When I was introduced to Mark Crames, founder of Demeter Fragrance, I was intrigued by his business and unique vision. With scents such as Vanilla Cake Batter, Grass, Rain, Dirt, Fresh Linen, Chocolate and Bubblegum, Demeter’s philosophy was to maximize the bond between scent and sense memory. If scent can make you smile…then Demeter’s fragrances surely achieved that goal. This was a perfume business very different than any I had ever worked with and whose success excited me.
Mark’s career path is unusual and one that I found quite interesting. Mark is an attorney who worked as a District Attorney for Janet Reno. When he couldn’t support his family on a state payroll, he went into private practice and specialized in representing fragrance companies who were being sued for trademark violation. After winning a ruling that allowed the sale of authentic merchandise at discounted prices, he realized that perfume needed to have very wide distribution in order to be successful. When he was introduced to an innovative brand that created scents inspired by fragrances that surround us every day, he found the right vehicle. Mark purchased Demeter Fragrance realizing that he wanted his “life to surround his work and not his work to surround his life.” In 2002, creating a virtual company unheard of but Mark knew that family came first and that the business would succeed with his hard work and creative vision. Quickly, he got product into top retailers such as Sephora, Ulta Cosmetics and Anthropologie. “Fragrance should be affordable and as comfortable to wear as a pair of jeans, not something that you save for a special occasion.” At affordable prices he soon branched out into Walgreens, Loblaw’s and Rite Aid and started exporting product all over the world. As the orders got larger and larger, his bank provided some financing, but could not support his overseas sales. When cash flow became a serious issue his bank made an introduction to me to assist in financing the large orders that they couldn’t fund within traditional loan parameters. Mark was surprised that the bank was unwilling to provide the financing that was necessary at his most critical growth period. Using cash flow from Prestige on these large orders gave Demeter the liquidity that they needed to continue to grow both domestic and foreign sales. Ultimately, he was grateful that they introduced him to a firm that was quick and nimble enough to finance specific orders so that there was no disruption in his business.
He has also taken his success to an even greater level by creating licensing deals with brands such as: Jelly Belly, Hershey’s, Tootsie Roll and Hello Kitty, creating great press for these companies through licensing in a category which would never be associated with perfume. His newest license is the 20th anniversary of Pulp Fiction! Can’t wait to see how that scent will smell!