We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Ilsa Manning a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Ilsa, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to hear about a time you helped a customer really get an amazing result through their work with you.
This story warms my heart so much! I was contacted via email from a customer who had placed an order late on a Thursday. He was reaching out because he needed the order, which was a birthday present for his girlfriend, by Sunday. I saw the email late on Friday and, on first glance I felt so downhearted! I thought this would be impossible because fine fragrances are not allowed to be overnight shipped by air to due the fact they are a hazardous good (perfume is highly flammable because of the alcohol content!). I took another look at his order and, luckily, saw this customer lived in Phoenix, where Ilsa Fragrances is based! Now, Phoenix is a huge sprawling city, but I was able to work with the customer and work with schedules and get his order (a lovely 50ml spray and 10ml rollerball of our Infinite No 2 fragrance) delivered by the Saturday afternoon.
He was so ecstatic and grateful when it was delivered, and emailed as well to say his girlfriend was thrilled to receive the present.
I can’t always make magic like this happen, but I was so happy that on this occasion I was able to!
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
So honored to be featured here on Canvas Rebels! I wanted to tell a bit about myself and Ilsa Fragrances, my luxury fragrance company that seeks to empower women to believe in themselves and all they can do – we are Perfume with a Purpose!
My story starts over fifteen years ago. I was living in England and had just finished my MA in history. I had wanted to continue on to do a PhD, but the reality was that I needed to start paying off my student loans, which meant I needed to get a job. I put in my resume with a job agency down the road from where I was living, they sent me for an interview with the UK sales office of the largest fragrance and flavor manufacturer in the world and that was it! I got the job and it was this role that introduced me to the world of fragrance and I fell in love! It was about 8 years later when I decided to take my passion to the next level and start my own company, which was inspired by the birth of my first daughter.
As I was working hard at being a new mom, one of the things I really wanted to be (and was trying to be!) was the best person I could be for my new daughter. What she gifted me in return was belief in myself through her unconditional love. In some magical way, her love and faith in me shined a mirror in my direction and showed me I was a strong and courageous person – I had never seen this in myself or believed this of myself before this moment. And once I had the amazing feeling of self-belief, I wanted every woman out there to have it: for every woman to feel and know they are strong and courageous and can do and be anything they dream.
I started Ilsa Fragrances, my perfume with a purpose, to give women this message, and the way that I knew how to do it best was through my passion – fine fragrances.
I am so proud of the beautiful products we create for The Infinite Collection from Ilsa Fragrances, infinite because your dreams, capabilities and potential are INFINITE! Our Infinite No 1 fine fragrance is an amber scent, which is a rich, warm, lusciously spicy and woody fragrance with just the lightest touch of sweetness to it. While our Infinite No 2 fine fragrance is a bright citrus scent with accents of liquid amber, and is like being wrapped in scented cashmere (absolutely lovely!).
What’s more, I not only created scents to delight the senses, but to surround you with empowering notes that pull out your inner strength and beauty when you spritz (or roll) on the scent, ready for your day or night or whatever you’re off to do!
I’m excited about everything to do with Ilsa Fragrances, but one of the things that gets me most excited is that with each purchase we donate to Girls on the Run, a non-profit program that teaches girls they have limitless potential. So, not only are we empowering women with our products, but you with your purchase are empowering girls to become empowered women. For these reasons we are through and through – Perfume with a Purpose.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about selling platforms like Amazon/Etsy vs selling on your own site.
The primary location for Ilsa Fragrances is on our website, ilsafragrances.com. When we first launched Ilsa Fragrances in 2016, we decided we wanted to be direct to consumer with our own website because it was the quickest way we could get our products into people’s hands. The pros are that we have complete control of the look and feel and can manage orders effectively. The cons are that we are always in charge! Someone always needs to be there to answer queries and get orders out.
In 2019, we decided to expand to Amazon. This was a tricky decision as we are a niche luxury fragrance brand and play in the indie beauty category. Amazon is not really known as being a place to purchase niche, luxury or indie products, so we needed to do research. Was this the right place for us? In 2019 it just so happened that Amazon was expanding into different market sectors and we were asked to join their Indie Beauty Category. I ummed and ahed about this, saw that other indie, niche, luxury fragrances had taken the Amazon plunge, and decided to go with it. The pros of being on Amazon are that we have our own brand page, we are categorized as being Indie Beauty and Small Business, we are on Prime so Amazon takes care of fulfilling all orders, and there are a lot of shoppers out there who now have access to Ilsa Fragrances! The cons are that it is still Amazon and even though there are a lot of shoppers, are they the right ones? This question is still unanswered, but I do really like that we have the products available on Amazon so that people can get their favorite Infinite Collection rollerball while shopping for their kid’s school supplies!
Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.
I learned all about product development and bringing products to market through my career at the fragrance powerhouses Givaudan and Coty Inc. I knew the steps that needed to be taken to create a fine fragrance and I had the network to help guide me in choosing the right vendors, so off I went… But, of course, it wasn’t (and isn’t!) as simple as that! All of my suppliers and manufacturers needed to fulfill at least these two requirements: (1) was their minimum order quantity (MOQ) small and (2) had they been recommended to me? If they were recommended, then I had a level of trust in their capabilities and if they had a small MOQ, that meant I’d be able to afford working with them!
One thing that has always held true for manufacturing products is that there will always be a challenge – an ingredient that is no longer available or too expensive, transportation issues, packaging issues, breakages, delays, etc, etc. When a challenge arises you’ve got to be willing to figure out how to overcome it and you can do this, because there is always a way!