March 29, 2024

Self-Expression Through Scent: Brianna Arps' Inspiring Entrepreneurial Journey

In the captivating world of entrepreneurship and fragrance, we delve into the inspiring journey of Brianna Arps, the visionary founder behind clean fragrance company, Moodeaux, that's redefining self-expression through scent. In a conversation with Moxie Founder, Stephanie LaFlora, Brianna unravels the essence of her entrepreneurial odyssey, infused with determination, resilience, and a touch of audacity. From the inception of her dream to the recent strides into institutional capital, Brianna's narrative offers invaluable insights into the art of crafting success against all odds.

Stephanie: First, thanks for being here! I feel like your journey has been one that I've actually followed for quite a while on social and it's been dope to just see you evolve and really grow. I like to start by asking people at what point you really felt like this is going to work because there's so much time that people spend in that pre-season where you're like, “I don't know if this is going to work.” Traction is often ambiguous, but there's still a feeling and there's still like a moment where something begins to work. When was that for you?

Brianna: It sounds so cliche and I don't want it to sound cliche, but I feel like from the very first moment I said that I was going to do this I knew it was going to work. I feel like any inkling of doubt that you plant in your mind from the onset could be the determination of whether or not you fail.

“At no point in time did I ever tell myself that this possibly wouldn't work. It was always gonna work. Even when it wasn't working, it was working out for the benefit of the business.”

So, I always was able to maintain an aura of confidence within myself that I'm on the path that I'm supposed to be on.

We had been building the brand, in the background since 2018, and we didn't launch until 2021.

So nearly three years of time went on where we were building and we were ideating and we were prototyping and we were putting this product to market. So when we launched it, having the validation of someone actually giving me their money, like their hard earned money. 

I'm like, wow, you want to give me the money that you've earned? That means so much to me. So our first few purchases and  our first few moments where people responded or gave us feedback to how they resonated with the product enabled me with the confidence to just keep going.

But at no point did I ever think that we weren't  going to be here today. 

Stephanie: That’s fire. I love that you just had that baked in confidence. Where did you get that from? Who put that in you? 

Brianna: I think a lot of it has to deal with how I was raised. I think my family really enabled me to just be who I was.

I've wanted to do a lot of different things in my life. There was a point where I wanted to be an entertainer.  There were times I wanted to explore a lot of different career paths. And at every juncture, my family supported me. So I think that does a lot for a young person. It gives a child confidence in their ability to rely on that feeling that they feel in themselves and bring forth to fruition what it is that they dream about.

Just to tell you like, okay, that's actually a good idea or even if they don't feel like they resonate with it, they still support you. I've never not had a support system where I felt like I couldn't make mistakes or change my mind on something. I've always had a family that has affirmed me.

Stephanie: A lot of people don't have that. I think that's a fear a lot of people have when they start businesses. It's like, well, what if I change my mind?

Brianna:  I agree. And a lot of people honestly are doing things for financial gain. And, yes, as people who are entrepreneurs we want to have some sort of financial return. But, I always tell people if this is something that you're doing to get rich quick you are in for a very rude awakening because a lot of people's journey is not like that.

And even if you were to make a lot of money, how are you going to feel? Like, okay, I made a lot of money. Now what?

“You have to do the thing that resonates and sits within your soul. If it were to give you no money, like would you still work on it? Would you still have the same level of passion and dedication? That’s how I tell people to lead their lives in entrepreneurship.”

What is that thing that's gonna keep you up at night? And that you're not going to quit. Because it's very hard. 

Stephanie: You seem like you have a lot of self awareness. Is that something you do on purpose? 

Brianna: I think I practice being self aware. And entrepreneurship will force you to be self aware if you want your business to thrive. 

When I hit a roadblock, it really requires a lot of self awareness and being vulnerable and knowing that I might not have all the answers, but I'm going to go find all the answers. And a lot of people get in their own way and are the demise of their own companies because they don't seek help or they're not self aware or they're not able to forecast the problems that they may experience.

If you cannot be real with yourself, what makes you think that you can be real enough to convince someone to purchase from you or to convince people to write you a check as an investor? So I think self awareness is something that I try to maintain.


Brianna Arps sits down with Stephanie LaFlora. Moxie Media.

Stephanie: So I know that you've done grants and now you're getting some institutional capital. A lot of our audience are founders that are trying to get those first checks. They're getting grants. They're in that accelerator world. They are in the early stages. Tell me, even early on when you were just pursuing grants, how did you define traction? 

Brianna: I think people should define traction for themselves because it's so subjective, like you were saying, and I think for us, especially early on, traction was someone talking about us or making a purchase. Anything. A like. A follow. Someone engaging with me in a comment like traction was any forward momentum signaling someone else's interest in us.

I think traction was just any forward momentum that we could point to, to show people that this is something viable. I took for granted sometimes people don't make any money early on. Sometimes it takes them months to make a sale. I took for granted that in a lot of regard, and I think it helped me redetermine and restructure what I thought traction was.

“I feel like, earlier on in my journey with Moodeaux, I let other people define what success meant for us. And I had to just be real. What is going to keep me in the game? And that was any positive forward momentum that I could quantify as traction to convince myself that like, yeah, we need to keep going.”

