Annie Oakley® is believed to be the only self-contained perfumery in the United States, independently handling all aspects of its product – from research and development to manufacturing, packaging, sales and distribution. The company began simply in 1980, when founder Renee Gabet, along with her husband and children, created and hand-blended fragrances and essential oils in the kitchen of their Ligonier home. Over time, their products gained popularity and the small home-based company expanded into an off-site perfumery. Today, Annie Oakley® offers a full line of natural fragrances and body products, having sold more than 2 million bottles through retail distributors nationwide.
Mrs. Gabet was referred to the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center by John Bry, executive director of the Noble County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Annie Oakley® had begun construction on a new Fragrance Studio and Gift Boutique within its Ligonier headquarters, and Mrs. Gabet was seeking assistance with publicity for the new facility, as well as help with other aspects of marketing. One of her goals is to make Annie Oakley® another popular tourist destination located within the heart of Indiana Amish Country, which draws thousands of visitors each week to area attractions such as the Shipshewana Flea Market, Amish restaurants and furniture stores, bed and breakfast inns, and other sites in Northeast Indiana.
When Mrs. Gabet first came to the NEISBDC in July 2010, she met with Regional Director Jane Rich, who provided her with some industry research and talked with her about critical success factors needed for continued business growth. The client was then referred to NISBDC Marketing Coordinator Mary Popovich, who visited with Mrs. Gabet at the Annie Oakley® facility to get a feel for the business, its target market and its marketing needs. Mrs. Gabet sought input from the NEISBDC on how to handle public relations for the firm, including grand-opening publicity and promotion for the new studio. Ms. Popovich worked with Mrs. Gabet to create press releases about the new Fragrance Studio, which were then distributed by the NEISBDC to Northeast Indiana media. As a result, “Many media across Indiana picked up the story on our new studio expansion for tourism, including an interview with ‘Your Country’ reporter Eric Olson at Indiana’s NewsCenter (on the ABC TV affiliate station in Fort Wayne, WPTA-TV 21 Alive),” according to Mrs. Gabet.
The new Fragrance Studio is housed in 1,500 square feet of former warehouse space within the 9,000-square-foot Annie Oakley® building. The total cost of the project, including design and renovation of the building, and all equipment and furnishings, was around $70,000. The firm also hired two part-time employees to help run the new operation, further contributing to the growth of the local economy. The Fragrance Studio had a “very successful soft opening” at year-end 2010, according to Mrs. Gabet, who anticipates hiring and training more people to accommodate the many visitors expected in 2011. “We are planning to entertain many tour groups at Annie Oakley® with our world-class essences and international brands,” she said, noting that several special events are being planned for the year.
In addition to welcoming tour groups to the new Fragrance Studio and Gift Boutique in 2011, Annie Oakley® is officially launching its new Wild West series of men’s fragrances January 12-19 at the International Western and English Show in Denver, and is planning to turn its limited edition SPA Collection of fragrant body products into a permanent line, offering customers a “top-quality product that can’t be found anywhere else in the marketplace,” according to Mrs. Gabet. “We make it to order and scent it with the Annie Oakley® fragrance of choice, or we can also customize a personal fragrance for those who visit our studio and work with our perfumer.” Starting April 1, the new studio is planning a weekly event called Frank Sinatra Fridays that will offer interaction with the Annie Oakley® perfumer, she said.
All of these accomplishments, of course, will require additional publicity and promotion for Annie Oakley®, and the Northeast Indiana SBDC stands ready to assist Mrs. Gabet with these and other marketing and growth strategies. “I am looking forward to working with the SBDC staff to help us continue to build and grow our tourism and retailer base through press releases, social media, and an expanded sales and marketing plan,” Mrs. Gabet stated. “With their help and direction, we look forward to future growth.”
Quote: “With so many extreme challenges this year, my staff and I are very excited that all of our projects finished very successfully this year. We tackled three major projects to go after economic growth – including our Wild West fragrance for men for our retailers, our exotic SPA Collection for our loyal customers, and the new Annie Oakley® Perfumery Studio for tourists. I want to thank the SBDC staff for helping with our success.”
–Renee Gabet, Chief Executive Officer of Annie Oakley® Perfumery in Ligonier, Indiana