Los Angeles Business Journal

Relying On Nose For Business

Family raises curtain on scent-dispensing product for shower. By Adam Popescu Monday, May 28, 2012

Since ancient times, many have believed that scents can have healing powers – which is why aromatherapy is found in pricey spas. Now, a Santa Monica startup is trying to bring fragrant smells to home showers.

“We bring the spa home,” said Peter Friis, Aromatec Inc.’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief executive. “All of a sudden you can get a comparable experience for $35.”

The product, made by Friis and his parents, is called Essio. The family developed a shower attachment that releases a blend of organic plant oils into shower water, which they say improves skin and mood.

Essio is a plastic shower extension holding a pod that releases oils into the water. Each pod lasts about 20 minutes, so it can be used for two to three showers. Essio costs $34.99 for a starter pack with three pods. The oils are certified organic by the Agriculture Department, but the company is careful not to make medical claims in order to avoid the need for Food and Drug Administration approval.

Friis is a UCLA graduate student and former product developer at Amazon.com Inc. His father, Nils, was responsible for the design, while his mother, Candace, handles marketing and sales. It has taken them nearly six years to bring Essio from concept to creation.

One of the turning points came when Nils Friis found a way to control the oil rate in showers and perfected a device to prevent the oils from corroding shower heads. The device incorporates a low-density polyethylene that he had previously patented. The family has invested more than $500,000 of their money to develop, patent and market Essio. Manufacturing is done in China; the oils come from Australia, where the assembly also takes place.

Peter Friis left Amazon last year to focus on getting Essio ready for its mass-market release. The company is taking preorders from individuals and hopes to get into spas. He sees spa customers as the first buyers.

“Consumers at the spa already know what aromatherapy is,” Friis said. “We’re just providing them what they already know.”