Scaling Up a Queer-Owned Fragrance Brand With Inclusivity and Authenticity with Matthew Herman, Co-founder of Boy Smells

Building a brand with inclusivity at its core, pivoting from wholesale to DTC to retail, and expanding into new product categories

Nov 23, 2021 · 3 min read

There are about a million different inspirational quotes about being your authentic self and how to bring authenticity to everything you do — including your business. Matthew Herman and his company, Boy Smells, brings those cliches to life in real and very cliche ways. Boy Smells produces candles, fragrances, and more that defy the traditional gendered lines that have been drawn for decades in favor of creating a genderful experience that allows all customers to bring a mix of masculinity and femininity to their lives as they see fit.

“Right before a big meeting, where you have to present or see the CEO or the president or whatever, people just put a spritz of fragrance on, it imbues them with a sense of confidence and power,” Herman said. “And I thought that it was so interesting that my girlfriends were reaching across that binary aisle to encapsulate this more masculinity to it. And then I was reaching across the aisle to bring in this femininity to make me feel or each of us and all of us to feel more powerful. And I truly believe that being able to tap into your masculinity and your femininity simultaneously makes you a more well rounded, fully realized individual. And I think that there’s power on both sides of that spectrum.”

Herman dug into this idea more by experimenting with candle making and blending scents in new and interesting ways. When the candles took off and started to draw attention from all kinds of consumers, Herman and his partner went all in on making this into a business. But they didn’t necessarily have everything planned out.

“I’m embarrassed to say but we never wrote some big business plan,” Herman admitted. “And we were never like, ‘We’re going to disrupt gender values and fragrance.’ We were just doing what was natural to us. We were two queer individuals and we were reclaiming and redefining what it meant for us to be proud men or guys or boys and reclaiming what that space could mean for us.”

In doing so, they created products that live within a pyramid structure, which ensures that Boy Smells has both evergreen products and new, exciting releases that bring interest to the brand.

“Our product pyramid is not unique to Boys Smells, but it might be unique to candles, which we didn’t really see when we entered the market,” Herman said. “The top of the pyramid is like a super pinnacle colab, sells out quickly, in and out, lots of buzz, halo effect. Then we have the middle of our pyramid, seasonal product, seasonal collections, they might stay for three to six months. And then we have our core business which is the bottom of the pyramid. It’s the foundation of our business and it should be the biggest part of our business.”

To hear about where this pyramid of products is being sold, and how that has changed over the years, tune into Up Next in Commerce.

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