The making of… Sammie Boy
So this is going to be exciting and slightly different for us here at Hunter. You’re our first doggy furfume maker. To start, Luana, can you give us a bit of a backstory about yourself?
Hello. I’m Luana Howard, the Founder & Perfumer of By Luis.
As a kid growing up in rural New Zealand, I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals! But I ended up taking a different path.
Going through severe bouts of complex mental health after coming out to my family during my mid-teens, I found my calling at 15 years old. Opera - I fell head over heels in love. I went on to study Opera and Italian in Italy before commencing my Classical Music degree at the New Zealand School of Music. Battling mental health struggles through my degree and yearning to sing my own song, I discovered the art of perfume creation. After my degree, I moved to Melbourne to study fragrance creation with Emma J Leah, one of Australia's most renowned perfumers.
Within 18 months, I'd started creating my own formulations and founded By Luis. Scent Design, where I've been creating 1:1 custom fragrances and private label perfume lines for clients Australia-wide.
It’s been a wild ride, and as much as I've loved every second of it, it wasn't fulfilling a core emotional hole. I was looking for more purpose and a way to make a positive impact. And then I met Sammie Boy (aka. stinky dog) and founded Sammie Boy Furfumes.
We love that you’ve tried so many things and that creativity has been at the heart of everything you’ve done. So how did you come up with the idea behind Sammie Boy?
After moving into my new apartment in 2021, I heard a whining down the back alleyway of the apartment block. Popping his head out the side of his kennel was a 13-year-old pug x staffy with the googliest eyes.
Timid and passive, he didn't (in my opinion) have enough food or water and he was also STINKY. It broke my heart but with the owner's consent, I took him under my wing. With extra food and water, daily walks plus the odd swim at the river, he became the most energetic and happy doggo I'd ever seen.
I realised then that there are thousands of animals out there doing it rough - so I wanted to help by doing what I do best. I started making perfumes - for dogs.
Sammie Boy was founded in memory of Sammie with two goals: 1. To give dog owners more "wanted" cuddle moments, and 2. Donate profits and essential supplies to local animal rescues to help support and save more animals in need.
That’s such a great story. All we can think of now is stinky dogs. As dog lovers ourselves… we can totally relate. What about the research and testing of your product-market fit? How did you approach that?
Having created private label fragrances for the last three years, production wise, contacts were already in place, so I researched other brands creating similar products, studying ingredients, branding and what made them unique. I felt that the gap I could fill was from more of a personal, animal lover based approach. Creating everything myself, from the branding and packaging to fragrance formulations and production, I also felt the donation of profits and supplies to animal rescues would really resonate with people who have a similar love for their pets.
Having experience and contacts is definitely a huge bonus. Knowing this space well, what were the first iterations of your product like?
The first run of the product is as it looks now. We’ve only recently launched, and this is the first big manufacturing round of the furfumes.
Whilst you have experience and contacts… How did you go about funding Sammie Boy?
I am 100% bootstrapped. My experience from building my other businesses gave me the platform I needed to fund Sammie Boy. It also gave me the skill set to prospect and engage clients through their own needs, wants and desires. This helped me create viable businesses and the knowledge I needed to diverge into new markets.
That’s super smart and a great way to go about things. Can you tell us about the branding process and how you arrived at where you are today?
When I think of branding, I think about what will stand out in print and online. With both of my businesses, I've tried to create brands that can be expressed in long-form and short-form, such as "By Luis. Scent Design" to "BL", to the "nose" graphic I use - a brand that can be recognised in its long-form logo, colour or a single graphic.
With Sammie Boy, I wanted to create a brand that was bright, fun, mid-market and filled with dorky puns and humour. I wanted the brand to look lighthearted while still standing for a very serious cause. I figured to get people to listen, you need to create something they WANT to listen to. And in this day and age, with the severity of the world we've been living in, it's something they can laugh at and have a good time with.
We’re fans of a good dorky pun as well as having some fun with your brand. The next question is to do with brand awareness. With so many new brands out there, how do you go about creating awareness and getting the word out there in order to scale your brand?
We’re initially marketing Sammie Boy products online through popular social media platforms via a quiz - "What's your doggo's signature scent?"
Moving forward, we are looking to have the furfumes sold in Melbourne Vet clinics, boutique stores and through Instagram dog influencers.
That’s a great idea. Using a quiz allows for direct customer feedback and engagement. We can only guess the sort of responses you’d get back. How about future challenges? What's the biggest challenge or challenges you think you'll face moving forward?
I think the biggest challenge moving forward will be scaling the business to yield the results that I want to see within animal rescues. My goal is to start my own animal rescue or partner with an established foundation to save as many vulnerable animals from euthanasia as possible while using Sammie Boy as the inspiration and platform to spread the word and create more awareness around the issue.
We really hope that “The making of…” blog series will help raise awareness for you, your brand and your cause.
Our final question is to do with experience. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give another entrepreneur who is embarking on their own startup journey?
"A seed knows how to wait… You plant seeds every single day, in the world and in others, with every thought you think and word you speak and action you take." I love this quote. It truly sums up what has been my experience throughout my entire life.
Never think an idea is worthless just because it didn't amount to anything straight away. Know that you've planted a seed and that it will sprout when the time is right. This may sound a little passive; however, my experience has consistently proven this to be true. I met someone over three years ago who had an essential oil business for dogs. I didn't know it then, but I think it planted a seed for Sammie Boy to come into fruition years later.
When you have a creative urge or impulse, follow it. Pure moments of creativity are your subconscious leading you somewhere, and it's your job to bring that idea into reality.