- June 1, 2018
A trip to France sparked Kenzie Fisher’s entrepreneurial journey.
Before starting her business, Fisher, the founder and CEO of Élu Parfums, studied advertising and public relations at the University of Central Florida. During college, she studied abroad and visited Nice, France. “From there, Grasse is very close by — the perfume capital of the world,” she says. “That’s where perfume and fragrances originated and where I fell in love with perfume and the artistry around it.”
Fisher, 26, started working on Élu Parfums at the beginning of 2020. The company’s first fragrance, Provence, launched in November. Like many businesses, Élu has faced pandemic challenges, including delays receiving shipments of perfume from overseas prior to the launch. But the company adjusted, and since the launch, sales have gone well, getting a boost from the holiday season and Valentine’s Day.
Now Fisher is planning more products and fragrances inspired by destinations. Crucial to the company’s success will be Élu’s ability to harness the senses to persuade customers to make a purchase — all online.
Originally from the Bradenton area, Fisher is now based in Tampa with her fiancé, Renner Powell, who is Élu’s CFO. They’ve mostly self-invested in the company, but they have additional investors, including family members. (She declines to disclose the investment amount.)
Fisher’s road to Élu includes a stop in public relations. After college, she worked at a PR firm in New York City with beauty and fashion clients, including several fragrance companies. Fisher continued working at the agency during the conception of Élu, taking online courses, speaking with perfumers in the south of France and doing research on the side to learn more about perfume’s top notes, middle notes and chemistry.
Her PR stint is now proving beneficial. “It helped me when it came to position the brand and come up with a strong narrative for the brand,” she says.
The brand sets itself apart in two key ways: staying true to the roots of artisan perfumery and focusing on sustainability, including donating 1% of sales to a sustainability-related charity and using sustainable packaging. “There are not a lot of luxury, niche perfumes that really focus on artistry but also look toward the future and the sustainability factor of it,” she says. “I thought it was important to mesh the two together.”
Fisher interviewed fragrance houses in France to find the right fit, deciding on Jean Niel, founded in 1779 and based in Grasse. To help convey what Fisher sought in a perfume, she created a mood board to share with the perfumer — the nose and chemist behind fragrances. “Even when it comes to creating a scent, it can be visual,” Fisher says. “Lavender can mean a lot of different things to different people. I put in those visual elements — some pictures, some writing and music sometimes I’ll send her.”
‘Being one of the leaders in the niche luxury fragrance division is definitely a goal for us.’ — Kenzie Fisher, Élu Parfums
The perfumer develops oils to make the fragrance, which is bottled in the south of France and sent to a warehouse in Los Angeles. “We originally thought, ‘We’ll just bottle it in our apartment and distribute it through e-commerce,’” she says. But because of the alcohol content in perfume, the products are considered hazardous, so they decided to outsource. “A lot goes into shipping perfume,” Fisher says. “You need a fulfillment center that is experienced in shipping.”
The Provence fragrance is sold on Élu’s website, Facebook and Instagram. Orders are sent to the fulfillment center in LA, which ships the perfume to customers. “I think the main goal is just to be able to sell on larger platforms,” Fisher says.
Because the fragrance is sold via e-commerce, it presents a marketing challenge. Perfume is an experiential product, so Fisher’s branding team helped her put together a website that evokes several senses through videos, imagery and a scent playlist. “The website and the social [media] is really important to us to touch those different senses since you can’t smell it online,” she says. Media articles have brought in new customers, too, another benefit of Fisher’s PR background.
Offering a sample size has helped drive sales as well. In addition to the 50 mL bottle that sells for $165, there’s a 5 mL sample for $20. “People wanted to try it beforehand,” Fisher says. “We’ve had some great feedback from having the samples.” The company, so far, sells to customers in the U.S., the U.K., Spain and France. “We had a really successful launch, which was great,” she says.
For the months ahead, Fisher looks forward to influencer events and visiting lavender fields in France to get more photos for social media. Plans also include additional fragrances, each capturing a city or region. The next fragrance, for instance, is expected to be a citrusy scent inspired by Spain, but pandemic-driven restrictions on international travel might delay those plans.
She's also considering expanding beyond fragrances, and Fisher is in preliminary stages with other products. Launching the Provence fragrance has been a good testing ground. “I wanted to encapsulate that Grasse smell, the lavender fields nearby, mandarin and honey,” she says. “We can learn a lot from this one and take that into the second launch.”