Watch any consumer interact with flowers. Invariably, he or she will bend down to smell the blossoms. But unless the bunch includes lilies, garden roses, gardenias, hyacinth, a whole lot of baby’s breath or stock, there’s no olfactory treat to be had.
On a trip to the auction houses in Aalsmeer a few years ago, Randy and Rosie Weiss noticed this phenomenon.
“We expected to encounter a strong floral smell,” said Randy. “That didn’t turn out to be the case at all. It seemed really odd. Obviously, we didn’t know much about cut flowers.”
The Weisses had a hunch their desire for fragrance was widespread. In fact, according to market research from the American Floral Endowment, fragrance is one of consumers’ biggest motivators for purchasing flowers. The couple started to investigate the science of scent and flowers. They found that, past the breeding level, there wasn’t much anyone can do to add fragrance.
“We didn’t see any existing technologies,” said Randy, who worked as a researcher for the pharmaceutical industry before becoming a venture capitalist. “But we were convinced there was a big opportunity here. So we thought, why not develop the technology ourselves?”
Before launching their company, FloraScentials in March, the Weisses consulted florists and wholesalers in their hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. “We wanted to see if they would be interested in adding fragrance to non-fragrant flowers,” Rosie said. (Their overwhelming response: yes!) “Their enthusiasm gave us inspiration to pursue this.”
This summer, they set up a laboratory where they’ve begun conducting experiments with hybrid tea roses. In a nutshell, they add various ingredients to water in hopes the flowers will metabolize them and consequently produce fragrance. “Basically, we want to develop a product that works in the same manner as flower food,” Randy said.
In addition to the Weisses, FloraScentials has an advisory board, which includes a person from the fragrance industry and an individual experienced with the international regulatory process. The couple’s florist and wholesaler contacts are also lending their “professional noses” to evaluate results.
Their long-term goals include developing a new product each year and hiring staff to help with research, finance, marketing and sales.
“This is probably the most thing I’ve done as an entrepreneur,” Randy said. “We know a lot of people will appreciate being able to smell their flowers.”