August 6, 2007

Alumni Break into Highly Competitive Fragrance Industry

Frank Fazzinga ’01, Andrew Mitchell ’01, and Anthony Dimarco ’98 offer alumni discount at FragranceUP.comFrank A. Fazzinga III ’01 can smell the sweet scent of success.

The distinct odor can be found among the 4,000 fine fragrances available through Aspen Industries, a wholesale perfume distributor, and, its online store.

Fazzinga and Andrew Mitchell ’01 started Aspen Industries in February 2002. The former Lafayette golf co-captains met up in Manhattan to discuss their future in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Fazzinga had plans to “give New York a try” before heading to law school. Those plans dramatically changed in the wake of 9/11 and its repercussions on the city’s economy. The two were discussing their options when they decided that instead of looking for opportunities, they were going to create their own.

“Lafayette breeds diversity and there is a lot of entrepreneurial spirit there,” he says, adding that “being entrepreneurial definitely takes risk and guts.”

The friends decided that they could leverage Fazzinga’s father’s experience in the perfume industry and create a distribution company that could provide fragrances at wholesale prices to stores like J.C. Penney, Target, and Wal-Mart.

While the business trades on the scents of flowers, it is not all a bed of roses. The billion-dollar industry is fiercely competitive and it took the alumni more than a year to get established.

“We had to do our research. We had to have the right pricing and in the wholesale industry it is about supplying product on a consistent basis at a good price,” Fazzinga explains.

The alumni developed a plan to extend their market reach. Fazzinga’s father founded Gemini Cosmetics Inc. in 2004 to serve as a licensing company, marketing and distributing fragrances such as Tommy Bahama to selective department stores such as Nordstrom’s and Macy’s. After the department store launch, Aspen receives exclusive rights to those fragrances’ distribution market.

Partnering with Anthony Dimarco ’98, the company ventured onto the web, launching in April 2005 to provide customers a convenient shopping experience. Alumni receive a discount by using the coupon code “Lafayette.”

“[Going online] you’re a national company overnight,” Fazzinga says.

The site continues to undergo refinements, but has already begun to gain market share. Last year alone, online sales increased 200 percent. Forty-five percent of those sales came in the last two months during the holiday season.

Fazzinga says one reason for this success is the ability to tap into the wholesale distribution arm of Aspen Industries. That means that unlike other online department stores and his own Aspen clients, offers consumers not only what’s popular this year, but perfumes or colognes that are now hard to find.

“We carry the older brands that Grandpa may have worn,” he says. “Through our contacts, we can have them make the perfumes or find them for us.”

The group is looking for additional investors to help grow and increase marketing efforts for the fledgling web store.

In addition to being the home of Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez perfumes, Aspen made room for Lafayette students by giving externs a firsthand look at developing a small business. The students did everything from packing boxes to making sales calls.

“I think they had a great time,” Fazzinga says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Fazzinga says he had a great college experience. Not only did he meet one of his best friends, golf buddy, and business partner there, he also met his future wife, Nancy Nejman Fazzinga ’00. The government and law major says he gained incredible insight from Ilan Peleg, Dana Professor of Social Science, that he has taken with him into the business arena. The professor imparted on Fazzinga the importance of working with people you trust and sticking with them.

posted in Alumni

tagged with , ,