The Scent Guru Group's mission is to enhance the lives of people through the sense of smell, and with Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory and Mindscent® Activity Kits, we are doing just that.
The summer has just begun and even though both kits are sold on my website, I own the inventory, so I'm thrilled to say I have just received and shipped my first Mindscent® order to one of my distributors yesterday. The key to success is not only sales, but good customer and supplier service.
For this end-of-the month blog, I want to share "The Scent Guru Group Timeline" that I just posted on my Facebook page:
2016: A turning point in my life: In February, my mother passed away from dementia-related causes, and while working through this painful personal loss, I decided to use my 25 plus years as an expert in scent design to make a difference in the lives of families, caregivers and victims of this horrible disease. Knowing that the sense of smell is linked to recall of memories more than any other sense, I decided to develop an interactive, multi-sensory activity program that I call “Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect”. Acting as a volunteer, I started giving the activity sessions at numerous Assisted Living Communities for Memory Care in the NY Metro area and elsewhere while on personal travels. When I realized that the distinctive smell prompts and activity I developed helped engage the seniors in communication and conversation (I also used them as a vehicle for storytelling ie. during holiday times), I thought: “What if this method can also help children with Autism?”
2017: A very busy year!: I launched the Essential Awakenings® Activity Kits for family and professional use, and the kits are now being sold direct, and on-line: www.thescentgurugroup.com. I continued giving Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect sessions at places such as Atria in Stamford, CT, The Hebrew Home for Aging in Riverdale, NY, Greens of Greenwich, Riverhouse Senior Center in Cos Cob, CT and many others. I automatically offered EA training to Program and Recreational Directors upon the purchase of the kits so that they could continue the program on their own.
In the late spring, I contacted an Autism Center in Brooklyn by way of a former colleague who has a non-verbal son attending its school and explained my concept idea. I was welcome to go to the center and give my sessions to several boys at various levels of the spectrum and through these sessions, I was able to develop a new innovative product concept involving the smell prompts, coordinated with visual clue and fact cards. My iPhone came to good use as I began taking photos of every flower, tree, plant, herb, or fruit I thought might be interesting subject matter aligned with aromas that resonated with children. I ran focus groups with my trusted friends and family on what to name this kit. Out of 3 choices, “Mindscent” had a slim preference and so I went for trademark on all three.
2018: Was a year of little sleep and of big questions: “Am I being too ambitious?” “Is this just a dream?” “How many smell prompts should I included on this expanded concept?” After exploring more than 50 options developed by perfumers who I worked with from my previous career at Coty, I decided on 20. How did I come to this? It’s too long of a story to tell, but after some number crunching, I felt that this would be a good start, but would lead me to 126 total components to source and pay for: The 20 smell prompts (I now call Essential Smells©) would each be packaged in easy to hold roller balls (cap, fitment, bottle, label); 20 visual and fact cards; Outer packaging with an insert to hold all prompts, 2 packages of 100 smelling strips each and finally, a schematic to show placement of all prompts would be a huge undertaking and expense. “Should I do this?” knowing that this initiative would drain my savings. “What if I fail?” “What will my marketing campaign be like?” “What if...what if...?”
The Revelation: One morning after a sleepless night, I woke up with my decision. I had come so far in the development phase and knew that if I could help anyone in anyway through this sensory activity kit, I would “just do it”. “Thank you Nike, thank you Michael Jordan” I said out loud. “And thank you Babe Ruth” who said: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
My end of the year report: I had what I thought would be my last bit of panic of the year when I handed a check to the carton printer for 100% up-front payment, knowing I would be draining my savings. This was just the beginning of yet another phase in the product development cycle and I had to accept the reality of it. On the high note, Essential Awakenings® was getting more visibility and my two distributors were reordering kits. Their sales helped me work at getting direct sales from Home Care Providers and Assisted Living Communities, and continue getting better at writing content for my social media.
2019: The year of an innovation: The trademark for Mindscent® came through and I moved forward with the final graphics design that my spectacularly talented daughter Catherine designed. I made decisions on fun, educational facts that my other daughter Claire researched and I was now ready to press the green button for printing the cards and production of the smell prompts. I coordinated all the manufacturing, purchasing, and printing and exploring options for warehousing the inventory. Before the printing of the cartons and inserts were completed, I knew I’d have to assemble and pack the kits, and what made the most logical sense would be to hire people with disabilities, so I reached out to CT-based Abilis and Ability Beyond and Richardson Industries in my home state of Arkansas -- all are non-profits who support people living with various disabilities. All 3 were positive about supporting me, my efforts, the product and the cause. I also aligned my brand with Austism Speaks and am a True Blue Supporter pledging 10% of my 2019 on-line sales to the organization because I believe in the good they do for families and the people living with this condition. With the first 50 kits packed by Ability Beyond, I am so pleased to say that my current distributors of Essential Awakenings® will also be taking Mindscent® and I just received my first order this past week! The next cycle of assembly will be with Abilis, followed by Richardson Industries.
The launch of any innovative product is tough. Especially if there is a small marketing budget, and I know that with both Essential Awakenings® and Mindscent®, I have to be extremely mindful of who and how I market them. I am proud to say that I bought a table at the NYSSHLA conference in Albany in early May and had some great feedback from the Speech Pathologists who visited my table and even had a few on-the-spot sales. Sales has never been my forte, but with some practice, I think I’ll be just fine. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful for friends and family who have given me moral support along my journey: Susan Laraja-Lemonier, a retired Speech Pathologist helped me coordinate Mindscent® prototypes for SPs to test last summer, and for wrote methods for use that are printed on the Mindscent® packaging; Heather Palazzo-Johnson, an SP from Louisiana who is my number one cheerleader; and my very first customer, Michele, the mother of a non-verbal autistic son William who lives in Australia and has written rave reviews on her Facebook page. What better endorsement could anyone ever want? I hope that some day, William and others who are living on the spectrum will be able to speak, and that I can claim to be one person in this world who has helped them.