Lucas Millman (’18) and Happiness Abscissa
Next time you want to splurge on some new perfume or soap, head to the Cornell Store for a truly Cornell brand. Environmental Economics major Lucas Millman (‘18) and two Weill Medical professors – Dr. Beeder and Dr. Oribe – are pioneering a non-gendered fragrance company dedicated to mental well-being. When you use their products, you will be transported to peaceful fields of fruit trees.
Lucas shares his experience running a luxury fragrance brand below:
What is Happiness Abscissa?
Happiness Abscissa is a graphical analogy. Abscissa represents any x-coordinate on a function. But our founders really wanted our logo to be “Hā” in order to reference the word “happiness.” The meaning envisioned was one of getting people to a baseline wellness or “hā,” from which our customers could excel beyond. Some people think that our product is supposed to engender happiness, but it is really just to facilitate an improved mood. It’s a tool, more than a cure-all. We offer three scents, which we have integrated into three mediums: soaps, perfumes, and candles. So if we are doing the math, there are nine products plus the combination soap tin which is our biggest seller thus far.
What makes this product interesting is each scent was designed by a neurologist and a psychiatrist who love the relationship between smell and memory. There are ongoing studies on the relationship about smells triggering good memories. I’ll give you a syllogism to explain their thinking (and yes, I’ve practiced this!). We use scents called “nascent smells” to create our products. These smells have been statistically shown to have a positive effect on the user’s (smeller’s) well-being. What is cool about the components of the scents is that we transcend memory to something truly human and on the most basic, primordial common denominator, level. And through selecting those commonly associated this connection of wellness and nascent smell it seems obvious that good smells are connected to positive memories.
So, now you see our grand conclusion good smells bring about good feelings; It improves your mood. This loosely connects back to the word “Abscissa.” We are trying to shift your happiness function into higher abscissas by providing you the opportunity to connect with our scents that correlate with most folk’s improved well being.
What is your role in the business?
There are three members of this company. There are the two founders who did all the legwork; they designed the actual product and the website. Both founders are not alumnae, but they are professors at the medical school. My parents are their family friends, and and at a dinner party, I saw the boxes of soap and asked what their business plan was. And because it happened to be non-existent, I asked to get involved. I serve as the marketing and sales department. They needed someone who had some savvy in these regions. But they didn’t trust me yet. As a test, they put me in a flea market, where I quintupled their sales record. That was awesome; I learned a lot from the experience, and discovered one of my strengths.
Tell me about the production of your products.
We use French milled soaps that have undergone the milling three times. This create a long-lasting product, which averages about a month of twice daily usage. Our perfume bottles are traditional Eau de Parfum’s. We wanted our perfume to not overpower, merely enhance; so, we eschewed the onerousness of a cologne. Our Candles are single wick and soy-based that can last about a day if you burn them continuously. All of it is produced and packaged in America. All of the logos and labels were designed by Dr. Beeder. But, I do most of the packing.
How long have you been in operation?
This company has been in development for several years. The first scent was Eau de Brooklyn (It’s a play on the type of perfume we make “eau de parfum”). Dr. Oribe lived in Brooklyn, and that’s how he named it. It has been in development for five years, and I got involved only last year. That’s when they got all their packaging done. Doctors usually move slowly because they are busy and don’t have time for outside projects.
We hear your products are in the Cornell Store. Congrats! What was that process like?
This was my first big installation. We got into the Cornell Stores in both Ithaca and New York City. They were interested in a boutique line, and I think they found that our price point was boutique, yes, but definitely manageable in terms of a college or medical school student’s budget. We do have an online store and tiny footholds in small Brooklyn shops, but being a Cornelian, that’s the work in which, I take the greatest pride. I’m really excited about partnering with Cornell because I love the community, and I want to share my passions with it. They were also nice enough to let me have a lot of input on how the product is displayed.
What is special about your brand?
It’s an every person’s brand. We try really hard not to have a specific demographic, which I know is super taboo in the marketing world. We keep the price point lower than we could. We try to remain grounded to what our original goal was: to improve your mood. I want everyone to use this product because everyone ought to Elevate their Hā.
What’s next for your business?
It’s really establishing our online presence and getting a name as big as Cornell to carry our products. I live in NYC, so if I could get a big deal with a pharmacy or something as crazy as a Walgreens, that would be the dream. I am aiming to break even from the five years of development in the next six months. I just have to find the avenues to do it. We started in flea markets, and, though I love person-to-person, that is a slow racket. We had to step it up. The Cornell Store was an amazing first step, but I foresee a great future.