November Nichols is the founder and chief executive of Chémin, a luxury olfactory label and one of the only Black-owned brands with its own fragrance house. As Nichols explained, the spark for starting her brand came from a few different places, from emotional burnout to (unknowingly) embracing a familial tradition. Before launching Chémin in 2016, the self-described “accidental entrepreneur” had spent a decade working in education publishing, a field she excelled in, but was b
was becoming burned out by, due to a stressful corporate environment. Nichols also noted that having a highly sensitive nose, she was very susceptible to getting headaches or other physical symptoms when surrounded by unpalatable scents. This left her devastated when her favorite candle, which she used in meditation sessions to relieve stress from work, was discontinued. Determined to recapture the relaxing experience of burning a fragrant candle, the founder created what would later become one of Chémin’s first stock-keeping units (SKUs), the Energy candle, a product with notes of pineapple, sweet orange, and sandalwood. Little did Nichols know that creating the candle for her personal collection would set off an interesting chain of events. From a single candle to an entire company Burning the Energy candle at home, Nichol’s friends and acquaintances would inquire about the captivating scent, and the founder, still working in education publishing, began to create and sell candles in small batches. It wasn’t until Nichols was selling her candles at a Pinterest conference in Atlanta, at a friend’s suggestion, that the idea came about for creating other olfactory items. A customer Nichols now describes as her “muse”, persistently inquired about a custom fragrance blend from the oils and scents the entrepreneur had available. Eventually, Nichols relented to the request and after asking a series of questions that are now part of Chémin’s bespoke fragrance assessment offering, created a formula the shopper fell in love with. To Nichols’ surprise, having decided to gift the mixture, the shopper bought the product for $100 on the spot. Though unexpected, the experience was an opportune one as midway through the second day of the weekend-long event, Nichol’s candles and body care products had sold out and she realized needed to have a wider array of merchandise available. Thus, the idea came about for creating fine fragrances. Around the same time, Nichols had just been offered a promotion in Los Angeles, which she trying to decide whether or not to accept. The opportunity led to a deep reflection on what she truly wanted out of life. When the company was later sold, Nichols decided to take a severance package to invest in her business and create a life she loved. In 2017, the same year as the conference, Nichols officially launched Chémin, and in 2018, the founder opened her first fragrance studio. But it wasn’t until 2020 that she truly understood the significance of her desire to start a fragrance business. A family connection revealed Amid the pandemic, while reconnecting with her biological father, Nichols shared that she was at her blending tables working on notes and accords (a combination of fragrance notes) for an upcoming collection. After a long pause, Nichols’ dad revealed that his mother used to blend fragrances and teas for her community in Lafayette, Louisiana. The news was a revelation to Nichols who felt a clear sense of understanding on why she was drawn to creating fragrances and knew that she wanted to carry on the family legacy. As Nichols recalled, “At that moment, I decided that we would rename the company after her and so we took her middle name Chémin. We just leaned into custom perfumery and fragrance experiences. And the rest is history.” Currently, there are 50 SKUs available on the brand’s e-commerce site, from fine fragrances to artisanal teas to candles. Nichols also revealed that she is launching an affordable luxury fragrance collection with JCPenney in January 2024, with 32 SKUs ranging from $32 to $100. The collection with the retailer hits particularly close to home for Nichols, as she has fond memories of shopping with her maternal grandmother there, one of a few limited locations for shopping in Louisiana, Nichol’s birthplace, and getting her hair done at the JCPenney’s beauty salon. According to the founder, the brand has experienced significant year-over-year growth, with revenue increasing over 300 per cent from 2022 to 2023. She attributes the revenue jump to Chémin’s in-person events and the company’s private studio in Atlanta, Georgia, where consumers can participate in a custom-fragrance blending experience. Outside of Atlanta, Nichols has plans for expanding into additional brick-and-mortar locations in the next few years, potentially in locations like New York and California, and hosting more in-person events.