Rachel ten Brink earned her chops at legacy companies like L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and Procter & Gamble, but when she co-founded Scentbird with Mariya Nurislamova, Sergey Gusev and Andrei Rebrov in 2014, the goal was to break from tradition.
“I realized that to truly innovate, I had to go outside the limitations of a legacy company,” said ten Brink. “Legacy companies have a history, they are big and layered, and everything new is viewed as a risk.”
With Scentbird, a monthly perfume subscription service, the goal was to disrupt the fragrance market by allowing consumers to choose from over 500 scents online. Rather than committing to the full bottle, shoppers can try out a 30-day supply of the fragrance for $14.95 per month.
“We loved fragrance but felt there was nowhere to plan and discover,” explained ten Brink, noting that department stores have downsized their departments and that testing many fragrances at once while in a store can cause shoppers to become “nose blind” to the actual scents. “We are allowing both men and women to ‘date’ luxury fragrances before marrying them.”
Rachel ten Brink
The company thrives on customer data, using an algorithm reliant on over 500,000 customer reviews to deliver recommendations, rather than relying on product descriptions alone. That data inspired the founders to launch a line of Scentbird products: a host of paraben-free scented hand creams, shower products, candles and lip balms that are not tested on animals.
In 2016, the Scentbird team expanded its range with the Deck of Scarlet brand: a subscription service selling makeup palettes inspired by current beauty influencer trends. For $29.95, its customers receive a new palette every two months.
“After watching hours and hours of beauty tutorials, we began seeing an underlying theme: Most beauty tutorial videos feature 20 or more products to achieve one look,” said ten Brink. “Not only is this impractical, but it’s also monetarily impossible.”
The brand recruits top makeup artists and YouTubers — dubbed “Artists in Chief” — to concept what’s inside each palette and take part in the official launch tutorials. So far, that’s included beauty influencers like Melly Sanchez, Sonjdra Deluxe and Amy Rose Walker. Both brands work under one roof and rely on the same teams, from marketing to graphics.
We asked ten Brink to detail one of her recent days in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two kids.
6:30 a.m.: I always wake up around this time, and I sort of love it, sort of hate it. I was never a morning person, but it’s the only time of the day I get to myself. I drink a cup of black coffee (has to be from Costa Rica, where I am originally from — it’s the best!) while I meditate on what lies ahead for the day.
6:45 a.m.: I work out every morning. I’m a huge Classpass fan because I hate doing the same workout over and over, but often a quick YouTube workout video is it for me; Popsugar Fitness or Boho Beautiful do the trick. It feels good to start the day moving, and it gives me time to think through work challenges. I find I am incredibly creative during this time when I am supposed to be thinking of working out instead of work.
7:30 a.m.: Now it’s time to get myself and my kids ready.
7:45 a.m.: I try to have some protein for breakfast — usually scrambled eggs with spinach and goat cheese — while I wrangle in my kids. I enjoy a few minutes to myself while applying makeup. After a quick catch-up with my husband, I’m out the door.
8:25 a.m.: I am lucky to live in New York City. My kids are six and 10, so dropping them off at school is the most important part of my morning. I love that we get to walk a few blocks to school together and chat. My son will have really intellectual conversations in those few blocks — today it was about what an exchange rate is and how China is accused of manipulating it. I can’t make this up; he keeps me on my toes. Mostly, my son and daughter chat non-stop and on top of each other. Being a parent is good practice for learning how to manage and understand people at work.
8:45 a.m.: I take the subway to the office and listen to podcasts. I mix it up between news (NYTimes’ The Daily) and entrepreneurship (The Skimm, Y Combinator and Masters of Scale with Reed Hoffman). I throw in some beauty business and creative ideas, too (like Business of Fashion and Made You Think).
9:00 a.m.: I am at my desk by now to catch up on on emails. I have a quick chat with my co-founder and CTO, Andrei, about a new technology we’re working on.
10:00 a.m.: I am with my team at Coty HQ, presenting our new technology initiatives for Scentbird at Coty’s Digital Accelerator Program. Working on a cutting-edge technology for a category like fragrance that really has not had a lot of innovation in the past is a huge passion and motivation of ours. The details are still under wraps, but it will be very exciting for the segment!
1:00 p.m.: Lunchtime, a.k.a. eat while I answer emails and do 100 more things at the same time. I keep it simple: a poke bowl or a salad from Chop’t. I make sure I am up to date on emails; there are always a million projects going on at once, and, as a startup, we’re always piloting something new.
2:00 p.m.: I meet with our influencer marketing team. I always joke that half of my day I am working with brands, talking about the value proposition of our company, and the other half I am texting an influencer saying, “Hey, babe, when are you posting?” We’ve built an in-house influencer marketing agency at Scentbird that is top-notch, and I am very proud of the level of collaborations my team negotiates for both of our brands.
3:00 p.m.: Time for more calls and meetings. If there is one thing that has been true at Scentbird, it’s that we’ve grown so fast that, every six months, it feels like a new company. We’re in our fifth office since we started the company, and we’re already bursting at the seams. It’s a high-class problem, but, when every conference room, phone booth and couch in the office is busy, it’s not so fun to have a conference call with a major influencer or brand in the hallway!
6:30 p.m.: I run home to spend some time with my kids and husband. I get invited to a lot of entrepreneur, Hispanic and women’s social events, but I am very selective. Although I love supporting causes I believe in and meeting new people, I also know how important it is to spend time with my kids, so I keep it to one event per week, max. Tonight, I go home and hang out.
8:00 p.m.: I love to cook, so I make dinner most nights. It’s a creative outlet for me, and my husband loves to eat. Tonight, it’s salmon with a pea, olive oil and dill puree. A nice glass of Rioja is well-deserved! We’re super adventurous eaters, and I am big on doing shabbat every week with my family, so on Fridays, I will cook a big meal. I love to cook Cuban food, like Ropa Vieja (my parents are Cuban), and I make a mean mojito.
9:30 p.m.: Finally, around this time, everyone has settled and the kids have gone to bed. I do some more work, but always try to be done by 11:00 p.m. I spend a few minutes reading and relaxing before I go to bed.