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After Her Unexpected Layoff, This Founder's Love of Fragrances and Self-Care Helped Her Cope. Now She's Disrupting the Fragrance Industry — and Sharing the Lessons She's Learned Along Her Entrepreneurial Journey. As she continues to grow and scale her company, here's the advice Brianna Arps, CEO and founder of MOODEAUX, has to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs as she continues to grow and scale her company.

By Mita Mallick

Key Takeaways

  • Small mistakes can lead to big setbacks in the future — make sure you have all your ducks in a row.
  • Learn how to be comfortable with hearing a lot of "no's" before you finally hear a "yes."
  • When starting a business, expand your thinking when it comes to how to fund it.
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"I didn't see myself reflected in the fragrance industry," says Brianna Arps, founder and CEO of MOODEAUX, on why she decided to start building her business back in 2017. "I remember watching these commercials with a half naked man running across beaches and other advertising gimmicks that didn't always make sense."

Arps started her career as an investigative journalist covering beauty, fashion and lifestyle beats. In 2018, she found out she was let go when she opened her company laptop to discover her email access had been revoked. "The pressure to make a name for myself in this industry had consumed me for years," says Arps. "I didn't realize that my self-worth became tightly entangled with my career until it was too late."

She recalls the panicked train ride back to her apartment on the day of her layoff. The panic evolved into depression, which worsened the longer she spent unemployed. She credits her self-care rituals — finding comfort and healing with fragrance — which helped her through this difficult time and also became the moment MOODEAUX was born.

"The layoff redirected me to what I was meant to do next, and that was to build MOODEAUX," Arps says. "And of course I had doubts along the way. What qualifies me to build and run a business? I had to quiet that inner critic and say, 'I am going to qualify myself to do this and build this.'"

For Arps, buying and wearing fragrances has always been an affirming act that brings joy, excitement and comfort with each spritz. MOODEAUX leans into educating consumers and creating scents to help "flaunt how you feel." As a child, Arps recalls trying all the fragrances her mother and grandmother had on their dressers. "I've been into fragrance since forever thanks to the most important and best-smelling women I know: my mom, Cynthia, and my late grandma, Minnie. They took tremendous pride in creating routines centered around their entire well-being."

As she continues to grow and scale her company, here's the advice Arps has to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Related: She Maxed Out Her Credit Cards and Sold Her Engagement Ring to Start a Business. Now She Has $25 Million in Funding — and Smart Advice for Fellow Black Women Founders.

Image Credit: Risa Dexter

1. Understand that small mistakes can lead to big setbacks in the future

"MOODEAUX wasn't always our company name. It used to be 'Moode Beaute,' until my previous trademark attorney shared some bad news," says Arps. "When we went to file for registration in late 2019, she discovered another entity with similar spelling had beaten us to the punch by a mere few days. I cried like a baby — primarily because, by that point, I spent thousands of dollars on branding we could never use."

Arps continued to spend more time brainstorming and working with her trademark attorney, before finally settling on the name MOODEAUX. It was an important reminder for her to not neglect the legal matters of your business. She reminds founders to make sure you can claim trademark rights by filing for them in a timely manner, and hiring a trademark attorney with expertise you may not have. "Small mistakes or oversights, like not trademarking your name early on, can lead to big setbacks and challenges in the future if you're not careful."

2. Get comfortable receiving lots of no's, the yes will come

"Be prepared to get more no's than the yes you are waiting for," Arps says. "Out of hundreds of conversations, meetings and applications on the road to get more funding for MOODEAUX, I received about 10 yeses." Arps encourages founders to build up their internal fortitude, lean on patience and persistence, and prepare for the potentially long road ahead. She also acknowledges that most women of color have to work harder than their peers to get that yes. And each no helped her to reflect and redirect her energies to reaching out to individuals who would believe in her, celebrate her and support her vision for MOODEAUX.

"I would meet with venture capital funds who would say no for now, and say, 'Come back to us when you launch in this retailer, then we will invest,'" Arps says. "Then we would launch in that retailer, then they would say, 'Okay, come back again when you hit your sales target.' The goalpost they set kept changing, moving again and again. It was like I would never be good enough for them, and I had to work hard not to internalize that."

Related: This Black Founder Was Gaslit By Her Doctor During Pregnancy. The Experience Drove Her to Create a Community for Expectant Moms.

3. Expand your thinking when it comes to funding

Arps reminds founders that there are so many different ways to fund and scale your business. While traditional venture capital funds were impressed with the trajectory of MOODEAUX, some weren't convinced. "I was tired of feeling like I was on that hamster wheel, and needed to think about different ways to fund the business," Arps says. "I didn't need that splashy press release to say we were working with some big fund, I needed cash to scale. I needed money in the bank."

Arps focused on raising money in an unconventional way: through accelerators and competitions where grants are given out. "Accelerators are a great way to also learn and help you level up your business," Arps says. "You not only get a cash infusion but you are also learning. When you are finished, you are undeniable." She also encourages founders to consider a small bank loan and to not be ashamed or afraid to ask friends and family to invest in your business.

"I don't feel inclined to chase that fancy headline and that spotlight," says Arps. "I'm always going to go where I am celebrated, where people embrace Black ambition and understand the trajectory of MOODEAUX, plus our ability to bring forth positive change within the fragrance industry."

Mita Mallick

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact

Mita Mallick is a change-maker with a track record of transforming culture and business. Her book, Reimagine Inclusion: Debunking 13 Myths to Transform Your Workplace, is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. She's the Head of DEI at Carta, a LinkedIn Top Voice and a sought-after speaker.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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