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Apr 082009
 

Mark Crames, 53, Great Neck, NY

What I do:

I develop new concepts and fragrance for Demeter Fragrance Library

How it helps:

We make natural fragrances available at an affordable price

How I got here:

It was not a straight line; I am a lawyer by training and was an Assistant State Attorney in another life, working under Janet Reno in Miami, Florida. In 1986 I started a company that specialized in designer fragrance distribution. That company eventually became the licensee and manufacturer of some well known fragrances, like Pierre Cardin and Faberge. In 2002, after that business became larger than what I considered optimal, I sold my interest and bought Demeter with my wife and partner, Debra; and we have been redefining and growing it ever since

Where I’m going:

We’re making Classic Demeter scents, which are 95% natural ingredients, available to broader distribution, to make more scent accessible to more people, for everyday enjoyment. Scent is joyous, and our mission is to make it accessible and affordable, to use every day, everywhere

In more expensive, but still affordable distribution, we are launching Vintage Naturals, 100% natural fragrances, to make completely natural scents affordable. There are very few natural scents for less than $150 on the market. Vintage Naturals are $68.00

How I’m doing:

In 6 years we have grown Demeter from less than $1,000,000 in retail sales annually to over $10,000,000 in retail sales annually. Today, a Demeter product is sold somewhere in the world every minute. We think we are still at the beginning of that process. We want to sell scents that make people happy.

At the same time, Demeter is something of an experiment in business organizations. Our factory runs like a factory-it is the nature of a factory that it has to be run in a command and control model. The rest of the organization, however, is a loose confederation held together by mobile phones, email and instant messaging. There is no true office. All of our executives work out of their homes, and the team was put together with that as a goal.

Demeter is a group of people who are passionate about fragrance, and about our work, but are also passionate about our families. One of our missions was to wrap our work around our lives, not to wrap our lives around our work. So we all work hard, but if our 4th grader had a presentation at noon, or our son in high school is pitching at 4 PM, we can be there. And the entire organization is made up of like- minded people. It is a challenge, but it is worth it. (See our story about Demeter’s new Vintage Naturals.)

Advice:

As an entrepreneur, do what you love. It is a consuming proposition, so you had best be passionate about it. I know few people who set out to make money and were successful. I know a lot of people who set out to do something else really well, and ended up making great money because they did it so well.

In beauty, or any other category, I suppose, be different. Don’t compete head on unless you are fabulously funded and have some sort of clear advantage, technological or otherwise. Fight the guerilla fight.

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