Catching the drift with Ryan Baylis

Owner and founder of an aesthetically pleasing and pretty nice smelling air freshener company, drift Co.’s, Ryan Baylis, Co-founder, sat down with us to discuss how one comes up with the idea to transform car air fresheners into a product that people are proud to show off and what goes into the art of smells.

We had some questions and Ryan gave us his two scents, and a few more.

We like to picture the scent mixing process as a person in the basement mixing together scents in little vials and saying eureka when he gets one he likes, how true is that? 

Actually pre-quarantine, on any given weekday you’d find the drift team nose-deep in candles. We look to other fragrances that are out there to find elements that we like and then take them back to our fragrance team (straight up chemists) that help us build the signature drift scents. We also love taking inspiration from our travels and experiences.

I also have lost all shame when it comes to asking anyone what the fragrance is that they are wearing if I can tell that it’s something that I think we could learn from and use in our scents. Some may call it creepy, I call it R&D.

drift is different because we focus not only on the scent, but also the ingredients.

How did the idea come to you to start an air-freshener business? 

I think that subliminally the idea has been in my head since I used to wear out my family’s VHS copy of the 1992 classic Beethoven. If you recall, the dad, George Newton works at a company called Newton that makes air fresheners.

The real story is a few years ago I bought a car and I started looking for options besides the ‘small saplings’ air fresheners that most of us are used to from the high school days (black ice anyone?). I really couldn’t find any good options, I sat on the idea for a while until I went hiking with my now co-founder Christian and we started kicking around business ideas. Christian is such a go getter that he figured out how to make these air-fresheners out of wood and for basically the first 6 months of the business he’d be in the woodshop constantly pumping out the product.

What about regular air fresheners made you think it needed a makeover or that there was an opportunity there? 

First off, everyone will tell you that the smell of most air fresheners is just plain bad. Very chemical-heavy (because they use a bunch of chemicals to extend the scent) and they are just so tacky hanging from the visor (also illegal in a lot of states including your home state of New York, a fine of up to $150 and 2 points).

So we made a much more aesthetically pleasing and WAY better smelling version. Plus you don’t have to go into the “convenience” store to snag one when it gets stale, we just ship you a new one every month.

How and why did the business model shift from being more masculine to somewhere in between? 

We wanted to be more inclusive. After all, why wouldn’t any type of scent be for any nose that likes it? Plus, all of our customers’ girlfriends and wives were stealing them anyway sooo…

How do you come up with the scent of the month? Are they seasonal? 

Scent of the Month is the best. We roll out a new scent each month, we do make them relevant to the season. Each one has a unique story around it. We’ve done Hemingway, a couple that were inspired by our home base of Utah, and every October, we throw on our uggs, hit the Starbucks drive-through and roll out our own autumn scent called Pumpkin Bourbon. It’s a fan favorite and everyone begs us to keep it year-round.

What makes drift different from other scent companies?

drift is different because we focus not only on the scent but also the ingredients. We work with the best in class suppliers to make sure all our scents are up to a very specific bar. We make sure they are free from harmful chemicals including parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde. We also want the scents to be world-class, something that makes everyone who smells them go, “that’s great what is it?” plus, we think the product itself looks pretty aesthetically pleasing, kind of the full package, but I could be biased.

Can you explain what scent nostalgia is?

Scent nostalgia is that crazy phenomenon where you’ll be walking in the airport get a whiff of someone wearing CK one and be transported instantly in your mind back to the mall of the ’90s sipping a Coke in your Guess jeans. It’s something we love to play into. There’s a bunch of science around the power of smell, I won’t bore you, but it’s a fun rabbit hole to go down on the interwebs.

What scent should be in a 1976 El Camino?

Does it have a pirate flag in the back? Our teak scent for sure, perfect dankness.

From a graphic design perspective, what was right and wrong about the old school trees on the mirror so that the car won’t smell?

All I will say is, if your Tinder date rolls up with one of those hanging from the visor… Run.

Do drift car scents work to cover up the smell of pot smoke? Asking for a friend.

“It would be a lot cooler if (it) did.”

What are the three best smelling things in the universe?

Not a candle that smells like Gwyneth Paltrow’s nether region. If it smelled like her ex Chris Martin, I’m in.

  1. Hinoki (our scent of the month coming up in September)
  2. Baseball glove leather
  3. Sage after a rainstorm, IYKYN

If scents were people, jasmine would be a dick, right?

I try to stay out of politics. But yeah probably.

Can the power of pumpkin spice latte scent be harnessed for good?

Did I mention our pumpkin bourbon?