Love Affair with Lingering Scents: Kenyan Pilot Turned Perfumer Shares on Producing Perfumes in Germany for the Kenyan Market

As Valentines approaches, Geraldine Waruguru is celebrating a love affair with fragrances and perfumes. “You cannot kill a breeze, a wind, a fragrance. You cannot kill a dream or an ambition”. The quote by Michael Onfray embodies her way of thinking.

During many international stopovers as a pilot, Geraldine would walk into the duty-free shops simply to tantalise her nostrils with the various scents. The whiffs of aromatic, musky perfumes lingered on. Sometimes intoxicating, other times alluring and stimulating her brain to think, dream of how she could use local resources to make people smell good at an affordable cost. On these strips, she tells me, she developed a passion for perfumes. Initially, she used to buy several bottles and sell to friends, not to be left out on a good deal.

Yet, in her mind, the dream of designing her own branded perfume was alive. She procrastinated for almost two years wondering whether the risk was worth taking. Who would buy her products, would she compete with other world brands that Kenyans were accustomed to?

However, with every trip, her inkling to develop her own fragrance grew and in 2016 it was birthed. Just as in Onfrays quote, “you cannot kill a fragrance, a dream or run an ambition”.

So, begun her perfumes-venture christened “Scents by Geraldine”. Her in search for manufacturers to partner with began in earnest in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Germany. She later narrowed her search to two German companies: Unique Fragrance and Scentury Company. Scentury Company would nail the essence in her dream fragrance and became her pick.

Her idea was born from smelling alluring tea fragrances especially, the green tea and blueberry flavours produced by Kericho gold. She imagined, “if tea can exude such pleasant scents, I assume perfumes can also retain natural aromatic flavours”.

Geraldine settled on a couple of flavours found locally; coconut, vanilla, green tea, jasmine and lilies. The scents radiated a familiarity to local flowers, herbs and plants found in Kenya, she says. She wanted a fragrance that would leave the user smelling good throughout the day.

The perfume brand “Whole by Geraldine” is a unique fragrance celebrating the modern and independent woman. It combines flowers, fruits and citrus to bring a warm, gentle and fresh scent. The soft scent creates a feminine feeling perfect for day, night and everyday life. Her sale inscription of WHOLE reads.

The perfume is designed to be favourable in the African humidity and comes in small portable bottles that easily fit in small handbags. And for the local touch, the bottle is encircled with Maasai beads made from Kariokor.

After investing around 25,000 Euros, her dream was getting closer to fruition. The Century company provided three samples and after she picked one with the “it” factor, she was ready for business. She ran a market trial with a few potential clients and mid last year her first batch of 600 fragrance bottles hit the Kenyan market. Undeterred with economic uncertainties experienced during the election season, she closed the year with 34 bottles sold.

The perfumes come in bottles of 50ml going for 6900 Ks (56 Euros), 30ml at 4900Ksh (40 Euro) and 15 ml 3800 Ksh around (31 Euro). She says her market survey indicates that the clients prefer smaller bottles and looking at her numbers, they are moving faster.

She has launched her fragrances online and on social media platforms.  Instagram, Facebook and her website have picked up a considerable following. For those more prone to offline shopping, Geraldine together with her business partner have also opened shop along Kenyatta avenue. Through several media campaigns, Kenyans are becoming more receptive. She adds.

Geraldine aspires to expand her market online to include free deliveries in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) and courier services by bus to other towns/cities for a small additional fee of about 2 to 3 Euros.

She shares her business and entrepreneurial tips:

  • Fear of taking business risks is a handicap. Take courage, deal with it and follow your gut
  • Research is key: find out more about your target market, taxation, standards and quality assurance before diving into the business
  • Get mentors and mentor others along the way
  • Look for ideas that you are passionate, about and see them to their fruition
  • Challenges are part of the game, take them on
  • Communication is a hallmark for successful business

As you prepare for this season of valentine, Geraldine perfumes not only signal unique fragrances, rather they give an alluring breeze of joy, love, breeze, happiness. Perfumes can be a simple, but thoughtful gesture to a loved one. Her trademark is creating a lingering fusion of scents.

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