How dropping out of college helped Thomas launch fragrance business

Back in 2016, Thomas Gibson, below,  was studying for a degree in marketing with hopes of one day becoming successful enough to run his own business but that felt like a pipedream after being kicked off the course and sent back home to England, as it meant his US visa was curtailed. It was a tough time for Thomas but he says that setback was the lesson he needed on the resilience required to become a fruitful business owner and today runs designer dupe fragrance firm Noted. Aromas, with his brother, James. The business is set to turnover £3m in its first 12 months and, here, Thomas tells his story…

Thomas, when did you start the company and what was the motivation behind it?

Noted. Aromas had been a long time in the making for us. Although we only officially launched during the summer, it’s been a long time coming. We spent more than a year rigorously testing and developing the products to ensure they were of the highest quality and that they were products we were proud of. For us, the main motivation behind the brand was creating fragrances that smelt as close – if not the same – as the more expensive counterparts but costing a fraction of the price and still providing customers with that feeling of luxury but affordable luxury, so that it’s accessible to all.

Tell us about your experiences at college? What happened and how did that affect you?

My college experience was an eye-opening one. My family and I had moved out to America a few years’ prior to me starting college. I was studying marketing because I always knew I wanted to run my own business one day and felt that those skills would give me what I need to have that edge. I’d been at college probably about a year at that point and I happened to miss a week of online classes. I had every intention of catching up but unfortunately was kicked off the course with immediate effect and that impacted my US visa, so I was forced to move back to London with a few days’ notice. It was a tough time. I didn’t really have a lot of time to think – I just had to sort flights and find a place to live back home. I was gutted, I just remember feeling like a complete failure.

However, when I look back on that time now, I truly believe it’s led me to where I am today. Although it wasn’t the best thing that could’ve happened to me, it taught me some important life lessons. I would encourage anyone with an entrepreneurial streak in them, who might have encountered some hard times, to not let a negative experience hold them back. It’s all a lesson and gives you the perspective and experience you need to move forward.

What were the main challenges of setting up your company in the early days?

I think the biggest thing for us was making sure that not only our products were good enough to sell but that people would like our fragrances so much that they would come back and buy from us again. Thankfully, we are already seeing that. Customers are loving their fragrances and are enjoying the fact that they’re paying a fraction of the price for their favourite scents. That’s really pleasing for us. We never wanted to be a company that was here one minute, gone the next – so having that loyal customer base will ensure longevity of the business.

You work with your brother James. How is that?

Working with family does have its challenges, of course it does, but actually I think we work well together and strike the balance just right because we know what each of our strengths are and what we bring to the business. The good thing about working with family is that you can have a disagreement about something, talk it through then the next minute it’s forgotten about. You just don’t hold grudges when it comes to family – in some ways, it can be easier because you can just move on, as you would when you have a little bicker at home.

How important is social media. Which platforms do you use most and what is the secret of success with them?

Like the vast majority of businesses launched in recent years, social media is huge for us. Most people are on social media nowadays, so if you’re a business owner that doesn’t embrace it, you’re missing out hugely. TikTok is our biggest platform. I’d say for every £10 worth of spend on advertising – £8 of that goes towards promoting our brand on TikTok. Using social media to the fullest is key but actually the true secret of success is having a good product in the first place. Without that, you haven’t got anything.

What are your plans for expansion? Where do you hope the company will be in, say, five or ten years’ time?

It’s still very early days for us, so we’re trying not to get too ahead of ourselves particularly as we’re already growing much faster than we ever could have anticipated. That’s one of our biggest challenges – keeping up with the rapid growth we’ve experienced. Recruiting the right people will be a big part of that – and we’ve already brought in a few more team members to help us keep up with demand. We know that it’s a good position to be in as a new business.

Noted. Aromas