Rachel ten Brink | Founder, Scentbird

"Don’t be afraid of speaking up- but also learn to listen. It’s a great skill to be able to listen and quickly understand what others need or want."

How do you start your day? 

Running to drop off two kids to school—but it’s my favorite part of the day.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager?

Dream bigger—take more chances.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“If it doesn’t work, try something else.” My mom gave me this advice when I had kids–but I think it applies to a lot of things in life.

What do you need to get you through each day?

Lots and lots of coffee, my iphone and a ton of energy.

What are you reading?

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it. 

Scentbird is a subscription service for designer and niche fragrances.  Customers get to pick from 450 Designer and top niche brands (Gucci, Prada, Nest, etc.) and get a sleek purse spray filled with the perfume of their choice for $15/month. Our inspiration is we feel that perfume truly has the ability to make you happy, but spending over $100 on a perfume that you don’t love…. that doesn’t make you happy.  In order to be sure if you love a scent, you have to live with it, let it develop.  With Scentbird, you can try your perfume at home on your own time and find what you love.

How has your passion fueled your business?

I am a beauty girl through and through.  I love the industry; love beauty products. I love how it can make women feel good about themselves.  I also love technology, finding smart solutions to everyday problems and just making lives easier.  I enjoy that Scentbird marries both of these passions.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I was at a crossroads personally where I had been successful in corporate jobs, but was at a point where I felt I was not learning, and was not as involved in technology as much as I wanted to be.  I felt that to truly innovate, you had to be outside the corporate parameters.  Plus, I always knew that I’d start something someday- it just didn’t happen for me until later in my career.

Who inspires you?

Arianna Huffington – I love how she continues to reinvent herself and stay incredibly connected and current. My mom also inspires me. We joke in our family that if you ask my two brothers or me who is her favorite, we each answer, “I am”. She is not one to sugar coat and is very honest, but also makes you feel that special. My mom is beautiful and charming and incredibly down to earth. You throw her into any situation, with any group of people and she is able to connect. She finds the humanity and commonalities in anyone. I admire her capacity to build those meaningful connections and make people feel good about themselves.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

We tried for almost a year with another business model (“warby parker for perfume”) and it just didn’t take off. It was hard to accept that after so much effort, we didn’t have that “product-market fit” but when we shifted models to Scentbird subscription- we quickly saw that the idea had legs.

What has been the key to your success?

Resourcefulness.  You have to be creative, you have to think outside the box and you have to hustle.  Also, I believe you have to talk to people- talk to your customers, talk to your investors, talk to other brands, talk to your competitors.  Being a good listener is seeing opportunities.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

Don’t be afraid of speaking up- but also learn to listen. It’s a great skill to be able to listen and quickly understand what others need or want.

What would you have done differently?

I learned to be brutally honest with myself and the team.  Don’t fall in love with the project to the point where you don’t see the facts.  We should have pivoted the business model for Scentbird sooner, but we had invested so much time and energy, it was hard to see the facts.

What is the biggest challenge you have had in your business to date and how did you pull through it?

As I mentioned before- we had some very dark times where we had worked so hard on a business and it was not taking off. For us- it was being honest to ourselves as a team, taking a hard look and brainstorming with really smart people to come up with options.

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you love and/or hate?

I love the creativity, the passion, the willingness to try new things and constantly innovate. Personally, it’s very intense and the hours are very long which is tough when you have two young kids and a two-career household.

What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?

Go for it! Just be realistic and be ready to work hard and adapt. Also, don’t go at it alone. Single founders have a hard time raising money- and there is a reason for it- fail rate is much higher. You need co-founders and employees with complimentary skills. One of the reasons I did not start a business earlier is that everyone I knew professionally had the same skill sets that I did. I looked for co-founders that brought areas of expertise that I did not have.