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Enterprising businessman could soon have Bajan-inspired perfumes on local shelves

By Marlon Madden

He has long been a lover of scents – perfume scents that is. And it is this affinity that has today led the 42-year-old businessman to be living his dream of owning a perfume line.

Tomlinson Bynoe, is the Creative Director and Brand Owner of Blackcliff Parfum, a niche fragrance he developed over four years ago, years after he has been purchasing various niche perfumes from around the world for himself.

“At one stage there was a perfume house, a reseller out of Philadelphia that I got very close to because that is where they would always send me new things to smell, and then from that I would make a selection.

“What ended up happening was that one evening we were speaking and I just received by mail, some sample sets with various offerings they were carrying. The guy who is the owner of the retail outlet asked me ‘what do you think?’ At that point my interest moved from what I was smelling to more what I wanted to smell in a scent and that was like an ‘aha moment’,” he recalled.

It was that night while taking the phone call that Tomlinson came up with the idea of having his own scent. Standing outside his St Lucy home, located near a cliff, the father of three came up with the name Blackcliff, for his perfume line.

“The significance of the colour of the rock is synonymous with where the idea began. When you touch the rock you are touching our home. It is also an experience. It was a dark night but even though it was dark something so interesting was able to develop that is why our colour is black with gold. I want to foster that sense that even in darkness there is something very much to be welcomed about the experience of learning more about yourself,” he explained.

“For me this was a journey learning more about myself. Blackcliff is about that, self actualisation. The one thing that perfume does is it allows you to change your persona. So if you are very reserved, a bit introverted and you put on one of our scents, the attention you get will foster something in you that you never realised you have before,” he said.

In November 2021 Blackcliff Parfum hit the market with ten scents – Flamingo, Sexy Eyes, Mr Pink, Limewood, Blinding Light, Beautiful Monster, Hidden Hills, Hello Darkness, Immanence and Black Sand.

While the edgy and inspired perfumes are available for order online, they are currently carried by retailers in several states in the US, in France and Hungary. They are expected to be in at least one chain of retail stores in Brazil by August.

Tomlinson said another five scents were due to be released later this year, as well as a ten-set discovery variety pack of smaller versions of the parfums.

“We have been trying to get into Saudi Arabia. That is a strong market for perfumery. We are also trying to get into the UK. We do have some interest in Spain, but like everything else it takes time and sometimes who you have listed currently can set the stage for who will list you next,” he said.

The businessman said he has not ruled out the possibility of having the product available in one or two retail stores in Barbados, once there was interest.

While Blackcliff Parfum is a Barbadian brand, the entrepreneur has a partnership with overseas perfumers who put together the scents based on specifications.

Tomlinson told Barbados TODAY that business has been “very encouraging” so far, adding that he was able to reach a lot of his projected benchmarks.

“I am not saying we have arrived because we have not. There is still a lot of ground that has to be covered for the brand. But I am very encouraged where we are, starting just from the genesis of an idea,” he said.

“This was a journey but one, I think, came about at the right time. Sometimes you get to a stage where you need something to plough yourself into, outside of your day-to-day and that is what this became to me – an avenue to really explore a side of myself that was not my day-to-day,” said Tomlinson, who is also involved in the local family supermarket business.

He said that staying focused and grounded was not a challenge for him, adding that a lot of his inspiration comes from his parents.

“I think I have been lucky to have good examples around me of how to stay focused. I have always had avenues that allowed me to express myself and I have always had a very good example in my father. 

“Everything he opted to do he really made sure to put all that was him, his sweat, tears and passion, into things. The same thing with my mom. So for me this was not difficult. The fundamentals of business I learned through him would have set the stage for what was necessary for this project to move from being an interest to what we are now – a full-fledged perfume house out of Barbados, which is internationally recognised,” he said.

Tomlinson is a former student of the Alexandra Secondary School and Combermere and he later studied business administration in Canada.

Recalling that his interest in perfume started “very early” with his mother purchasing scents for him, Tomlinson recalled that it was when he reached high school that he started to hunt for his own scents.

“I remember at secondary school the one thing anybody would say to me is ‘man, you smell real good’. As a young man at that point it was always an advantage to know that the young ladies enjoyed how you smelled. That was where the interest in what smell could do to your persona began with me,” he reminisced.

While in school, although he loved using scents, he did not see himself actually getting involved in producing or selling them.

“I always had a passion for perfumery, but more on me than attempting to make perfume,” he explained.

One of the BlackCliff perfumes – Flamingo – was nominated as a finalist in the Independent Category (niche independent perfumery) of the prestigious Art and Olfaction Awards held in Los Angeles in May this year.

For this, Blackcliff went down in history as the first niche perfume from Barbados to be nominated for such an esteemed award.

Going up against thousands of entries for various categories, Tomlinson told Barbados TODAY this was “a very humbling experience”.

“We were competing with, and then selected among, finalists who have been in perfumery, some of them in excess of ten years. So it was really a humbling experience to be a part of that,” he said, while admitting that it was sort of a big deal.

“I was proud because at the event when we got to the finals gala, they spoke about Barbados,” said Tomlinson.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is “to believe in yourself” and do extensive research in the area in which you want to get involved.

“If you do enough of that you don’t have to get all your ducks in order, but you do need to at least have, like in my case, more than 60 per cent. You will make mistakes but every mistake should be an opportunity to learn and not one that signifies failure,” he said, while admitting that he made several mistakes while bringing Blackcliff to market.

“You need a strong idea, you need a quality product and a price point that the target market you are hoping to interact with, finds value in. If you have those constructs completed, the rest then really comes to being in the right place at the right time and beyond that, making sure you align yourself with the right stakeholder group,” he advised.

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