A person is holding a booklet and perfume bottle from Speak Scents, a New Zealand-based fragrance company.

If buying a fragrance in-store has left you feeling confused and overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

Husband and wife Madeleine (Mads) and Ankit Patel have solved that problem through their new online business venture, Speak Scents.

It uses data combined with algorithms to match people with their perfect aroma. The algorithm looks at more than 700,000 combinations to find the two best matches.

Once it has made a match, it’s a matter of ordering samples or products and waiting for the postie.

“It’s like having your own personal fragrance shopper that delivers to your door,” says Mads.

Madeleine Patel, co-founder of Speak Scents a Wellington-based fragrance company, is holding a bottle of perfume.

Mads Patel, founder of Speak Scents

Making waves in fragrance

Speak Scents was born from Mads’ own frustration with buying fragrances in-store.

“Growing up in Christchurch with three brothers and a mum who used Impulse, I had never been part of that world. Yet it fascinated me. When I wanted to treat myself to something nice, I didn’t know enough about fragrance and felt intimidated.”

With a background in marketing and advertising, Mads saw the need to create a fun, playful brand. She had already completed a few perfumery courses.

Using that knowledge and Ankit’s skills as a data scientist, she knew they were well-placed to make waves in the fragrance industry.

“We wanted to challenge the norms of an outdated and celebrity-based category,” says Mads. “We could see how we could use statistical models to help make better decisions for a category that was super confusing.”

Despite seeming worlds apart, the pair has found that mixing data with perfume is a winning combination.

As Ankit explains, perfume is ‘big data’. The thousands of different scent notes in perfume make it easy to apply modelling techniques and predictive analytics. Through data, the process of finding a quality scent is enjoyable, stress-free, convenient, and affordable.

From France to Wellington

Speak Scents launched after two years of research and development. The pair also went through Creative HQ’s incubator programme for startups. They had to hunt down a master perfumer to help design and formulate the range. An Auckland formulation factory helped bring their vision to life.

Today, all eight perfumes in the Speak Scents range are made in the perfume capital of the world, Grasse, France. Each order is bottled in the bottling facility the Patel’s built in their Wellington home.

Feedback has been positive and the algorithms that create the scent profiles are spot on.

“The concept absolutely resonates with our customers so far,” says Mads. “We love having two different ways of thinking coming together to create something unique that we believe can disrupt on a global scale.”

A close up shot of Speak Scents' perfume with blurry greenery in the background. The product is in it's orange and black cardboard rectangular box packaging with "Get ready to feel good." written on it.

The eight scents

  • ChitChat — full of citrusy bergamot, blackcurrant and lychee alongside undertones of rose, vanilla and musk.
  • Roar — blood orange and fragrant white jasmine complemented by classy notes of dry woods.
  • Banter — the super casual scent of melon, saffron, mandarin and grapefruit.
  • Confidant — rich yet mellow perfume of marine, vanilla and amber.
  • Orator — infused with moss, cedarwood, pink pepper and green apple.
  • Raconteur — uplifting bergamot, lemon, saffron and pepper.
  • Murmur — fresh florals, freesia and lychee mixed with ylang-ylang and white musk.
  • D&Ms — a smooth blend of cashmere wood with jasmine and creamy vanilla.