Featured Entrepreneur: Mohammed Jamal Cosmetic Chemist & Perfumer

28 NOV 2012

What’s your name and background? Did you have a business before you started working with us? Or did you just have an idea of an enterprise you’d like to start.

My name is Mohammed Jamal and I am a Cosmetic Chemist and Perfumer. I am the current owner of a multi-generational business started by my father that used to be called “Jamal & Co”. I had renamed the company “House of Jamal” before starting School for Creative Startups, but with support from several industry-leading mentors and House of Fraser, has led me to launch, “Jamal London” which more accurately reflects our determination to develop and deliver only the finest fragrances to a discerning market. You can check out our website at JamaLondon.com.

Jamal London gathers the finest raw materials from around the world and use the latest Swiss tools and technologies to distill them into essential oils. We combine these elements using ancient methods of fragrance design into luxury perfumes that are complex, evocative and unforgettable.

We are one of the very, very few perfumers creating new alcohol-free attar fragrances for luxury markets worldwide and have frequently been called upon to create personalised scents unique to an individual, family or product.

As recent studies indicate, a scent can stir memories long forgotten and stir a symphony of emotions in an instant. We think something that powerful can almost be called…magic.

Within House of Fraser my products appear along luxury scents like Swaroski, Cartier, Robert Piguet, Tom Ford, etc.

What made you decide to start your business?

Since the age of six I have planned to take over the family business. At 12, I started to search for specialist Academic Institutes where I could learn from Industry experts. I also began reading, researching the industry and contacting companies asking them to give me samples, booklets and any information they can.

After completing my A’ Levels in Sciences I went to Study Applied Chemistry at University. In the second year I was awarded a sponsorship from the CTPA (Cosmetics, Toiletry, Perfumery Association of UK) to study for the Society of Cosmetic Scientists Diploma in Cosmetic Sciences. Having graduated from the Society of Cosmetic Scientist. I worked in the skincare retail Industry to get an appreciation of the consumer needs and tastes. A year later I enrolled at the University of Arts London to read Cosmetic Sciences, I graduated in 2004 with an Honours in Science.

Since then I have gained further experience from two of the worlds leading perfume houses Symrise and CPL Aromas and have worked in the capacity of development chemist, fragrance evaluation and Retail operations manager. Having gained as much experience and academic knowledge as possible it was time in 2010 to continue the family heritage in the 21st century.

What kind of customers do you think your product is perfect for? Why?

My target audience is 30 to 60 years of age, professional, well-traveled, and used to the very best life has to offer. They seek out the timeless, the historical, the artistic and find great value in the natural world which surrounds us. My products are suitable for both genders and people of every background.

By and large I would say they are leaders in fashion and media, more trendsetters than followers. Our intent is always to create scents which invisible connect individuals to their past and to the world around them.

What made you decide to enroll in School for Startups a year ago? What challenges were you facing and what did you hope to learn?

I was introduced to the the S4CS at the ArtSmart Event in 2011 held by my former University (University of Arts London) where my products were on display. I was attracted to the idea of a full year program filled with professional training not just in “business” but in entrepreneurship and the art of starting a company. I was impressed by the idea that there would be professional guidance from many industry leaders and that I would have a mentor who knew my industry. I was most pleased when I heard that the program was designed for the creative industries specifically.

While I’m highly skilled in my area of expertise, I needed targeted training in Business Modelling, Execution and Financing. No other program in London, or indeed anywhere, seemed focused on, or interested in, creative entrepreneurs.

I was hopeful that I would learn how to build a tailored business model through which my creative skills could be brought to life as a true Artisan Product rather than just another commercial enterprise flogging wares on the open market.

What meaningful answers did you discover in working with Doug Richard and the experts he’s brought in to advise and mentor you?

There are many meaningful answers that I have discovered . . .

Being in the Creative Industry does not mean you have to build your business in its boundaries. Think out of the Box and value your Creativity. It is your most important asset.

You can take a creative Idea and de-construct it into a business product/service that can generate revenue. There’s a science to that. A series of techniques that lead to a successful business.

Not to feel bad when something unexpected happens. Every experience is a learning opportunity, a chance to gather information you can convert to positive action that help you reach your ultimate goal. Not to start something for fear of failure is the only way to guarantee you won’t succeed.

What meaningful and useful skills have you acquired over the last year through School for Creative Startups? How have you put them to use in working to build your enterprise?

Although I am confident, and always have been, this training has taught me how to ask for insight, assistance and support in a way that helps me get what I need. I am able to speak of obstacles that need to be overcome and challenges that have to be addressed comfortably and effectively.

I have learned how to emotionally detach myself from my business. I can give it the attention and nurture required to make it a success rather than smothering it. This change has resulted in me getting support from industry experts who enjoy my passion, and appreciate my work and see that I have the gravity, confidence and maturity to really build a business that will survive and grow in the long term. I used to be so passionate, and so uncertain that I could realize my dreams, that I came off as “young”.

I know how to take a business model, de-construct, evaluate and re-build a stronger version of the business and I realize that is an ongoing process that never stops. I have now started to implement these skills in every task and step of my business so that there is on going evaluation and improvement that helps the business progress from strength to strength.

What were the most important topics we covered at the bootcamps and seminars? Why were they important to you?

