Billion Dollar Idea

We had a deal on a handshake. I hate paperwork, and people should honor their promises, shouldn’t they?

Anyway, it was at this charity event and I found myself with a glass of wine standing opposite the CEO of International Flavors and Fragrances. So, I made the offer.

“Mr. Phillips,” I said. “I have a billion dollar idea for you.”

“Oh?” he said acting nonchalant even though he suffered terrible losses the last two quarters and the board was growing restless.

“But first you must promise me 1% of the gross wholesale revenue,” I added. I knew what I was selling was brilliant.

“Sure,” said Phillips with a smirk. He shook my hand perfunctorily and asked “what’s your idea?”

“A scent,” I said.

“Ha,” said Phillips. “We’ve got a scent. We’ve got thousands of scents!”

“Not like this,” I said evenly.

There was a moment of awkward silence. I continued.

“This is a sport scent. People wear it to enhance their active lifestyles. It reacts with perspiration to change a person’s sweat into a pleasant scent unique to them.”

“That’s actually a good idea,” said Phillips. “Tell me more.”

“Here’s the thing. You start with the chemical in Fabreeze that neutralizes smells, only you used a measured amount so that just a hint remains. Then you add a non-homogenized scent which will manifest itself in a variety of pleasant ways when combined with just a hint of perspiration. Of course, people will love it—coming home from an active day at work or from a workout—men and women will want to be ready for whoever they happen to meet.”

We exchanged business cards and he promised to stay in touch. That’s the last I ever heard from him.

The next time I saw him was on the cover of Forbes.

His new fragrances were a success. “Scentsational,” according to Forbes.

“Cortina Sport,” in a rugged well crafted tiny glass bottle had a label depicting a gender indeterminate downhill skier at a ritzy European resort. The downscale version (secretly the same formula) was called “Jym” and came in a larger, lower-priced bottle. Both sold very, very well.

Nobody at International Flavors and Fragrances would answer my call. The number on Mr. Phillips’ business card took me directly to voicemail.

Six months later a new product appeared. A scent neutralizer which could be discretely attached to any surface and prevent unpleasant odors from ever manifesting themselves. They were so cheap—and therefore nearly everywhere—that I just broke even on them. Yeah, it was my product.

“Dainty Dots” had a quirk. They reacted with Cortina Sport and Jym to produce a powerful pungent smell similar to horse manure.

IFF was sued and the CEO was fired. Mr. Phillips left the country for a sudden unplanned vacation.

I’m on the slopes and I see him now. I recognize him even with the googles. I watch him grit his teeth as he starts his run downhill. I must admit, he’s a pretty good skier.

I don’t ski quite so well. But, did I mention? I smell marvelous.