No. 35 Benjamin De Ocampo
NO. 35 BENJAMIN DE CAMPO
Get ready for a scented adventure! Meet Ben, the brain behind Milkman—more than just beard care. From a corporate tower to the aromatic world of perfumery, Ben’s journey is a blend of science, law, and a quest for balance.
Milkman started in his kitchen, solving a bearded problem. Success followed, reaching Australia’s top retailers. But Ben craved more—enter perfumery.
In a Masterclass, Ben crafted fragrances with unexpected twists—neroli, rose, geranium, and innovative notes like apricot and Cepes. It’s not just about scents; it’s about putting Australia on the fragrance map.
Join us in exploring Ben’s fragrant voyage, where business meets passion, and scents tell stories.
Thanks so much for taking the time to be part of our club feature!
Ben, tell us about yourself. (This doesn’t need to be confined to what job you do – feel free to share anything that paints a picture of who you are and how you feel in this world).
When it comes to my passion for perfumery, I took the scenic route.
I started my career as a pharmacologist, completing a PhD and working briefly for a pharma start-up with a potential treatment for blindness caused by diabetes. During this time I met a mentor and friend who had completed a PhD in the same lab as me years before. He was legendary for completing a law degree not long afterward and then combining his knowledge of science with the law to give a unique perspective for pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies. I was inspired to follow in his footsteps and ended up working with him for almost a decade as a law student and ultimately a lawyer.
For years I had a dream job, working in a tower in the city, surrounded by awesome people, doing interesting work. But once I started having children, the time demands of corporate life was eating away at me. I would often leave for the office before they woke up and came home after they were in bed. I was failing at fatherhood.
In 2013 I worked in Sydney, in offices that overlooked the Opera House and Circular Quay. I would walk the botanical gardens at lunch time with my head running in overdrive trying to find a way to earn a living in a way that gave me more liberty with my time. I started to try some business ideas out. The first bunch sucked and never got off the ground.
But then I struck gold. I had started growing a beard and realised not only was a massive beard trend emerging, there was a problem I could solve. Beards are different from other hair types. They need their own set of products to properly care for, and maintain them. So I developed a range of beard oils, balms and washes in my kitchen and started selling them on Ebay. I called the brand “Milkman” because it seemed like a fun name that no one had really been using to associate with personal care. In the second week I called my wife Jackee to share some amazing news. It took 30 minutes to take the bus to work that day and during that time we made 3 sales of beard oil. This was going somewhere.
Fast forward 6 months and Jackee gets contacted by Shaver Shop, Australia’s leading retailer for beard and shave products. They needed a local range of beard products for the growing demand. Jackee put a proposal together and it was accepted. That was a huge boost to help us grow and re-invest. Milkman is now also stocked in various IGA’s, airport retailers, barber shops and gift shops around Australia.
Mission 1 accomplished. Starting a business allowed me the flexibility to be there for my kids and I work together with my wife which has brought us much closer. Along with this came so many other benefits, including discovering the power of perfume.
What is something you’re really passionate about or deeply care about?
Australia is known for its wine, beer and coffee scene. But we aren’t huge in manufacturing generally speaking, and the manufacturing sector has been in decline for a long time. I would like to buck that trend. I’d like to contribute, along with all the other amazing Aussie brands, to putting Australia on the map for making premium fragrances and personal care products.
What inspired you to attend a natural fragrance full day Masterclass?
As we have grown I’ve really noticed how critical aroma is to a personal care product. It can be the difference between making it, or breaking it. Last year I decided to really go deep on learning about perfumery, rather than just combining a few off-the-shelf fragrances from suppliers so we could take things to the next level. I completed two courses in Sydney and then found out about the Perfume Playground Masterclass in Auckland through a friend. It stood out for being a longer workshop than usual, with an emphasis on naturally-derived ingredients.
How would you describe the fragrance you designed with us?
By this point I had done other workshops so I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I worked on 3 fragrances using florals as a base. The first was neroli, the second rose and the third geranium. They were all really good starts that I’m proud of. However, it’s hard to nail a fragrance completely in one sitting. The process takes time, but this workshop sped things up immensely and I have a shopping list of ideas to take back to the lab.
Were there any particular fragrances or ingredients that stood out to you during the workshop? Why?
I loved how the apricot note combined with geranium to make something really cool. Geranium can be overpowering so finding things like this to tame it was an eye opener.
I was amazed to see how Cepes could be used to make a leather accord so I could leave out animal-based (eg castoreum) ingredients.
Petitgrain gives a neroli vibe but isn’t as expensive so I loved finding this as a blending option to make a more cost-effective fragrance.
Biggest insight or inspiration you took away from our Masterclass?
The section on making accords, and the process to build a fragrance was really valuable. This is what legends in perfumery use to methodically make something magical, rather than just mixing and hoping.
Would you recommend this experience to others?
Absolutely, if you want to get into perfumery you have to do courses like this. At first I started just dabbling on my own with some sticks, a bunch of ingredients and a set of jeweler’s scales. On my first workshop I quickly realised I was doing it all wrong. Spend some time with an expert and watch your skills grow exponentially.
Fragrance aside, what brings you joy?
I love going to the gym first thing in the morning. It gets my head straight and puts me in a good mood all day.
What’s one thing on your bucket list that you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
So many things, but to keep it relevant, I’d love to formulate a fragrance that gets a bit of a cult following. One of the biggest rewards a perfumer can get is when people tell stories of how your fragrance started a conversation, or gave them confidence, or even led to a little flirting when a cute girl came up and said “ooh you smell nice”.
Is there a particular quote or motto that you live by that you can share with us?
It’s never too late to start. My experience taught me that if I’m struggling to make things work on a particular path, it might be time to pivot and try something new.
Embark on a fragrant adventure with Ben, the mastermind behind Milkman, as he delves into the art and science of perfumery. Explore his journey from corporate life to crafting aromatic wonders, and discover how Perfume Playground’s workshops elevated his creations. Ready to unveil the secrets of scent? Join us and take that aromatic leap into self-expression. Immerse yourself in the world of fragrance with Perfume Playground—where every drop tells a unique story. Begin your fragrant journey today!