Founder and creative director of Who is Elijah, Raquel Bouris speaks to how the vegan, fragrance brand plans to further disrupt the niche luxury fragrance market after a successful Black Friday campaign and launch of its new scent Ocean Eyes. And what her day looks like when she isn’t campaigning to have the brand stocked in some of the world’s biggest retailers. Inside Retail: What is behind the name Who is Elijah? Raquel Bouris: It is a silly story. Originally I had a business partner, my
r, my good friend, Matthew. Matt suggested calling the brand ‘Raquel and Elijah’. I wasn’t sold on it, but we locked it in. Shortly after Matt decided his heart wasn’t in the business and we parted ways as business partners. I was then left with the task of naming the business and brand solo. One day I was sitting at my office desk and just said “Who is Elijah?” and it stuck. IR: How did Black Friday and holiday sales track for the brand? RB: Black Friday sales exceeded the projections, we did roughly 20,000 orders. This volume of sales tested the systems we have in place and proved there is room for improvement in that regard. The main concern was the speed we were able to fill bottles, however because of the volume of revenue we generated, we were able to purchase a 100ml and 50ml bottle-filling machine which cost close to $250,000 and it will arrive in April. IR: The newest fragrance ‘Ocean Eyes pays’ homage to your coastal lifestyle and father, can you tell us about the journey of the latest launch and speak to the doubt you faced from others in starting the brand? RB: We started creating Ocean Eyes in June 2023 and completed the fragrance at the end of September, just in time to be able to sample for Black Friday. I have always loved the ocean, there is no better feeling than diving under a wave. My dad was probably the least supportive person, but I believe a lot of people are happy to play it safe in life, and not want to take risks – I am the opposite and so is my husband. It wasn’t until we landed on David Jones’s shelves, that everyone was overwhelmingly supportive. It was a big moment for our brand recognition. The perfume industry is saturated, like all markets, with the competition quite fierce regarding the long-standing heritage brands with the deepest pockets for marketing. It has been a challenge carving out a market share and continues to be, but we do receive sales data from our retailers that we out-sell these heritage brands in both dollar figures and volume. IR: What is next for the brand in regards to retail partnerships? RB: We are focused on our global expansion this year, with the US and UK starting to grow in both DTC and retailers. We are close to the final stages of securing one of the US’s largest retailers, I will remain tight-lipped for now, but I am hoping it is an announcement we make in the third quarter of this year. We are currently stocked in 650 stores across Australia, the US, NZ and the UK, and are currently registering our products to be able to export into Asian markets, in addition to the Canadian market. Who is Elijah recently launched in ASOS UK, which has been very successful and the brand is very close to securing its first luxury retail partner in London. I am due for another guerrilla marketing campaign in London soon, we are yet to engage in further conversations with Boots in the UK, but we will keep on pushing until we do. IR: Will we see a Who is Elijah store anytime soon? RB: We will most likely open our first store in Bali within the coming months and have a summer pop-up planned in Sydney. IR: Are there any new product offerings on the horizon? RB: We are working on home products and some beauty products that will seem left field, but are turning out to be amazing. IR: How has the manufacturing of the product changed since you scaled to meet demand and how do you plan to continue to scale this internationally without losing the ‘precious potion’ that makes Who is Elijah? RB: The manufacturing over the past three years since we started working with our current perfumer, has remained the same and there are no limitations on the volume of fragrance we can manufacture. What has changed drastically is how we fill the bottles. In 2017 we started by hand-filling our products, using reusable sauce bottles from the local supermarket, until last year, when we were able to financially invest in big, very expensive Italian ‘perfume-filling’ machinery, which we now import from Italy to our Taren Point warehouses. Without these machines, we would not be able to keep up with the demand. IR: Who is Elijah has experienced exponential growth. How do you want to grow the brand now it has been established to cement itself in the fragrance industry? RB: Currently, around 50 per cent of the business’s revenue comes from wholesale, which is fantastic. Our biggest order to date was a $1.7 million order from Priceline in 2023. I feel like we are established here in Australia, but everywhere else, we are almost unknown. It has been a lot harder to break into the international markets, but I am confident 2024 is the year this will happen. Last year was a fast blur. We grew roughly by 1000 per cent with revenue from 2022 vs 2023, which did feel quite sudden. At times it felt like we couldn’t keep up, thanks to our amazing team, we pushed through and succeeded. IR: You self-funded the brand with $12,000, can you speak to its growth and valuation now? Would you want to engage investors? RB: In years one and two of the business it was only me. It wasn’t until year three that Who is Elijah had five employees and now in year five we have 30 team members. The brand has been approached by a lot of investors, six months ago when the business was valued at around $20 million, we decided to decline a lucrative offer presented to us. Taking on investment now would be based on a lot more than the financial investment, ideally, a partner that can assist us with global expansion is what we are open to. Who is Raquel? IR: What does a typical day look like for you? RB: I have an amazing assistant, Abbey, to ensure I am where I need to be at all times. For those who are Suits fans, she is a Donna. We [Who is Elijah co-founder and CEO Adam Bouris] have two young children – George is four and Pippa is two, so our mornings start with breakfast and kindy drop off. Adam is a very early riser, you will find him at the gym or walking along Cronulla beach at 5 am each day. IR: Describe your work environment. RB: A mess. Filled with packaging and perfume samples. We are moving into our new headquarters, which is five to seven times the size of our current property, I am excited to build a beautiful working space for myself, there once we settle. IR: What are some key leadership lessons you’ve picked up and what advice would you give to someone who wants to move progress into a more senior role? RB: I have learnt a lot of leadership from my husband, Adam. I have never felt like a confident leader but continue to learn more every year. Prove yourself and work harder than anyone else in the office but don’t let yourself be taken for granted. Utilise your skills beyond your job description to showcase your growth potential. If one person tells you no, try again and seek guidance from the right individual. IR: Any business heroes? RB: Kris Jenner, Mark Bouris and Michelle Obama are my current business heroes.