Research and Statistics

Funding dreams on credit: Fragrance creation


Geir Ness created his own fragrance line by charging $12,000 on his credit cards to work with a perfumer and manufacture the first 1,000 bottles

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Gene Hamilton
Gene Hamilton

Kenny Golde
Kenny Golde

Geir Ness
Geir Ness

Jeremy Jones
Jeremy Jones

Michael and Michelle Ware
Michael and Michelle Ware


Dreamer: Geir Ness

The dream: Creating his own fragrance

How he used credit cards: Charged up about $12,000 to work with a perfumer to create a scent and manufacture the first 1,000 bottles

How he paid off the debt: He paid only the minimum payments at first, then worked up to $200, then $500 and so on. He paid the debt off in 14 months.

Advice for others: Treat your credit card like a friend. “If you borrow money from your best friend, you do whatever you can to pay him back as quickly as possible,” Ness says. “The faster, the better.”

The back story: Geir Ness moved from his native Norway to California in the mid-1990s, and got a job in a department store spritzing perfume on shoppers. People asked if there was a Norwegian perfume. He didn’t know of one, so he decided to create one.

The problem? He was broke. “The only thing I had was one credit card,” he says. He bought some perfume oils and began experimenting with scents like lavender and wildflowers that reminded him of childhood hikes outside his home city of Oslo. Then, he hired a retired perfumer to help him develop the scent. After they got it right, he had a perfume house make 1,000 bottles of Laila, named for his mom.

He held garage sales to make enough for the minimum payments on his cards. He got the manager of a Nordstrom in Beverly Hills to let him launch his fragrance at the store. For the debut of his scent, he bought a $5 suit at a garage sale, borrowed a red carpet and had a photographer friend snap photos. “I knew I only had one shot at this,” he says.

His perfume started to sell well, and he gradually began selling it in more department stores. He expanded his line to include body products and began to design handbags. His products are now sold at most Nordstrom stores, other retailers and many boutiques.

Ultimately, he thinks it was a good decision to use his credit card: “It was a big risk, but I believed in it.”

See related: Main story: 5 who funded their dreams on creditBusiness credit card can damage your personal score

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