Sweet smell of success: Nebraska FFA youth designed, distributes official FFA fragrances.
FFA youth across the country smell better because of Vickie Ference and her cousins.
The Ord, Neb. girl, who is sixteen years of age, along with her older cousins, developed the official fragrances of the FFA.
She and her mom, Christy, and dad, Dave, an FFA advisor, and her brother, Johnny Ference, also an FFA advisor, along with the rest of the family, were sitting around the Thanksgiving table three years ago, discussing FFA, the national convention, different ideas for fundraising, and fruit sales, when one of the girls asked, how about a fragrance? One of the uncles at the table was friends with a fragrance maker in Boelus, fifty miles south of Ord.
So Vickie and her cousins Josie, Taylor, and Sadie, all Ferences, took the idea and ran.
It was the fall of 2016, and the girls, along with help of Michelle Caspersen, a well-known fragrance designer and one of the few who makes their home in the Midwest, worked on developing an FFA cologne for men and perfume for women.
They took their favorite fragrances their moms, grandmas, and friends had, found similarities, and contacted a chemist in New York to design samples.
The chemist came up with three samples for the cologne and three for the perfume. The girls took the six options to the Nebraska State FFA convention in 2017, asking FFA youth to vote on their favorite.
After the votes were tallied, the fragrances were decided upon, and with Casperson’s help, the girls began the process of designing the bottles, naming the fragrances, and all of the other things that went into producing the aromas.
For Vickie, the naming was one of the more fun parts of the project. The women’s fragrance is called 1969, after the year that girls were allowed to join FFA. The men’s is called National Blue, after the official FFA color.
One of the more challenging parts of the process was getting permission from the FFA to use its emblem, Vickie said, and to become the official fragrance. It took seven attempts to get the official designation.
National Blue, the men’s cologne, has a clean, fresh, crisp smell, said Johnny Ference, Vickie’s older brother and one of the ag teachers and FFA advisors at Ord High School. The women’s perfume, 1969, is fruity, with a mellow sweet smell, but “not too sweet,” Vickie said.
Vickie and her family fill orders on the weekends using a shop in Boelus, specially built for the job. The fragrances come in 55 gallon drums, with a precise procedure for how the process is done. The drum is carefully tapped, so that very little air gets into it. Bottles are filled nearly to the top, with a dime’s width of space left. The lid is twisted on, then the bottle is passed to the next person, who cuts the “squirter stick” at an angle and makes sure it’s in the corner of the bottle, so all of the liquid can be reached. Then the seal is crimped on, using air pressure. The bottle goes down the assembly line to the capper, who puts on the cap. Then, the “sticker,” the person putting on the sticky label, is next. Before the label is applied, the bottle is laid on a white paper or white towel, to be inspected for any flaws or contaminants in the liquid that would “downgrade our product,” Vickie said.
Putting on the sticker is one of the most tedious parts of the project, she said. “You have to be precise about doing it, because it’s what the customer sees and you want it to look the best.”
Another of Vickie’s favorite parts of the project is meeting people and talking to them about the fragrances. Some people, when they hear about an official FFA fragrance, say it must smell like manure. “I say, no, no, I promise it doesn’t,” Vickie said. “When they think of FFA, they think of farms and people working with cattle and hogs. I say, please smell it, they do, and they say, ‘wow.’”
She wears the 1969 every day, and “it stays on all day, and it’s the best smelling thing in the world.” Vickie says she can tell the boys at school who wear the National Blue, because “it lasts after sports practice.”
Johnny says Vickie and the girls have learned a lot from their project, including the business side of it, and how events happening halfway around the globe can affect them. For instance, they were getting ready to sell at the National FFA Convention, and the bottles, which come from Italy, were to arrive by ship in Miami. It was hurricane season, and the girls kept an eye on weather in the Atlantic Ocean, in case the ship might be delayed. “Everything was fine,” Johnny said, “but they realized the world was connected.”
He is also appreciative of Michelle Caspersen, the fragrance designer, for her help. “She assumed the risk of the product design,” he said. “She is our supplier. I can’t speak highly enough of her. She’s helped make it happen. If it wasn’t for Michelle helping step by step, giving them advice, this project wouldn’t have happened.”
Over 1,500 bottles have been sold so far, about evenly divided between the cologne and the perfume. The project can be used as a fundraiser for FFA chapters. Unlike the typical fruit or food sales, the fragrances are non-perishable and have a higher markup per item than other sales, resulting in more money made for the chapter. The Ord, Neb. FFA chapter does not make money on the sales of the fragrance, Johnny said. They serve as distributors of the product.
The cousins who helped with the project are all in college, and when Vickie graduates from Ord High School in 2021, she plans to keep helping. But she’s also already training FFA underclassmen who can take over.
She’s learned a lot from fragrances, she said. “It’s been fun having this project to grow my marketing skills.”
Vickie is president of Ord’s FFA chapter, and is also president of the Spanish Club, co-president of FCCLA, a cheerleader, 4-H member, in drama, and student council.
For more information on National Blue and 1969, visit http://www.officiallicensedffafragrance.com.