Samantha Sherwin and Sasha Bertran, founders of Hoboken-based United Scents of America, LLC, are more than just business partners. Having met years ago while both working at the same perfume distribution center, they became close friends and colleagues. Each ran a different department at the center, and arrived at the realization that they knew enough about the perfume industry to start working for themselves.
The idea for United Scents of America, LLC was born during off hours at Baumwards & Flemings and during lunch breaks where Sam and Sasha would talk about their plans for the future.
“I had had an idea for years of creating my own line of perfume,” Sam said. One of the previous jobs Sam had in California afforded her lunch breaks on the beach. “The smell of Hawaiian Tropic Suntan Lotion brought me back there every time I smelled it,” she told me.
Knowing exactly who she wanted to work with on this endeavor when the time arose, the opportunity presented itself to begin a line of state-representing perfumes in summer of 2011. The pair were without jobs and had nothing to lose.
“It was really scary,” Sasha tells me. For the first time the pair was not working for someone else or at a big company. On the upside, they explain, they had an opportunity to make all of the decisions for themselves. For starters, the company is almost entirely American. When I asked what they meant by almost they explained that each part of the bottle – the nozzle, the container, the lid, the pump, etc. – comes from a different manufacturer, and that the perfume itself, the box it comes in, the wrapping around that, and so on are all also done by different companies.
The pair want to bring money back to an industry that is primarily outsourced to China, France, and other parts of the world, and decided to scout out vendors they would work with in the United States. It was also intentional for them to stay in Hoboken.
“We’re close to Manhattan and also to Fort Lee, which is where I live” Sasha tells me. “Some of the top markets in the northeast are all relatively close to Hoboken which is another reason this is a great place to work.”
A typical day for Sam and Sasha starts at 9:30am at Sam’s apartment which doubles as their office and workshop. Sasha drives from a half hour away and the two go through e-mails and the agenda for the day.
Each day is different they tell me, and part of the reason they love it so much. One day they may be filling samples with eye droppers, and others planning events to showcase their products. They do our own PR, hold their own focus groups, and pound the pavement when need be themselves.
When they are not working with vendors establishing relationships and locations to sell their scents, you may see them taking breaks (or working through lunch) at some of their favorites spots on Washington – Mamoun’s Falafaels, Sullivan’s, Grimaldi’s and Farside Bar & Grill.
I asked them both what scents were out and was there plans to eventually have all 50 states turned into fragrances. “That’s our hope,” they said almost in unison, as they laughed that their responses were so similar. Currently, Florida, California, Texas, New York and New Jersey are available for purchase (Dina’s Kiss & Make Up carries the entire line if you want to purchase them locally in Hoboken).
Of the five fragrances, the New Jersey scent sticks out the most. Unintentionally tinted orange, there is a medley of buttered popcorn, cotton candy, carmel, coconut, vanilla, peach and patchouli that is reminiscent of the shore in the summertime.
“We were nervous at first,” the couple said to me regarding the bright hue of the New Jersey perfume, “but everyone loves it and we’ve come to accept it as a blessing in disguise,” they tell me. Being based out of the state, it is only telling that it should stand out the most.
The pair are enthusiastic, hardworking, and almost always thinking on the same wavelength, which they feel is an asset to the company and part of the reason they are able to push forward with a unified goal. They also stressed the importance of finding mentors in the field. Paul Mangione, whom they lovingly call, “The Fixer,” was one of the main reasons they had an opportunity to create a line. “Some of the vendors we wanted to work with laughed at us. We were two young girls, we wanted to produce small quantities of product, and they would call us ‘Sweetie’ instead of using our names,” the pair quipped.
If you are looking for a new summer scent, or are looking to bring back some memories of a special trip or time, be sure to check out United Scents of America at Dina’s Kiss & MakeUp.