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Home-based business idea: Cologne

Start your business in the comfort of your home.
By Entrepreneur Staff |
Home-based business idea: Cologne

Your own kitchen can be the base for this new business you can operate by yourself right at home.

Capital: For just P15,000, you can start making cologne in your own kitchen, says Lheng Aveno, lecturer on cologne making at Spices and Foodmix House. This amount can buy enough raw materials and equipment to make 500 bottles of cologne that can be sold directly to your friends, family, officemates, and neighbors. But if you want to sell in bazaars, you will need P5,000 to P10,000 more to pay for store space rentals. This is according to Sarah Guballa-Bravo, who makes body and bath products such as colognes, soaps, lotions, and scrubs under her own Mint Basin & Citrus Tub brand. She has been in the business since 2001 and she says that she recovered her initial investment in less than a year.

Materials: Four basic ingredients are needed to make cologne: ethyl alcohol, fragrances, fixative, and distilled water. To mix these ingredients, it is important to have the right equipment: a mixing bowl, a beaker, and a stirring rod—all of which should be made of glass to produce good-quality cologne. For packaging, you need 50-milliliter to 100-milliliter bottles. You can use either plastic or glass bottles, but Bravo says glass is preferable because cologne packed in glass bottles has a longer shelf life. You also need to order the product labels for the bottles.

Workforce: If you plan to do only a small operation, you can do everything by yourself. In the case of Bravo, she has a full-time job as a brand manager so she can only do her home-based enterprise during weekends and after-office hours. She mixes the ingredients herself, then packs the bottled cologne in sinamay pouches for delivery to her customers. During the peak season from December through January and February, she has to deliver as much as 800 bottles of cologne monthly, so she asks her household help to assist her in sticking the labels to the cologne bottles.

Process: You first need to learn the basic cologne-making formula. Aveno says that to produce a 100-ml bottle of cologne, you need at least 75 ml of ethyl alcohol, 10 ml of fragrances, five ml of fixative, and 10 ml of distilled water. To create a distinct scent for your cologne, you have to modify this basic formula by either adding more of particular ingredients or reducing them. You can get formulation ideas by surfing the Net and reading books on cologne and perfume making. Since you need to develop a scent that will appeal to a wide number of people, you should make it a point to first test your product on yourself and on your family or friends. Most Filipinos prefer fruity scents, says Michelle Asence, owner of Zen Zest, a manufacturer of an extensive line of personal care products. This is why her cologne products with the scent of apple, raspberry, or melon are her company’s bestsellers.

After developing your cologne formula, you can purchase the necessary ingredients. Measure and mix them in a glass bowl. Pour the mixture in a large container, then seal and keep it in the refrigerator for two days to cure. After the curing period, pour the mixture in individual bottles. The cologne bottles need to be labeled individually for easy identification and merchandising purposes. A 50-ml bottle of cologne can retail at P75 or about double its production cost, says Aveno.

Marketing:What’s good about the cologne-making business is that you can easily market it by capitalizing on the sense of vanity of most Filipinos. “It’s a feel-good factor when you smell good. Feeling mo mas gumaganda ka kasi mabango ka. (You feel more beautiful when you smell good),” Asence explains. It is because of the existence of this ready market that many aspiring and existing entrepreneurs are enticed to go into cologne making.

The competition in this market is quite tough, though, so you need to learn to promote your products well. Positioning your products is particularly important. In the case of Asence, she wanted to sell her cologne in the malls and make it big in the business. Thus, in 2001, she borrowed P350,000 from her mother and developed a variety of bath and body products and rented a kiosk at the SM North Edsa Mall in Quezon City. Her colognes and perfumes became such a hit among the mall goers. Today, Asence’s company has grown into a multi-million-peso enterprise.

Aveno makes her own cologne products but instead of retailing them, she opted to become a wholesaler. She manufactures at least 500 bottles a week to be sold wholesale to friends and acquaintances as well as to the students in the livelihood training class that she teaches. Her wholesale buyers then sell the cologne on retail to their officemates or to students at nearby universities.  

Bravo focuses on distributing her cologne as part of a wedding souvenir package. To reach her target market, she posts ads in wedding-related websites, and sells her products in bazaars. She depends on good word-of-mouth to promote her business.  

This articles was originally published in the April 2007 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.

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