Bespoke home fragrance brands

Since 1989, Carol Symons has made home fragrance ranges for 1,000's of brands. Across those four decades Carol's also nurtured and grown her own brand - Parks London. We figured there's no better person to ask than our very own founder on how to get started...

how carol started her own home fragrance brand

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own brand?


"The first thing to do is ask yourself why you want to start your own fragrance brand. I'd recommend reading Simon Sinek's "Start with Why". It's not always an easy question to answer. For Parks, we're passionate about the way a beautifully fragranced home makes you feel - the difference it makes. And of course, we're passionate about manufacturing - we love making things.

You certainly don't need to be passionate about making things. Many of the worlds best known brands don't actually make their own products. They design, market and sell - but partner with a manufacturer for production. That's an important distinction and something to decide before you start, because the business structure is so different. Production's also a totally different mindset - time-consuming, arranging raw materials, components, packaging - and can be a big overhead. If you love designing, marketing and selling home fragrances you don't need it.

We only got into manufacturing because when I started in the 1980's paraffin was the standard and no-one would try making 100% natural wax candles for us. Today, many manufacturers offer natural wax for scented candles. But I'd recommend checking a manufacturer uses 100% Natural Wax - many simply label the candle "Natural Wax" when there can be as little as 20% in it."

100% natural wax

Who are you?... And what's your Price?

"Once you know why you're creating a home fragrance brand, the next thing to think about is who you are and what's your price. Many start-up home fragrance brands put a lot of time and effort into designing a fragrance, packaging etc. only to find the manufacturing cost will be too high to sell at £30 and leave enough margin to sell through distributors. It's best to start with a target price before approaching manufacturers... and to do that you need to have an idea of "who" your brand is.

It's often easiest to "benchmark" with a brand you like. Are you the next Diptyque or Le Labo? Perhaps a great quality but natural wax version of Yankee candle. Do some research on what they sell their candles for and in what sizes? Ask whether you should price yourself slightly lower, higher or the same?

Then start working backwards. How are you going to sell it? Which sales channels? Retailers and distributors need to earn a living, so you need to allow for them to make a profit. If you're going to sell directly to customers on-line, you can afford to sell at a lower price point - but will customers think your candle is lower quality? These questions need to be answered so you can figure out what price you need to make your candle for... and that tells you the design and raw materials you can afford."

That may seem like it's back to front - no-one likes to make something to a price. But it's a lot faster to work this way. You can always take the design you can afford as a starting point and then identify what aspects you don't like. Because you've already answered the "why" you'll know where you can and can't compromise.

For example, with Parks, it's always about the customer experience because our "why" is "creating beautifully fragranced homes." So if we have to choose between the cost of packaging design and strength of fragrance, we won't compromise on the strength of the fragrance because it has to be strong enough to scent a room.

Continued in part 2 next week where we'll be looking at sales channels, mentors, partners, mistakes and... luck 🙂