Olufemi Olaseinde Olusola: The Power of Scents
By Yemisi Suleiman
Olufemi Olaseinde Olusola is the CEO of Seinde Signatures and Salon De Perfume, a luxury perfumery for hand-crafted niche, ultra-niche, and artisan fragrances.
Founded a few years ago from Olusola’s personal love for perfume and the need to create personal experiences for fragrance lovers, Seinde Signatures has a reputation for offering unique olfactory experiences for discerning customers. Since its inception, Seinde Signatures has grown to become one of the most sought-after brands with a national spread across Nigeria.
The Yaba College of Technology Graphics graduate holds over 20 years of experience in launching, and investing in small businesses, before finally turning his passion to work.
He tells his inspiring story to Allure, from the days of humble beginnings, the power of a scent, and life generally.
How did your love and journey with perfume begin?
My love for perfume came out of passion, it was never planned. I was just a simple man who loves perfume and I kept buying perfumes for myself and that’s it. The beginning was quite awful, I had so many bottles of perfume that I used to curse myself, thinking something was wrong with me, I just kept buying more. It makes me happy to smell nice, and then, I found out that if I smell a nice fragrance, I want to buy it. I bought my first bottle in 1982 and by 2001, I was already hitting a thousand bottles of perfume at that time. During the pandemic period when there was nothing to do but just sit at home, while checking the internet, I came across some people who had perfumes that they posted on their social media pages; that sort of encouraged me. So, I opened a page and posted my perfumes on it and I started getting friends on the page. Within a month or two, I had like four thousand people following me. That was when I realized there were so many people that were interested in it. So, I started organizing a fragrance meet-up. The first one I did was hosted at Montaigne Place at the PALMS.
So how did Salon De Parfum come to be?
I have a cabinet for my perfumes upstairs in my house, but I had to do another one downstairs when some people who visited my Instagram page wanted to come to the house to experience the perfumes. However, all sorts of people began to come in and it became unsafe and unbearable for us to be entertaining strangers in the house. So, we decided to look for an office where people can come and experience the perfume they wanted. We created the Experience Studio which is my present office, and I transferred all my personal perfumes from the house to the Experience Studio. If you ask me at that time, I will tell you I’m not selling perfume, it was just for people to come and smell. However, you pay a fee to enter, then you are served champagne and canapes and you can experience all the perfumes, both the expensive and average price ones. It used to be a four hours experience and people were coming, but at some point, they wanted to buy after experiencing it, even when a bottle is left like one quarter to finish, they would still want to buy it.
And you started selling?
Yes. The first set of money we used to replenish the store came from the sales. We made money. When we posted this Experience Studio online and tried to market it, the first thing that happened was that an international magazine, Essenco, an Italian magazine called me for an interview, which they did and published. That, of course, exposed us to a lot of the manufacturers of these perfumes and they too, started contacting me, asking to do business with them in Nigeria. So, I found myself in the middle of the manufacturers and buyers. As at the time, I moved my fragrance from my house to this studio, I had one thousand, three hundred and twenty (1,320) of my own perfumes. But when people started buying them off at some point, I lost interest in all of them and started giving them away on my page. On my 58 birthday, I gave out 58 bottles of perfumes to different unknown people. Some people were buying and I was also happy dashing some out. But then, the International manufacturers were contacting me and decided to send me perfumes to test; different people now began to send me perfumes, and at this point, I wasn’t even buying anymore. Some of the manufacturers made a good deal with us so I could determine what I wanted from them by telling them my conditions if I would deal with them, and I laid my terms and they all bought into it. So, that’s how I started and we opened a boutique downstairs where we now sell. So we have the studio, where you can smell different brands and if you want to buy, you go downstairs. That was how we started.
Is having an Experience Studio an important part of the business?
Yes. Some people will call you and buy online, but it is not everyone that will like to buy perfume online. Some would want to smell it before they buy. So, we started opening stores, and now we have five stores; in Warri, Abuja, Lagos, are doing one in Ikeja, we are going to have one in Lekki, we will probably have one in VI, then we’ll go to Port Harcourt and Kano. We are opening at least ten stores one year from now across Nigeria, so we can bring it closer to people.
What’s the key success of the niche perfume brand?
