Get to know Allan Nichols and his startup, Sweet Buds. As a member of the EnTERPreneur Academy, Allan won a $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center earlier this year. This EnTERPreneur Academy company is redefining the way women wear perfume with an innovative earring backing that releases small amounts of perfume throughout the day. We caught up with Allan to check in on the progress Sweet Buds has been making since we last saw him at the beginning of the summer.
Tell us a little bit about your business. How did you come up with the idea?
We are Sweet Buds; a fragrance company developing earring backings that release perfume throughout the day. The idea came about in a study abroad class in China through the QUEST program this past winter break. My team members and I were very excited about the project and we decided to pursue it outside of the classroom and make an actual company around the idea.
How have you been working with the Dingman Center?
We applied for the EnTERPreneur academy the first time we heard about the incubator program. Being first time entrepreneurs, we really had no idea where to go from the initial idea. The Entrepreneurs-in-Residence have been very helpful guiding us along the way, giving us advice on how to brand ourselves, perfect our pitch, and providing resources and contacts we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. We have also used the Center’s Test the Market Kiosk to conduct preliminary market research.
How will you use the $1,000 grant from the Dingman Center?
So far we have used some of the grant money to pay for patent attorney fees and file for a provisional patent for our idea. I have also been collaborating with a freelance engineer to help us finalize the actual design of the product.
What has been the most challenging aspect of starting a business?
Right now our biggest challenge is the actual design of the earring backing and getting it to dissipate perfume the way we want it to. I have an initial prototype already 3D printed, but there are some revisions that need to be made. Trying to get the perfume to release correctly when punctured by the earring itself is difficult.
Who are your competitors?
One of our major competitors in this space is actually Dustin Hoffman’s wife, Lisa Hoffman. She runs a company called Lisa Hoffman beauty which has a wide range of fragrance jewelry. The main differentiator is that her jewelry utilizes fragrance beads while ours will use regular liquid perfume. The beads make the jewelry reusable but also more expensive. We plan on being daily disposables providing our customers a cheaper option to use when they want.
What entrepreneur or business person would you love to connect with?
I would love to connect with David Kelley and the rest of the IDEO team. I am really interested in design and what they have been able to create through their design processes is nothing short of incredible. We have a lot to learn in regards to design and he could definitely teach us a lot.
Have you had to change your business model since you started?
We are still in our infancy stages so we haven’t made many changes yet but we did spend a lot of time thinking about whether we wanted to license our designs out to larger retailers in a B2B model or directly sell our product to the consumers. For now we are sticking with selling to consumers but that could change down the line.
What kinds of resources will you need next?
As we keep designing and editing the prototype will require more capital to fund. So far we haven’t had to bootstrap this project but that might be a possibility to solve this problem. We are also seeking fragrance manufacturers to partner with and to put their perfume into our product. Contacts in the fragrance and jewelry industry would be very helpful.
Allan Nicholas is a junior Mechanical Engineering and Operations Management double major. He is involved in QUEST, EIP, and Hinman CEO’s and is an aspiring entrepreneur.