houston when an executive walked by and caught her signing a document. “I can see that on a perfume bottle,” he said about her signature. It was a stray thought that would completely change her life.
“For the next three years, every time I would hear my name, I would hear ‘perfume’ instead,” says Emenogu. “It was a calling I could no longer shake.”
Thus began Houston-based Mair Fragrances, a non-synthetic fragrance line that launched in 2015 with its signature scent, “Remember When.” A light perfume with hints of Italian bergamot and jasmine, it was formulated in France and manufactured in the U.S with the help of master perfumer Fred Cohen, whom Emenogu built a great relationship with early on in her marketing career in the oil and gas industry.
Armed with this connection and expertise gleaned from countless hours of YouTube tutorials, Emenogu pressed forward with the brand, even investing a large sum of her personal savings originally reserved for the down payment on her first home. “It was a huge risk — I mean, I had to stay with my parents,” she says. “But you know what they say, ‘If there’s no risk, there’s no reward.’”
The overarching vision for Mair took shape as Emenogu started networking with friends and coworkers and asking what scents they wished were available. “They were saying, ‘I really want a fragrance that’s soft, smells great, but is unobtrusive — all the perfumes I wear keep giving me headaches,’” says Emenogu. Mair became about creating fragrances that do not overpower, but complement someone’s natural scent.
Right now, the brand only sells its signature fragrance, but Emenogu is working on releasing a heftier floral scent that’s perfect for winter. The initial plan was to launch the fragrance this fall, but due to the pandemic, the release date has been pushed back to Dec. 1. “They are both sophisticated,” she says. “This isn’t your Bath and Body Works Fragrance, this is your work or date night fragrance.”
Mair is currently stocked in luxury boutiques across Houston, such as Collectivo and the downtown Hilton and Four Seasons hotels. The brand’s sales have been strong enough to gain access to a Macy’s accelerator program; the department store launched Mair in its online store this year, one of Emenogu’s dreams.
And of course, the 30-year-old business owner also sells via her website, which has received unexpected attention since the pandemic hit — a departure from her usual sales patterns. “I have a product that you have to smell, so the majority of my sales were made face-to-face, not digitally,” says Emenogu. “I was in 12 stores and they all closed within one day of each other, so I had to resort to upgrading my website.”
[Hello Alice Guide: Perfect Your E-Commerce Presence]
It’s safe to say her business model has changed dramatically. Pre-COVID, her focus was on scaling the business by being in as many stores as possible. Now, Emenogu’s focus is on making her online customer experience as fast and pleasurable as possible. “We need to make sure the customer experience online is fast, fun, and easy, and mobile needs to be as seamless as possible,” she says. “We’ve been working on making the payment systems at least have Amazon and Paypal on there. We’ll get Apple Pay later.”
The long-term goal is still to scale. “I’m not relying on the old model to help me get there, I’m not relying on wholesale,” she adds. “It’s about strengthening my dot com and doing more guest appearances and building the brand. Now, with COVID, I feel like there’s an accelerant on it.”
Want to learn more about how to better manage your beauty business? Check out the resources in the Hello Alice Beauty & Wellness Center for resources, how-to guides, and funding opportunities to help your business thrive during COVID-19 and beyond.