This week, Weekender begins a series of articles featuring locally made products and the artisans who make them.
Just after leaving college, Caymanian Ted Green, 26, had an idea to produce perfumes that spoke of the Cayman Islands. His hard work and dedication can now be seen on the shelves of high-end stores across the island. He created the fruity and sassy Banana Orchid for women and the fresh and woody Fifteen 0 Three for men.
Long, hard road
Green’s belief in his product has seen him through a long journey that finally resulted in recognition for his two perfumes. But it was a difficult few years.
“I pretty much invested every cent that I had into making the business work,” he says.
In 2007, Green says, he was thinking of a way to create a successful business that would also promote the islands, when a friend jokingly suggested he create fragrances, since he possessed more than 50 himself.
“The idea clicked with me straight away and I began to do research and attempt to meet the right people who would help me with my idea,” he says. “It wasn’t easy as I had no budget, but I was determined to find the right expertise. I knew that would be essential to my success.”
The budding entrepreneur realized that the perfume industry is incredibly difficult to get into with limited funds because it’s an extremely competitive international market with celebrity endorsements that require millions of dollars in investment. After a few failed attempts at making the right connections, Green says he finally came upon a Canadian perfumer who helped him take his first steps into the world of perfume making. The woman gave him some excellent words of advice.
“She told me to keep at it and not give up if it was something that I really wanted to do.”
Although the working relationship did not eventually pan out due to his contact’s own business taking off, Green says he took those words of wisdom and pursued other avenues. Eventually he met with perfumers in France who were able to help him create the scents he was looking for.
Scent of Cayman
Green says he had a clear idea in his mind for the fragrance of his perfume.
“It had to be of the Cayman Islands,” he explains, “so I chose the Banana Orchid as the name as it is our national flower. I went to the Botanic Park and also to my grandmother’s garden to become familiar with the plant. The flower itself has quite a mild scent so I decided to play around with the aromas, focusing on the fact that the name Banana Orchid implies both a fruit and a flower, as well as something small, sensual and light.”
He sent a description of the mood he wanted the fragrance to evoke to his perfumers in France and they sent back samples with their suggestions. Green says it only took three or four attempts before he finally knew they had found the right scent.
“It was amazing how quickly they came up with the right scent,” he says. “It was exactly what I was looking for, but usually the process involves hundreds of testings before the right one is found. I think we just clicked really quickly.”
In fact, the perfumers were so good they came up with not one, but two scents that Green really loved.
“The first scent was fruity and floral so, to me, that evoked the Banana Orchid; however, the second scent they produced was still fruity but had woody undertones which reminded me of a shipyard or the beach. I knew that would make an excellent men’s fragrance and so Fifteen O Three was born also,” he states. “I just couldn’t give it up.”
Fifteen O Three gets its name from the year that Christopher Columbus is said to have discovered the Cayman Islands.
Pitching to market
In 2010, Green says, he and his friends began to spread the word about his new perfumes, offering samples to people to highlight the new fragrances. He also approached Kirk Freeport, one of the largest retail outlets for perfume on the island.
“I went into the stores to see what they had to offer customers that was made in Cayman, but at the time there were only perfumes that were sold across the Caribbean but simply had a label change for Cayman,” he says. “I knew they would be able to sell a product that was made locally to visitors.”
Packaging was very important to Green, so he enlisted the assistance of local artists husband and wife Randy Chollette and Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette. Their designs on the packaging have helped to reinforce the authenticity of the product’s origin in the Cayman Islands.
“I really wanted the products to stand out visually among the competition,” Green says.
All packaging is handmade currently, as Green pursues the purchase of an automated system for the future.
Banana Orchid and Fifteen O Three are now available on the shelves of Kirk Freeport and Caymania perfume stores and have sold well over the holiday period, he says.
Green, who still works full time in financial services, says he looks forward to the day when he can concentrate solely on his perfumes. He is also working toward an MBA.
Not content with standing still, Green says his next step will be to examine the concept of selling his fragrances in a body lotion, a sensible progression for his perfumes. In addition, he has some good news for his customers.
“I will definitely be launching a new scent come the fall of 2014,” he says.