Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Student startup gets TV treatment

Article Date:  February 15, 2015

William Yin, Sci’15, says he wasn’t an entrepreneur when he first created his company, Scent Trunk, during the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII). It was during the months-long competition — where student teams compete against one another to design and create startup businesses — that he developed the skills he’s using as he continues to market and build his company.

Scent Trunk, for which Mr. Yin is founder and CEO, is a cologne subscription service that sends monthly samples to its customers. Equipped with a predictive algorithm, the company personalizes and forecasts what scents they think each customer will like best.

“Buying cologne in a store has problems,” says Mr. Yin. “There’s little variety, the selection isn’t personalized and though you can smell the scents, you don’t know how they’ll react with your body chemistry when you actually wear them.”

By analyzing customers’ preferences and responses over time, he says Scent Trunk is able to find the colognes that best match each individual.

The company has had a number of recent successes, winning the Toronto regional competition in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and was given a chance to pitch the business on a CBC spinoff of the popular show Dragon’s Den. Called Next Gen Den, the web-based show has young entrepreneurs pitch their early-stage businesses to a panel of industry professionals including Michele Romanow, Sci ’07 and MBA ’08, who co-founded Buytopia, an online discount service.

The episode featuring Scent Trunk is set to air on March 9 and Mr. Yin has to stay tight-lipped until then.

“At the moment, all I can say is that it went well,” he says.

Despite these successes, the company has faced its fair share of challenges, one of which happened while in QSII.

“We fared poorly in QSII and it was one of the biggest defeats I’ve ever had,” says Mr. Yin. “I’d never put so much into something and not had it pan out. I wanted to prove the judges wrong.” Failing to win the competition, he says, was a spark that made him work even harder. “My biggest motivator is being told I can’t do something.”

In the months since he started Scent Trunk, Mr. Yin says he’s made his company’s pitch hundreds of times and that to be an entrepreneur you have to have thick skin.

“You get rejected often, so you have to seize on the small wins to stay motivated. In QSII I learnt that I love growing a business, selling things, crunching numbers and making an enterprise work. The competition prepared me for the challenges I’ve faced, but each day as the business grows, it gets harder,” he says. “But, I’m very competitive, I love a challenge.”  

Scent Trunk is operating out of Innovation Park.