Othús Perfumery is a local business with the potential for widespread appeal. As fragrance brands so often are, it’s about moments, and memories, and meditations. It’s about the experience and energy of the natural world. And it’s a brand for the modern moment: eco-friendly, easily portable, and entrepreneur-led.
In true startup style that entrepreneur, founder Colleen Keenan Nelms, has a go-to beauty product that isn’t even a product but rather a DIY blend of oils and herbs that she makes and uses as body care. Here, the fragrance entrepreneur shares a profile of herself and the brand.
Name: Colleen Keenan Nelms, Founder and Perfumer
Indie Beauty Company: Othús Perfumery
Launched: May 2019
Headquarters: Decatur, Georgia
Cash flow: We are entirely self-funded and own 100% of the Othús Perfumery business.
As a startup, it’s about progress—and I don’t measure progress only in financial terms. Even though we sold out of our scents when we held a grand opening event in our studio, the real reward was sharing my work and art with women (and a few men) who understood and appreciated what I was doing.
Indie how? A true indie brand is everything the term implies—guided by the creator’s vision and not swayed by external influence. I would go a step further and say that independence is also the result of being behind every aspect of the business, including inception, product development, branding, packaging, funding, selling and marketing.
Team work: My husband and I started the business because we love what we do. We’ve known each other since we were 12 years-old so we work very well together. Currently we are the only full-time employees, though we work more than full time. We work 7 days a week and when we’re not working on the business we’re thinking about the business.
Distribution: We sell across the U.S, through our ecommerce site othusperfumery.com, retailers like Garage Door Studio in Atlanta and through yoga centers and spas. Additionally, we have a working studio that is open for retail where customers can see how we make the solid eau de parfums and get a glimpse of our raw ingredients and our perfume organ where the scents are blended.
Years in beauty: I’ve been involved in beauty and personal care for over 20 years. I started as a certified herbalist, wildcrafting ingredients and creating medicinal salves and tinctures. Throughout the years I’ve worked as a consultant, helping start-ups with their product development—formulating and stabilizing natural products, advising on every aspect from color, texture, health benefits and fragrance.
Years at Othús Perfumery: We are a start-up and are in our first year, though I started formulating the scents a few years ago.
Entrepreneurial experience: I’ve been a serial entrepreneur for over 25 years and Othús Perfumery is my fourth company. Each company has been about beauty and fashion.
The business: We are a small-batch perfumery located in the quaint town of Decatur, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. We make perfumes for people who value the connection between the personal self and the environment, who believe that the self will bloom when nature is embraced and celebrated.
Our goal is to create scents that inspire our customers to express themselves as who they were always meant to be. The name Othús (pronounced oTHooz) was chosen with this in mind. It is a play on the Gaelic term “ó thús”, which means “from the beginning”.
In addition to creating each batch by hand, we use Old World perfumery methods and plant-based ingredients, which we source locally as often as we can, wild-crafting as the seasons permit and partnering with small farmers we’ve met along the way.
The perfume line is inspired by minerals such as turquoise, amber, and black tourmaline. Each scent is an interpretation of what these minerals would smell like if they had a scent and designed to evoke the feeling of wearing these minerals.
For example, to me black tourmaline is like that early morning walk through the forest, the pine needles under your bare feet, the various scents passing by and intermingling into something evocative and pure. I ask myself what this moment would feel like. In fact, since I’ve experienced this moment many times I take myself back and call up the scents that come with such a walk.
The wow-factor: We create solid eau de parfums in portable, twist-up tubes that can fit in a pocket, handbag or palm of a hand. Through our research and experience, we found that nobody was offering a true perfume—complex, layered, luxurious—in a solid format. Our customers appreciate being able to apply these perfumes throughout the day and while on the go, making it easy to consider them their best travel companion. As one of our customers said after taking a trip and forgetting her scent at home: “I missed her.”
The consumer: Someone who wants to experience something real and different, to take time out of the day to remind themselves about special moments—and create more of these moments!
Milestone moment: I vividly remember a time I was walking through Ponce City Market, a popular shopping district in Atlanta, and saw someone pulling one of our scents out of her bag and putting it on. When one of our products becomes a part of everyday life, that’s exciting!
Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: Throw the rules out the window and follow your gut. This is important if you’re creating something new because it has to be unique. Once you have something you’re proud of, then you can backtrack and use the rules to guide your product to the marketplace.
Just one: Asked about her go-to product Nelms says, I make a homemade body oil that I use on my face, body and hair. It’s an herbal Infusion of calendula, alkanet root and fire weed, and scented with rose geranium essential oil.
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.