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Scents and Sensibility: How This Historic Perfumery Is Innovating

This story appears in the May 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

A whiff of something sweet hangs in the air at Via della Scala in Florence, Italy. It could be the cabbage rose, a flower that grows on the hills of Tuscany; orange blossoms from the trees of Sicily; or perhaps it is the heady smell of success for a company that traces its roots back several centuries.

Aaron Graubart

Just a few steps from the city's main train station sits Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella (SMN), a 400-year-old perfume and beauty-product company that grew from the methods Dominican friars once used to cultivate medicinal herbs for a convent infirmary. Though SMN's operations have expanded past these halls (there's now a factory just three miles away), the company preserved its original premises, including its vaulted ceilings and frescoes. Still, says commercial director Gianluca Foà, SMN is not "just a museum. We're an innovative company competing in an international market."

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