Smelling the Scent of Success: How Joel Cruz Built a Multi-million Peso Perfume Business

Like other entrepreneurs, celebrity businessman and fragrance mogul Joel Cruz attributes his success to following his passions and his strong determination to succeed. Considered as one of the most successful businessmen in the country, Cruz is behind the famous fragrance line Aficionado.

A graduate of Psychology at the University of Santo Tomas, Cruz decided not to pursue a medical career but try his luck on fashion, his first love. With the help of his mother, he was able to set up an atelier in their garage. He eventually became a subcontractor to Landmark, Rustan’s, Anson’s and Syvel’s for their private labels.

PHOTO CREDIT: PhilStar
PHOTO CREDIT: PhilStar

But when the Asian Crisis struck the garments industry in the country, Cruz realized that competing with China’s cheap products would be futile. This prompted him to close his business and work for The Filipino Channel in California.

However, this career move didn’t seem to work for Cruz. He ended up coming home to work as a general manager for his father’s truck rental services. As expected, he made his father’s trucking business profitable.

But it was in 1999 that Cruz began dreaming of producing world-class fragrances at affordable prices. He did his research and later came upon Henkel Philippines, a company which imported fragrance oils from Germany. His neighbor, who happens to be the fragrance manager of the company, pushed Cruz to enter the business. In no time, Cruz was able to concoct homemade scents with the help of a French perfurmer.

The businessman put up his first kiosk at the Ever Gotesco Central and initially sold his products under the brand name AF, which stands for Affirmative. His business kicked off earning as much as P25,000 per day.

Cruz says: “Location is important. Not all businesses can survive in the malls. When you are near entrances where there is foot traffic, the sales person must be aggressive in introducing the products.”

Two months later, Cruz found himself opening another kiosk at Isetann Recto. Cruz, who was still working for his father’s trucking business at that time, would have dinner with his sales people after mall hours in order to discuss sales and strategies.

Seeing the potential of his business, Cruz began manufacturing his own fragrances. From AF, Cruz changed the name of his company to Aficionado.

By 2013, Aficionado has 469 stores, more than half of which are franchises.

“The franchise helps us a lot. It’s like having foster parents to take care of your children if you can’t handle them yourself.  They are dedicated to supervise the businesses. All the franchisees are happy. They started with one  store and some now own 22 stores. It shows it’s profitable,” Cruz told INQUIRER.