Acceptance, Flexibility, you know once they’ve been accepted, it’s not the type of perfume you wear in the morning by 2 o’clock it’s faded no, by evening people are still asking you what you are wearing. These are perfumes that you wear and you will smell it on your body when you wake up the next morning, even after taking your bath. If you hang the fabric that you wore in your room, it will be serving as an air freshener in the room for the next week. So, with such perfumes of quality, everybody wants to buy them. I have people that bought one and later came back for five. They cannot stop using it. We have a lot of new fragrances but the successful ones are determined by their performances and once it’s accepted by the consumer, you are good to go.
What stands Seinde Signature out from other brands in the industry?
Our products are exclusive to us. Right now, we have forty-eight (48) brands, all exclusive to us and we are trying to move it to seventy (70) or eighty (80) in the next 24 months so that our customers can have choices and a range of products. We have perfumes from as low as 30,000 to as high as over a million naira, so we have everything for everybody.
What are the challenges you encounter doing business in Nigeria?
It’s just money, if I have all the money I want in my life now, I will buy all the brands I want. In terms of the Nigerian environment, I think Nigeria is the easiest place to do business if you focus on your idea, and do what you are doing. Some people will say it’s a cruise country, people are not serious here (laughs), so if you are serious you’ll get so many things done. From the time I was born there was no electricity, so how will I start a business, now and still be complaining about power? I have to build myself and reinvent myself so that the issue of power will not be my problem. If I stay here at this stage and say there is no power and I want to do business, didn’t I know before I started the business?
How did you go from graphics to perfumery?
Unfortunately, we all go to school because we think whatever we go and do is what will put food on our tables. I don’t even know how to draw now; I probably used graphics knowledge for the first two, or three years of my life, when I started working.
Where did you begin your professional career?
I worked for myself. I call myself a professional hustler. I served with Eminent Advertising; I left Eminent and formed my own advertising company. Everything grew just like that and from there, I started doing business. When I got married, I joined my wife and we started doing children’s entertainment; Unique Party Parks, where I will paint my face as a clown and dance at the parties with the kids.
Yes. I have pictures, everybody knew us then, we were working for different banks, handling their end-of-year parties, and it was a successful business. Then we transited to the telecommunications business, which also happened coincidentally when I went to Starcomms to buy recharge cards, and there were too many people there waiting to be attended to. I went to meet the manager and I told him that instead of everyone coming to your office from all over Lagos, let me be in Surulere with your products and attending to your customers. We had a meeting, I wrote a proposal and they approved and gave it to five of us to do, that was before GSM. I started a Telecom dealership in Nigeria, my company name then was S&S Wireless. So, by the time GSM came I was already there. And by 2004, I became almost the biggest dealer in Telecom in the country. Then I had a problem with one of the network providers, and many things happened. Then the pandemic came, and we got our big break.
What was your earliest memory of perfume?
The first bottle I bought was in 1982. But my father had always been a smell person, who always had incense in the house. I grew up smelling different things. We left school in 1979 and my best friend travelled to school at a University in America. When he came back home in 1982, he brought me a bottle of perfume, and the experience I got wearing that perfume, made me start buying perfumes. I had to buy the perfume again, I have that perfume now, and I still have the bottle. It’s called Calvin by Calvin Klein. Then we added others, and I continued to buy different perfumes since then. Perfumes to me are like clothes; I can’t wear the same cloth every day. So what I want to smell today is not what I want to smell tomorrow or next. It amazes me when people say they have a signature scent.
How can you have a signature scent? Do you eat the same food every day? I want to smell differently every day so, when people meet me, they cannot define what I wear. I grew up with that experience and am still like that. Look at me I’m 61, I look 5, 10 years younger than my age because I am happy doing what I do. I am not struggling working and I have the things that I like around me.
When you are not busy, how do you take time off to relax?
This is my relaxation; I don’t have a particular time for that. People who know me will tell you, if he’s not here then he’s at home. I don’t go to parties, if you see me at a party just know that person must be very close to me. Work is relaxing for me, I could be here till tomorrow and I won’t feel anything.
What do you love about perfume?
The attention! You can’t take your car to a party but your perfume speaks for you. If you have the biggest car in the world and you do not smell nice, it’s a worthless effort. The value of perfume for me is priceless; I can spend any amount on it. One thing I can’t stop buying is perfume.
What would you say has been your secret to success as an entrepreneur?
God, and being consistent. The problem we have with the youths is that they are not consistent. They are doing one thing today and tomorrow, it’s another, so, people can’t say this is what they do. To be consistent is the catalyst to success. People know you for what you do. If you are a tailor, focus on your tailoring and do it very well, so people will know you for it and will call upon you when the need arises.