Many entrepreneurs are aiming to, as the saying goes, “experience the sweet smell of success.” Let’s meet two Detroiters that are making smells with the hope of finding success.
On a sunny afternoon I met with Kevin Peterson and Jane Larson on the patio of St. Cece’s in Corktown. We were there so I could get to know the people behind the fragrance company Sfumato (\sfü-‘mä-(,)tō). The married couple turned a hobby of Peterson’s into a small business in 2013.
Sfumato is an Italian word that means, turned into smoke, or vapor.” Peterson learned that Sfumato was Leonardo DaVinci’s favorite painting techniques. After thinking about it, he realized that perfume was in reality a vapor, and over time, the scent changes.
Peterson is “the nose.” He started to learn about flavor profiles while he was attending culinary school and while working as a cook. While he didn’t continue on that path, he continued playing with flavors and eventually fragrances in his free time, this eventually turned into creating scent profiles with all natural ingredients.
“We are constantly asking ourselves, what does the world look like when we look through our noses?” said Peterson. “This brings up all kinds of interesting questions.”
When it comes to design, Larson is responsible for the packaging and look of the fragrance line. Her background is in art and design. The packaging draws attention in its own rite. Each bottle is packaged in a brown craft box, with a red ribbon and a wax seal. The box unfolds to reveal black and red tissue paper. Once you open the tissue paper you will find the bottle.
The methods of unveiling the bottle of fragrance mirrors what the actual fragrance does while people are wearing it.
Olfactory memory is a real thing, and a scent can draws us back to a time wither it is good or bad. For their wedding a year and a half ago Peterson made a special scent for themselves and all of their guests. They encouraged all of their guests to use it as much as possible. After the wedding they did not smell that scent again until their first anniversary.
Originally from Minnesota, they moved to Ann Arbor so Peterson could go to Graduate School at the University of Michigan. They moved to Detroit five years ago from Ann Arbor because it was in the middle of both of their commutes. Larson was working in Ann Arbor and Peterson was working in Warren.
“Detroit sounded really interesting. Things are moving, things are happening. We thought it would be fun to just live there,” said Larson. “Honestly I don’t know if the business would have started if it wasn’t for all of the entrepreneurs and people making things happen.”
Both of them agree that had they not moved to Detroit they wouldn’t have turned Sfumato into a business. Detroit has such a tight knit entrepreneur circle that people are more than happy to lend a helping hand to one another.
They currently have four permanent unisex fragrances available for purchase.
They are Epiphany, Gravitas, Siren Song, and Survival Instinct. Each of them has twelve different ingredients that build the scent profile. They also create limited edition scents depending on the time of year, such as Mocha Valentino for Valentines Day.
You can purchase Sfumato online, or in one of the stores that carries their brand.
There are currently six stores in Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor that carry Sfumato, and one in Minneapolis. Their goal right now is to get their fragrances in front of as many people as possible, and to increase the number of stores that carry Sfumato.
Peterson and Larson currently run the business out of their Corktown loft, but they have plans to move into a production space by the end of this year.
There’s also doing events. Sfumato, in partnership with Two James Spirits, has a class on May 26 at Thistle and Bess in Ann Arbor from 7:00pm-9:00pm to show people how taste and smell work together. The class will teach students how to make two cocktails.
Tickets are $40 per person, and the class is for those age 21 and up due to the fact that there will be drinking involved. You can sign up for the class on the Thistle and Bess website.