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How We Created a Premium, Niche Fragrance Brand and Made it Affordable

Rachel Steinford
Rachel Steinford

Tabassum Khan and Shakir Ahmed are founders of a premium lifestyle brand, HABIBI NY. They launched their brand in 2016 with a mission to inspire love, diversity, and unity through unique, premium, and long-lasting scents. They spent their first year hopping around local events and setting up vendor tables and booths talking and sharing about their story and their mission. They only started with two products and now they are already 5 years in business with more than 20 fragrances and other ancillary products.

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual process to start HABIBI NY?

The concept of Habibi NY was a lightbulb moment but from that moment to our first actual product launch took 1 whole year of research, design, and development.

How did you get your first three customers?

Family, Friends, and we set up a vendor table at a local bazaar

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

I am a pharmacist by background  and my husband has a technology and business background. I use my chemistry/science background and my husband uses his tech/finance expertise and together we can work towards product development as well as our growth strategy.

Who is your target demographic?

Mainly, our target demographic includes adults of all age groups, genders, ethnicities etc. who enjoy and appreciate new and different experiences and cultures.

What is the funniest/most strange customer request you’ve had?

When we were temporarily out of stock on one of our best-selling fragrances for men, we had a customer who absolutely loves it and wanted it right away. He was willing to buy our personal bottle that we use and pay full-price for it. This was during the peak of Covid, during a snowstorm and he wanted to come to our house to pick it up! It all worked out great as we did a mailbox exchange with gloves, disinfectant wipes, etc. Made the customer happy!

How did you fund the idea initially?

When we started this company, both of us as a husband-wife team decided that whatever we do, we will avoid loans as much as we can. We would rather grow slow and steady but do it on our own rather than to start off already in  debt. We felt that to truly make an excellent product we had to be vested All-in. This meant all in with our money, time, and energy.

Where did you meet your cofounder/founding team?

Luckily, finding a “co-founder” wasn’t hard for us.

Habibi founders

We were so blessed to have certain light-bulb moments together as a couple.

What motivated you to start your own business?  

The passion to make a first class brand/product that we would use ourselves. We saw there was a gap in the market for really good and luxurious fragrances that would be affordable and attainable by most people. We didn’t understand why we couldn’t find truly unique and premium scents at fair prices. For us, to pay $85-$120 at a department store for a fragrance that smelled like at least 5 other people in the workplace didn’t make sense. Whilst the niche fragrances were $200+.

Habibi NY men

Last but definitely not least, we noticed immense focus on hypersexualized images and videos by fragrance brand. By using such marketing content, we thought the essence (no pun intended) of fragrance was getting lost. Fragrances are for more than what is implied in these images.

Habibi scents

Scents play an important role in all our relationships, experiences and cherished moments. It is a universally loved gift to give and/or receive. So we wanted to make a brand that stood for inspiring love not lust.

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

Some of our closest  family and friends were our first supporters and customers! We had orders before we had our first actual product. Even within friends and family, you will always have some people who may not see your vision right away or think this is a temporary hobby. But the ones that know us very well knew that we were in this for the long haul.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

Our faith and prayers always keep us going. There is nothing in life that will always be perfect and there is absolutely no way to plan for everything. However, with anything that does ever go “wrong” or not as we planned, we pray, keep faith, re-strategize  and then move on accordingly. Of the 100 things that go right, there will always be one that doesn’t and that is okay.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

The most important thing is to believe in yourself and whatever it is that you are making/selling/providing. You have to truly believe in it and literally be obsessed with continuously making and improving your product/service. If there is a real need for it or if it indeed exceeds what is already available then inevitably others will believe in it also.

What has driven the most sales?

You will see the most sales from whichever platform you use and focus on the most. For us, once we started focusing on digital marketing, we started with Facebook. This also changes based on where customers are shopping from.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

Honestly, we believe competition is healthy for any business. It keeps you working harder and also leads to innovation.

Habibi NY scents

As long as you work honestly, keep making the best products that you can, and keep innovating and improving then you build a loyal customer base.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?

Having a 3rd party verified review collecting app and a rewards program.

Why are they essential?

Very simply, you cannot smell through the screen. Reviews are essential for us so potential customers can hear the real deal from real customers. Rewards are a great way to build customer loyalty. We love it when customers return and rewarding them for their purchases is a great way for us to build a positive relationship with them.

What are the next products you’re working on?

We are always working on new fragrances. But we do have a new line that we cannot wait to release! Details to follow soon.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

Since we launched in 2016, we have had 150% growth year over year for 5 years. We now have 30,000+ customers and sold over tens of thousands of units. We also have about 4000+ 5-star reviews.

Company Name: HABIBI NY
Founder: Tabassum Khan, Shakir Ahmed
Interview

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