Monday, August 27, 2007

'Phinomenal' Success Story

In 2005, as freestyle mogul skier Michelle Roark was training for the 2006 Olympics in Turin, a sports psychologist told her to use all five of her senses to envision victory. One was a stumper: What is the smell of victory? Most of the perfumes Roark tried gave her a headache, so she created her own scent, a mixture of roses, pink grapefruit, and bergamot—smells associated with confidence, energy, and focus.

Roark left Turin without a medal but with an idea for a company. In April, 2006, she launched Phi-nomenal, a perfume maker that had sales of $18,650 in its first year. Roark, one of three employees, mixes the perfumes herself in the third story of her downtown Denver townhouse. “I hand-pour everything, and I enjoy doing it myself,” she says. Roark uses natural ingredients such as rose oil from the Valley of the Roses in Bulgaria and lavender from Grasse, France. She has read vintage books on the art of making perfume, toured several European perfumeries, and taken a course in France on the subject. And she continues to learn about her new field during her travels for skiing, following up with European suppliers during the off season. Phi-nomenal sells four fragrances—Red (the fragrance she developed for the Olympics), Pink, Green, and a men's cologne called The Line—online and in boutiques in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Denver.

Roark, who so far has pumped $40,000 of her own money into the business, plans to add two scents to the lineup this fall and is considering advertising in magazines aimed at professional women. “Right now we are just a little seed, but we are going to blossom into a beautiful flower,” says Roark. “Like a tiger lily—beautiful, strong, and badass.” The 32-year-old is working on a degree in chemical engineering and is still a member of the U.S. ski team. Although she has endured six operations on her knees, she intends to keep competing. But should her skiing career end, Roark says she will pour all that energy into her business: “I would do this 24/7.”

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