Stephanie:  I do an exercise with Founder’s Fam, a community of early stage startup founders, where we list our non-financial goals to keep forward momentum.

Brianna: Yeah. I agree. Because sometimes when you operate out of state of desperation or just in panic, you don't necessarily make the best decisions. And if everything is rooted in the need to make money, sometimes you'll sacrifice the other things that actually could have made you more money in the long run.


Stephanie: One of the things I like to talk about a lot with people is more the mentality and the psychology of this journey. I have found it to be the most significant hurdle. 

Brianna: Yeah, I'm delusional.

“Like, I am delusional as hell. And I say that because you have to live sometimes in an alternate universe to get the work done or to convince people that you're worth giving a shot to. Because, you're going to hear more no's than you do yes's.”

But if you're delusional, you establish in your mind that there is a yes somewhere. We just got to go find it. So I'm completely delusional. 

Every no that you may receive gets you closer. I tell people that we have only had maybe like 10 to 12 yeses out of hundreds and hundreds of opportunities.

I think people are so concerned with everyone liking what they're doing or understanding what they're doing. When they keep hearing no, they start to guess and question whether or not they're on the right path. But you have to qualify yourself first. You have to understand and know that this is something real. And just go for it. 


Stephanie: Take me into the creative process of creating a fragrance. I'm a very creative person, but I have no concept of what the creative process of a scent would be.

Do you start with how you want it to feel?  I'm just curious about how it even works.

Brianna: We really are a company that's rooted in helping people accessorize their mood and flaunt how they feel. We really feel like self care is the best form of self expression.

Because at the end of the day, before you go out and want to buy anything, you're having an internal conversation with yourself and you're asking ‘What is it that I'm feeling right now?’ and ‘how can I best show up and take care of myself?’ 

We ideate off of that. How do we want people to show up and become their best selves when they're still trying to figure out what that looks like? 

"Everything is really a mood, an emotion, a feeling in some regards, a persona that you want to emulate."

Someone who would identify as a punk star as a rebellious spirit. It’s about inciting that unapologetic rebel. Worthy, which was our first scent, was a more literal iteration of what it felt to be worthy. It has orange blossom in it, which is a citrus. 

We considered the principles of aromatherapy. The chemical makeup of a citrus ingredient has chemical properties that like alleviate or could incite a happier mood. The same with lavender. And red roses because roses are in the Western culture symbolic of love. We thought of amber, vanilla and musk because we wanted something that felt cozy that could wrap people in their senses like a cozy blanket that just felt safe. We were really intentional about making sure to include things that were reminiscent of those feelings but also could help tell a greater story.

Stephanie:  So how did you go from I want to create a fragrance to I know how to make a fragrance?

Brianna: When we were working on Moodeaux in the earliest days, I thought that I was going to actually be in the kitchen, like, whipping everything up forever, you know?

But then I realized through gathering just a small assortment of materials that, like, this sh*t is a science! I feel like the best use of my resources would be to partner with a fragrance house and a laboratory of trained perfumers who can help to convey what it is that I want to put out in the world.

“All of our creative briefs come from me, all the imagery, everything comes from me. But then I work with a team of master perfumers who have created products that are sold in Sephora and have worked on legacy fragrance brands who have done amazing work. It's their job to then translate my thoughts and visions and aspirations for the particular scent into a physical, tangible product.”


Brianna Arps alongside Jermeen Sherman at the Black Ambition Breakout at Black Future House. Moxie Media.

Stephanie:  I know that you have sustained quite a long time through grants and non-dilutive funds, which is amazing. That is a hard journey to go down, I think, in a lot of ways because you just have to be really efficient. But you’ve recently taken on new investments. What are you excited about institutional capital enabling Moodeaux to do?

Brianna: It felt like my efforts could ultimately go further because of the amount of money and the capital that they're willing to invest versus applying to seven grants just to get the amount of one potential (institutional) check size.

But it's a trade off, right? Because now you're inviting people into your business. They'll be with you forever. You're giving them equity.

“But now it's like, okay, what are these VCs going to connect me with that I potentially might not have been able to get to myself at this particular juncture in our business? So what resources do you have? What networks are you involved in? What experience that you've acquired through this process that you've gone through?”

It's a privileged space to be in. It is still a space that requires a lot more work and due diligence on the investor side to actually find these companies and really believe in them. Especially those who are owned by black and brown people.

As we conclude our dialogue with Brianna Arps, her story echoes beyond the realms of business into the heart of self-belief and ingenuity. Through unwavering confidence, familial support, and an unyielding commitment to authenticity, Brianna embodies the spirit of a modern entrepreneur carving her path in a dynamic industry. Moodeaux's journey, from ideation to institutional backing, epitomizes the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and purpose. As we bid adieu to this enriching exchange, Brianna's tale lingers as a testament to the boundless possibilities ignited by a single idea, nurtured by resilience, and propelled by unwavering determination.

Are you a founder looking to build traction? Check out Traction Camp, where startups come together to get their first 100 users. Learn more.

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