At the Bootcamp the most important topic for me was the 10 questions. These really helped me to evaluate my business actions simply and in a very logical way. I was able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, what had gone well and what had gone badly, why one thing had worked and another had failed rationally. Going through the 10 questions helped me to identify myself, what I wanted and where I was going. The truth was I had one leg in a startup and another in a mature business founded by my father. I had to reinvent my enterprise so I could run one business instead of two.

The 10 Questions methodology has helped me to focus and move forward in a step wise progression which I could never do before. It is such a pleasure now doing what I love.

How has your business changed based on what you’ve learned?

The business has changed a lot since coming to S4CS. I have now started to look at my products and service from a customer/consumer point of view and not what I think must be “obvious” to them.

Like most creative professionals becoming entrepreneurs, I took a lot for granted about my customers. Surely they would understand the difference the quality of ingredients would make to a scent. There’s a difference between rotten oranges and fresh ones, between fresh oils and rancid ones. How could they not understand that perfumery is an ancient art practiced around the world for thousands of years?

I still fuel my passion into my products and services but package and deliver it as my customers need to understand it. I share with them my love of the art. And I target the customers who are most interested and open to the power of a fragrance to stir the heart and mind, those who remember that fragrance is the gift of kings.

Since I came to understand my customers better, and to look for those who share my passion, much has changed. I have sold out three times in House of Fraser since the launch on 06th September 2012, and now enjoy a rapidly growing global customer following. As a result I have been working on a collection of six new fragrances currently being completed for launch fall spring 2013.

Who you have met, through School for Startups, that made a real impact on you?

My Mentor Sarah Foxwell has been tremendous at helping me understand how to bring my products to market more efficiently.

My fellow School for Startups Entrepreneurs have inspired me with the strength and determination of their own passions. Each of them is building a business around something they love. It’s remarkable to see them find themselves both as business professionals and mature working artists.

Jim Rokos – ROKOS Design
Tina Crawford – Toby Boo
Lucy Tamam – TAMAM bridle wear.
Rachel Bonney – The Michaux Club
Natalie Stevens & Partner – The Tea’s Knees
Helen Kemp – Rampton & Kemp
Catherine Jennings – BELLA and WILL
Nick Rawcliffe – RAWSTUDIO

Which speakers and mentors have had the biggest impact on you and your business?

Other than Doug and his team both UK and USA, the seminars delivered by various guests have really given me the push as well as helped me to further develop myself post bootcamp. These include in no particular order:

Harriet Kelsall – Booked a Corporate Perfume Workshop
Shane Reading – Marking and Branding
Dan Mayer – Pricing and structure
Rob Smith – Go Mad – Action Planning
James Denning – How to sell your S*** – fantastic seminar.
Laura Leigh Clark – Personality profile – How to outsmart your competitors.
Charlotte Hoggy – Gather and Throw.

Do you feel more comfortable designing products and services that meet the needs of your customer?

I feel much more confident because I’ve discovered I was right all along. There are people who care as deeply as I do about fragrance and who appreciate the art and science behind what I do. I now have the freedom to create perfumes of the highest quality. Previously I thought one had to aim for the low end of a market in order to start a successful business. I now see that is entirely untrue. That has been a very pleasant discovery.

Which of your products are you proudest of? Why?

I am proud of my existing product range as there is a lot of history and heritage attached to it. The current product range established the foundation of my career and profession, and have given me a platform on which I am able to continue building the family perfumery heritage and Art each day.

I have been able to use the current products in compiling fresh market research which has helped in adapting my fragrance pallet to better serve the needs and tastes of my growing global perfumery clientele.

Are you more comfortable pitching your products, services and business to people in a position to help you or buy from you than you were before?

I am most certainly much more comfortable pitching than I was a year ago. As I continue to implement and practice the changes and skills developed through my time at S4CS, this confidence continues to rise. I am building tools and documents and gathering statistics that show the strength of my business, products and services. I am now able to speak of my business USP’s much more easily and people I talk to almost always engage with my products and business because I have a better understanding of what will interest them. I don’t take for granted that they know what I know.

Is there anyone you’ve pitched to, or sold to, recently that you’d like to tell people about?

Absolutely. I pitched to the Head Buyers at House of Fraser in Spring 2012. It was my first experience in pitching to buyers from such a well renowned and large Department store and I was nervous indeed but it all went very well.

I secured a contract for my products to be stocked in their Oxford Street Flagship Store in London as well as their online store.. I launched on the 6th September and the success has been beyond my imagination . It is a dream come true.

Are you able to effectively market your business?

With the progress and achievement made in the last year I can say, absolutely. Most important, I have the skills required to learn new ways to reach new markets every day. To date I have secured a collaboration with a 5 star boutique hotel in London, have been commissioned work by Global Ambassadors and I am currently in early talks with a certain Royal Court for a bespoke perfume commission.

As your business grows, do you feel you’ll be able to negotiate with suppliers, sales channels and investors comfortably?

I am able to negotiate at a much higher level with suppliers, buyers and investors on the basis of the training I’ve had this year. Now we all speak the same language.

Do you feel you’ve developed relationships through this program that will help you in the months and years to come?

I definitely have developed beautiful relationships through the programme and they will definitely help me in the months and years to come. I have far more than merely business skills through the course. I have made new friends, gained new customers and found new supporters and connected to a network of like-minded artists and business professionals. It has just been amazing.