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Driving a Startup 200mph in the Pandemic. The Case of PERFUMIST, the n°1 Perfume App in The World

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Frédérick Besson PERFUMIST

We talked to Frédérick Besson of PERFUMIST about perfumes and Covid-19.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Frédérick Besson: During the first wave of COVID and containment, we were forced to stay home with our 3 kids back from school. Then back to work as usual and then contained again for the second wave…

You have been hit once and hit the mat you stand back on your feet and get hit again… Very strange mixed feelings. I do not wish I was 20 years old these days…

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PERFUMIST.

Frédérick Besson: I started learning the ropes in a multinational company and was sent to Asia (China) in 1996…last century. An entrepreneur by heart, I created several companies in SEA where my family followed me.

I was fortunate enough to launch new categories in developing countries several times. I met incredible cultures and people I will never forget. Running a chain of perfumeries in Asia, I needed to find a way to educate and explain perfumes to consumers and sales staff.

We eventually started PERFUMIST at that time, from a consumer need standpoint, and later discovered that all countries have the same need, trying to find perfumes they like for themselves or to offer based on the smell, not the brand or the price.

How does PERFUMIST innovate? 

Frédérick Besson: PERFUMIST has become an N°1 perfume app that soon reaches 1 million users worldwide. The database has 45K perfumes from 2K brands and works in 45 languages.

From that database, you say what you have or like, and we will give you finding new perfumes anywhere you go. It works all over the world and really fills a customer need these days.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Frédérick Besson: We used to be N°1 in duty-free to help consumers and sales staff with probably the best perfume advisor on the planet. All stopped worldwide with the pandemic, you can imagine.

We had to think about responding to this and moved our PERFUME Advisor Online helloing users on perfume E-shops and other E-commerce platforms. That was a smart move.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Frédérick Besson: Of course, we learned the hard way when our customers did not pay us and eventually closed down their businesses. We did not lay off, and we kept working with all outsourced suppliers.

We are very proud of this, but nothing has to be taken for granted. “Nice to have” died and only “must-have “survived. Cash was KING at the time.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

Frédérick Besson: I tend to meet and stay surrounded by people with a positive attitude. Work hard and play hard exist even if containment is not easy; keeping a high spirit keeps you moving and alive.

At the end of the day, small things like sunshine, a bird, or even playing with our Chief Happiness officer (Dog Laska) change lift your mood.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Frédérick Besson: Having competitors is healthy, even if lots of them try to take your n°1 spot all the time or copy what you do. It keeps you always on edge and forces you to keep moving.

We still drive with an eye on the road and an eye on the mirror…

Your final thoughts?

Frédérick Besson: I want to thank our team for their trust and hard work. Alone, not much can be achieved, but as a group, we can move mountains. If you like what you do, you will do what you like 🙂

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