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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.)


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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Apr 072009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you’ve been looking for a fragrance that’s true to nature’s aromas and also free of toxic phthalates and preservatives and dyes, get ready for an April treat.

Demeter Fragrance Library of New York is debuting a line of eau de parfums at Sephora this month called Vintage Naturals that aims to deliver quality natural fragrances at an affordable price.

If you’ve ever wondered why wonderful natural fragrances are so hard to find, or afford, listen to Demeter’s CEO Mark Crames.

Crames says that capturing and bottling Mother Nature’s olfactory achievements has long been a challenge for beauty product companies because the requisite raw material — rose petals, lavender buds, mimosa blooms – is pricey, plain and simple. So the perfume formulations that use natural oils have, for the most part, ended up on niche shelves at Neiman’s, Bergdorf’s, and other luxury stores, retailing for hundreds of dollars a dollop.

The prices are limiting. The natural palette is also limited. But the difference between a natural scent and the synthetic that mimics it “will just blow you away,” Crames says. (Having sampled Rosebush and Mimosa, we have to agree. While words cannot adequately describe smells, we would venture to say that these are crisp, full-bodied scents with impressive longevity.)

With the Vintage Naturals line, Demeter is trying to break the price barriers that have kept “naturals’ on a shelf out of reach of the mainstream market, where Crames believes there’s a demand for natural products. The company, whose existing line of colognes has been sold at Whole Foods Markets, is producing the new line at a narrower margin and has chosen ingredients carefully to keep the price at an accessible point ($68 for 1.7 oz.).

Aside from price, natural scents have encountered other market barriers. Big manufacturers have shied away because naturally derived aromas vary with the harvest and are difficult to replicate exactly from year to year. Paris Hilton’s and Calvin Klein’s signature scents must, after all, remain the same year in and year out to meet consumer expectations.

But in considering this “problem” Demeter, which already makes dozens of mostly natural colognes, asked a question that hadn’t been much asked before: Couldn’t a natural scent’s changeability be part of its charm?

The answer to that question became Demeter’s inspiration and five Vintage Naturals parfums were created with the idea that they, like fine wines, would vary a bit from year to year. The new scents, each organized around a single floral note, are proudly branded with their “vintage”: Patchouli 2009, Mimosa 2009, Rosebush 2009, Geranium 2009 and Lavender 2009 and sold in limited edition issues of 25,000 pieces each.

These fragrances will change over time. Over hours. Throughout the day. And year to year.

“That’s part of the wonderful experience that a natural gives you, it goes through all those permutations,” Crames said.

The new line will be available in Sephora stores starting on April 16, with more stores getting the fragrances in the fall. It is also available online at Demeter’s website.

Demeter, founded in 1996 (and yes named after the Greek Goddess), has a history of turning conventional wisdom upside down. At its factory in Sunbury, Pennsylvania it produces more than 250 fragrances, most of them single note colognes that march to their own drummers, fulfilling the founders’ ambitions to make colognes that “are about you, as opposed to most designer purchases that are about aspirations,” says Crames, who owns the company with his wife, Debra Janke, and other partners. “So choosing a Demeter scent is about the memories that a scent evokes for you, and that’s about personal choice.”

The Demeter library takes “personal choice” seriously offering up a quirky list of scents like Jolly Rancher Smooth Watermelon; Tootsie Roll; White Russian, and Egg Nog, both from the Happy Hour collection; Apple Pie (of course); Freesia; Earthworm (for gardeners?) and even Laundromat – definitely not a Paris Hilton hangout, but someone’s fond memory, somewhere.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media