“I’m a little sedated at this point, and I don’t sleep much,” said Michelle Pfeiffer.
It was in 2019, when the world-famous actress was on the cover of Entrepreneurand is about to launch its first company. She was an occasional entrepreneur: After she became a mother, she began to worry about the safety of the products her children used, which led her to question the products she used. It asked luxury perfume companies to reveal their ingredients to the public; When they said no, she spent 20 years figuring out how to build a company that would. The result was Henry Rose, a high-end fragrance brand that is transparent about its ingredients, and the only one to have these ingredients certified by two leading environmental groups. At the time, Pfeiffer also applied that transparency to herself and shared how difficult the journey was.
Now, nearly three years after its launch, Henry Rose has doubled its revenue annually, expanding into new categories like body cream, soaps, and candles, and forming retail partnerships (after launching as direct-to-consumer). Pfeiffer also reconnected with entrepreneurs to share ideas about adapting to the never-ending demands of business
Making a movie has an end: You do the work, and then the movie comes out. But starting a business is not the end of course. It is the beginning of infinity. How was this modification?
Business is a completely different field with a completely different set of rules and structure. When you make a movie, there are movies that you enjoy doing the most. Some are really hard and hard and trying, but you go, well, I have two more months, I have another six weeks. It’s like a countdown.
This is not the case in business, because it puts out fires and has to constantly pivot. I kept waiting for it to finish, and I finally realized – well, it’s never going to end! This is what it means to be in business. It made me develop a different kind of stamina that I didn’t have before.
The only other similar experience I can think of is new parenthood, where every morning you wake up to a screaming baby wondering when you can take a break. In the end, you realize that the answer is never.
It is, in a sense, a different version of birth. I had this concept that at some point the hard part would be over and then it would be easier. In the beginning was the search for someone to develop the product with me. Then he started a business, he has no background or degree or anything. Then oh my gosh, we made it go off. Then the really hard part began! Now two and a half years later, my learning curve has been so steady and steep that I feel like I’m on solid ground. But I still learn new things every day. In some ways, the fun really started now.
Henry Rose started personally, as many businesses do: you wanted something out of the world, and you knew you had to create it yourself. Now that it’s a real company, has your relationship with it changed?
When I started this, I was really angry. I was tense. Fragrance is in everything, and people don’t realize that when you look at a label and see the word “perfume,” there can be hundreds or thousands of ingredients, and there are no requirements for transparency on the label. Perfume on children’s toys. It’s about things you don’t even realize.
I just wanted safer products for my kids. So I was looking for products for them, and then I started researching my fragrances, which was me loveAnd I stopped wearing it [because perfume brands don’t detail all their ingredients]. I thought, we have the technology. We have consumer demand. Why should I choose between a quality product and something I know is safe?
When we actually started looking for an opportunity to give people safer products, we saw that the brand could go in many different directions. I can get really excited, and we have to keep controlling it and not run away with it, because there are a lot of opportunities out there.
Do you still find that rage useful now?
No, I’m too tired to be angry. I think part of the anger comes from feeling helpless. I’m a repairman, you know? I don’t like it when I can’t find a solution to something. But now I have it.
Henry Rose has expanded a range of new product categories since its launch. What drew it?
We listen to our customers. One of the reasons we developed candles, for example, is that they asked for them over and over again. This was interesting: At first, we had a lot of buybacks for our sample set, because people really liked to play with them. [The set contained five small bottles for $20, and was intended for online consumers to sample the brand’s scents.] Then we discovered that people were layering it and customizing their own scent. They were having such a good time that it was killing our other sales. We wanted to convert it to a larger size; This is the whole purpose of sample volumes. But we listened to them and realized that because we work with so few ingredients, and it’s really about how we balance those ingredients, the scents are complementary to each other. So you really can’t go wrong. This helped us. We started our campaign for layers.
Have you seen what people are doing organically, and then turned it into a marketing campaign?
Yes. We have invited people to play and try these perfumes. Because the other thing we’ve realized is, especially with younger millennials, they approach fragrance in a completely different way than people in my generation or my mother’s generation. They view it as an accessory to their wardrobe; They don’t necessarily fall in love with one perfume and then wear it for 30 years. They like to have a variety of them according to their particular mood.
This seems like another answer to my question about how your relationship with the brand has evolved. As soon as you put it there, you realize that it is no longer yours. Now it was them.
It is creation. As you know, I am a painter. So when you start drawing, you have an idea of what you are going to draw. And you paint your picture and then you mix your colors and you think, I want it to be like this. Then at a certain point, it starts telling you what to do. This is my favorite part of drawing. It’s also the part that’s hard for me to get into, because I’m a little in control. But it’s the same process.
Related links: Why Selena Gomez is co-founding a mental health media company