Pinrose is a rapidly expanding fragrance brand that was co-founded by Erika  Shumate, who has a lifelong fascination with scent and a determination to build her company with values like playfulness at its core.

LM: Let's start by giving me a snapshot of you and the company.

ES: My co-founder Christine Luby and I created Pinrose to be the most playful company in the luxury fragrance market. We want to free our customers from the department store scent-buying experience and encourage them to play and learn about scent in a way that is warm, inviting and, hopefully, exciting.

We also want to solve one of the major disconnects of the high-end fragrance market: celebrity and designer-driven fragrances.  Our brand celebrates the customer instead of trying to make them aspire to be someone else.

LM: Tell me about your origin story. Why did you start this company?

ES: My curiosity in scent and fragrance was ignited at seven years old. I was amazed how scent triggers memories. I attempted to mix my own fragrances, learned French, visited perfumeries in Grasse, studied the limbic system of the brain, studied History of Science in college with a focus on olfaction (smell) and the psychology of scent, and interned at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

I also always helped my friends discover new fragrances by guiding them through the sea of choices using techniques based on synesthesia. I would ask color and shape questions as well as emotion and mood-based questions to match them to a fragrance. When we were at Stanford business school, I took Christine to the store to find a fragrance and during that outing, Pinrose was born.

One of the key things we wanted to do was make the buying experience more playful. We did it by creating a sensory-based quiz rooted in the science of synesthesia and then recommend fragrances that fit those preferences. Since smell is based in the limbic part of the brain, where emotions and memories are processed, we guide the customer using creative and emotional images. This allows the customer to get out of the verbal-processing, analytical left brain and into the creative right brain.

LM: What is your favorite part about starting this company?

ES: I have 3 favorite parts:

  1. Building a diverse and female-led team while creating a culture of inclusion, innovation, determination, and warmth.
  2. Hearing that our products are emotionally successful; when we hear we triggered a blissful memory or made someone feel a little more badass or confident.
  3. Feeling of adventure. I enjoy when things go right and when the great unknown is around the corner and when difficult situations arise

LM: How does that tie in with the branding of the company?

ES: Our visual branding exudes playfulness. Our logo is askew, with each letter on a different plane. Every one of our bottles is a different color, which matches synesthetically to the scent inside, and for each fragrance, we also create fractal-like imagery on the outer packaging. All the names of our fragrances are personas, e.g., Secret Genius, Wild Child, and Pillowtalk Poet. We did this to help our customers feel like they are bringing out the best versions of themselves or personality attributes they want to highlight

LM: Talk to us a little bit about why you think Pinrose has been so successful.

ES: I think our success has come from our genuine approach to this market. We work hard to meet the customers where they are, and don't force them to try to be something they are not. We are transparent with our ingredients, highlight the perfumers we work with, and value our customer's experience

We've also had great mentors from Silicon Valley and picked up some key learnings from consumer tech companies: design for your customer, prototype and iterate, and don't let fear of failure guide you.

LM: How can emerging brands in the space be successful?

ES: Differentiate your brand from other players in the market; be specific about what you stand for. It's okay if some people don't like it, in fact, that is a great indicator you are being specific in your branding.

LM: What is your take on the future of Pinrose?

ES: 2018 is going to be a big year. We have an exciting partnership launching in the spring with Color Cosmetics, and we are starting to build out our home fragrance line with candles. As for distribution, by the end of 2018, Pinrose will be in all U.S. Sephora stores and select locations in Canada.

The future looks rosy for Pinrose, and I look forward to seeing how the business continues to bloom.

Published on: May 1, 2018