SME profile: Dubai-based Scent Corner’s fragrant new way to travel

Exploring fragrance through travel is the aim of Christa Moreau, the French entrepreneur and fragrance evaluator, who roams the world in search of special and indigenous scents, which she sells on her website, Scent Corner.

The 28-year-old has always worked in the perfume industry, which she describes as “one of her passions”. She studied to be a perfume evaluator in France before moving to Singapore. But tired of her work in an office or at a laboratory, Ms Moreau wanted see who is behind the raw materials and see where it is coming from. She wanted to meet the farmers or the local people.

“Since I was in Asia, I wanted to travel around, because traveling is one of my passions, so I started a blog,” says Ms Moreau.

“I wanted to know more about the raw materials that we use in the perfumes — the flowers, the spices, the wood, the fruits. I was in China for the Osmanthus flower, which you only find in China. I’ve been to Japan for the Cherry Blossom and for the tea, and I’ve been to Thailand for the Agarwood.”

Written in French, Ms Moreau’s blog was intended only for her friends and family, but soon it attracted people from the industry, perfumers, and travellers.

“It was a new way compared to all the travel blogs that you find online. It was a new way to travel – to travel for scents,” she says.

After a while, her followers were curious to smell the products and flowers that were featured in her blog, bringing the idea of an online store to share the “authentic” fragrances of the places she visits to the rest of the world.

“It means when you smell a product, you really close your eyes and you are travelling to this destination. It is really this idea,” says Ms Moreau.

While on the road, Ms Moreau met with many local people who found it difficult for them to sell their products abroad or worldwide, so she thought of creating a market place to support these small brands and offer something different.

In November 2014, Scent Corner kicked-off – selling products that range from candles, cosmetics for face and body, perfumes, and home scents such as diffusers and sprays.

“The idea is to have a product that tells a story. There are three criteria when I choose a product. It has to be handmade, natural, and sustainable. Sometimes it’s one of them and sometimes it is all of them, but it’s important,” says Ms Moreau.

Ms Moreau spent US$100,000 on the project, which included the stock, the set-up of the website and the company, and the company’s print stuff such as boxes, cards, and packaging.

“I didn’t raise any money. The business was self-financed,” she says.

“I am working with myself now. I don’t have any team. I am travelling and seeking new brands. In my travel, I meet with the brands and they send their products to me. I have a warehouse, so I sell the products locally and worldwide,” Ms Moreau says.

Ms Moreau collaborated with DHL for the importation and exportation of her products. For the exportation, her customers pay a fee depending on the distance and the weight of the product.

Scent Corner targets female customers between the ages of 25 to 45, Ms Moreau describes the website as a “concept store” and not mainstream, as it features products from Japan, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey, France, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Argentina, Kenya, and Bali.

Currently, Scent Corner has 15 brands. Ms Moreau targets to add one to two brands every month to her collection.

Asked if she finds a challenge selling fragrance online, Ms Moreau says: “on the website, I do a lot of description, so people can almost smell the product and there are a lot of pictures. It has to be a good surprise.”

Ms Moreau aims to breakeven in the coming three to four years, and sees massive potential in the booming e-commerce industry. By 2020, online sales across the GCC are expected to reach $41.5 billion as e-commerce in the region grows to $200bn from from $95bn in 2013, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan. The sector will account for 5 per cent of the region’s GDP by then.

Nevertheless, search engine optimisation remains her biggest challenge in the business.

“People are more ready to buy products online. Before people were afraid to buy because of technical or security issues, it is not the case anymore,” she says.

“However, as an e-commerce business, the search engine optimisation is really challenging. There are a lot of people on the internet and many people say if you are not on the front page of Google, you are dead.”

The founder

Christa Moreau is the founder of Scent Corner. She grew up in Versailles (France) and graduated with a Master’s degree from ISIPCA, the renowned French school specialising in the Fragrance and Cosmetic industry. She worked in Paris, London and Singapore before moving to Dubai, where she is currently based. Ms Moreau has around 10 years of experience in retail, marketing, communication and evaluation for beauty and fragrance brands, She also joined in 2012 the professional website as an expert editor for Fine Fragrances in Asia. Simultaneously, she established the blog “Carnet de Voyage Olfactif”, which achieved a great recognition in the French fragrance blogosphere as a result of its innovative concept of exploring fragrances through travel.

The company

Scent Corner is an online “concept store” established in 2014. The online business is specialised in selling unique scented products sourced from exotic locations around the world. Scent Corner features products by rare and independent artists found in various communities from around the world — it helps them share a part of their rich and diverse cultural history by selling their products and stimulate those local economies at the same time. Scent Corner currently features products from Japan, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey, France, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Argentina, Kenya, and Bali. It plans to add an average of 1-2 brands every month.

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