While Black customers are a powerful demographic in the fragrance industry, diversity in the $61.79 billion space is lacking. November Nichols, founder of Black-owned luxury fragrance brand Chémin, is committed to making that reality a thing of the past. Founded in 2017, Chémin is not only one of the few Black women-owned fragrance brands, but it is also the only Black brand in the world with its own fragrance house. Chémin offers buyers a collection of diverse, luxe scents, body productions, hand-poured soy candles, and artisan handcrafted teas. The brand also empowers customers to make their own custom fragrances and have their own sensory experiences.

“I entered the fragrance industry out of a need — it sort of just happened when I was forced to create a candle to support my meditation practice,” Nichols told Blavity via email. “Back in 2016, I worked in educational publishing and traveled nonstop everywhere from Iowa to Guam. I was a rock star at work, but my personal life was falling apart.”

Nicholas said she then “made a conscious decision about how I wanted my life to be in the future (since I had no personal life at the time). And creating a meditation practice was my safe space that allowed me to do the heart work that was necessary.  My ritual includes lighting a candle, drinking tea and sitting with myself.”

The founder started experimenting with making her own candles after “my favorite candle company discontinued my favorite scent.”

“I started looking up notes, found the supplies and made my own candle, which is now: ‘The Energy Candle’ at Chémin,” she shared. “Friends started coming over and complimenting the smell. One went to my altar and found out that it was my personal candle and requested one.  I started making them for friends and the artistry of it soothed my soul and gave me direction.”

Chémin’s scent collection is “massive,” comprising of “450 notes and accords that we use for our custom formulations” that are “gender neutral.” Nichols described Chémin’s signature scents: “Parfum 1 (which is a captivating blend of white tea, lemongrass and sandalwood), Parfum 17 (which opens with the woody scent of vetiver, oak, and cedar. Then, its mid-notes of ambergris and citrus come alive with a hint of almond and pink pepper for an enlightened and empowering finish), and Parfum 87 (which is comprised of leather, oud and tobacco nuances). We have Parfum 77 (which is a love story for all and includes notes of amber and vanilla, launching this month) and Parfum 37 (which is launching in Spring 2024).”

Fragrance is a “lucrative industry” that’s on track to rake up “$84.02 billion by 2028.” Though Black people “were 23% of the customers buying fragrances,” Nichols says the unfortunate reality is “very few are looking at entering the industry.”

“The reason why so few are in the industry all boils down to … access, opportunity and exposure,” the fragrance brand owner explained. “The industry has been shrouded and highly cliquish.”

Nichols is hoping to change the reality and usher a new generation of Black folks into the fragrance realm.

“A big part of my mission is to provide an entry point for people to enter this craft by teaching them regulations and guidelines that they need to start,” she said. “It’s also an industry where you’re always learning and need to keep up with the research. Money is also an issue, as fragrance marketing is hard and expensive for a new brand, especially with so many giants out there.”

To Black fragrance fans interested in owning their own brand, Nicholas recommends starting with carving out “space for yourself.”

“Don’t just think about the product,” she suggested to Blavity. “Well, of course, you want to produce an amazing quality product, but make sure you are creating with intent. Why are you creating it? What do you want your company to be about? What sets your brand apart from the rest?”

Chémin is gearing up to launch an affordable luxury collection with JCPenney — a partnership that means a lot to Nichols.

“JCPenney has a special place in my heart — as I used to go with my maternal grandmother growing up,” she shared. “While my paternal grandmother was the first person in my family to start in the fragrance industry. So, this is truly a full circle moment. It will be available nationwide in January.”