#Unmasked: SmellMaiPits

Published: 14 December 2022

The Smell of Success

“I want you to literally smell like the air. Fresh, neutral, nothing AIR.” – Simone Penn, SmellMaiPits creator 

Simone Penn, founder of Mothers’ Nature Tribe SmellMaiPits does not beat around the bush. Straight-talking and known for saying it like it is, Simone has come out smelling like roses after she launched a new range of 100% natural deodorants that have been proven to ‘stop the stink’. 

Made from natural ingredients including coconut oil, bicarb, essential oils and beeswax, SmellMaiPits is more than just a successful business venture for Simone. SmellMaiPits is also a personal pledge to rid the market of commercial deodorants that are made using aluminium, which can become toxic to the body.

The driving force behind creating and producing her products was not to start a hugely successful online business (with a turnover of R350k a month) and help millions of people to “stop the stink”, but rather to make some extra cash on the side to pay for a Botox top-up during the summer of 2020.

Going viral 

To make the “vanity money” as she calls it, Simone trialled her deodorants among members of her local JoburgJewishMommies Facebook group and posted information about her products on different WhatsApp groups. 

With the simple promise to stop the stink, SmellMaiPits became a viral success thanks to an exuberant community review by a very satisfied customer that was posted online. Within a week Simone had made R11 000 in turnover and had women beating down her door to get their hands on her incredible product. 

From there things exploded and Simone’s phone didn’t stop ringing – people wanted her product, and they wanted it fast. Simone was buying out Pick n Pay and Checkers’ coconut oil stocks and other ingredients to keep up production and meet the ever-increasing demand. 

Keeping it in the family 

It was at this stage that her husband Jonathan, who is a chartered accountant, joined Simone on the SmellMaiPits journey and together, they have turned the business into a well-oiled machine. Simone jokes that “he works for me now and I always threaten to fire him” and despite the unorthodox approach to leadership, they work successfully, hand in hand, to produce around 200 units a day, and about 4 000 a month.

A key to Simone’s lightning-quick success was embracing the digital world. The self-professed digitally unsavvy Simone got to work learning everything she could about eCommerce, social selling, media buying and all the opportunities of the Meta platform. 

“I always joke that you wouldn’t think I run an eCommerce business as I can’t even use Zoom. So, I started following all these people who were doing media buying and using Meta and I put all of these measures into place, and it just grew and grew and grew,” says Simone. 

She was also introduced to an eCommerce platform called Ecwid (which is like Shopify but free) and was able to promote her deodorants as well as selling up to nine different product lines at no cost. Within one month, the company reached a turnover of R50,000, then R120,000 the next month and it kept doubling from there. 

Taking premises and onboarding partners 

With such rapid growth came the need for expansion. A factory, bulk-buying ingredients, a logistics partner and a driver were the next moves Simone made to keep up with demand and turn this side hustle into a successful start-up. Simone and Jonathon searched their neighbourhood for the right location and found it in Fairmount Rendezvous centre and moved in during November 2021. The growth saw a further need to expand the team, so Simone appointed a factory manager, to oversee the production of the deodorants as well as managing the delivery logistics. 

No stranger to Simone’s approach Claudette, the new manager, fitted in seamlessly with the team, moving from managing Simone’s house to managing her factory. 

Starting a subscription model 

The now digitally savvy business owner uses her analytics to see the success of her product. Simone can clearly see that once a customer has bought one deodorant, they come back for two or three, then five or six and then 12 deodorants at a time and counting! This insight might just be the catalyst for more innovation. Simone has now also started introducing a subscription-based model for her deodorants, something which has taken off in the USA, but which is still fairly new locally, to automate and capitalise this repeat purchase trend. She currently has 22 subscribers. 

That is the future. Right now, Simone is staying humble. In her straightforward, witty way she tells us that there is nothing hard about creating a deodorant – if you can bake a cake, you can make a deodorant – and the only thing that sets her apart was her willingness to embrace trial and error in creating her own unique formula.

100% guarantee – these deodorants stop the stink 

Simone is so confident in her secret formula that she offers a guaranteed refund if you ever stink again. In her 22 months in business, and R3,5 million worth of sales, she has only had to give a refund twice.

One could say that Simone is now enjoying the sweet smell of success, turning a fleeting desire for some Botox, into a multi-million-rand venture while guaranteeing her customers will ‘never EVER stink again’.