Aussie company spreading sweet scent of success overseas
It’s not a statement one would expect from the co-owner of a successful Australian business now exporting fragrance products to 30 countries but when Armstrong and business partner David Dash bought the business it was tiny and they were naïve.
“It’s only through those mistakes that you learn”, Armstrong says pragmatically, and the pair learned quickly. “It was pretty clear when we bought the business that we weren’t going to eat unless we got more customers,” she says.
They tried private label work for some of Australia’s biggest retailers but found it unprofitable so they began to travel overseas to look at product.
After seeing fragrant reed diffusers in the United States, Armstrong pitched the idea to Myer. She was told the market wasn’t ready. Two years later, a Myer representative rang and asked, “How fast can you get it on the floor for us?” Armstrong can’t believe they got it done.
“It was a product that no one here had ever made before. We had to develop a formula that actually worked, try to find a bottle, try to get packaging done, over Chinese new year.” But the madness paid off and the diffusers have propelled the company to another level.
Apsley now owns two brands: Scented Space, which is designed for self-sell department store environments, and Abode Aroma, which is pitched at small boutiques.
As the Australian market became too small, Armstrong and Dash looked overseas. With the assistance of Austrade and Gift and Homewares Australia they began to exhibit in 2002 at gift and trade fairs overseas. Their first international exhibition took place in Hong Kong just six weeks after the SARS scare.
“There was no one around so it was probably a good place to learn,” Armstrong says. “We made a lot of mistakes, we didn’t understand what customers really wanted to buy, what sort of questions they needed answers for.”