A picture of a perfule bottle that says \"Rodney Ewe De Rodney\"
The new gender-neutral fragrance boasts notes of James River rock pools, Shafer Court Dining Center aromas, sturgeon musk and, of course, Rodney sweat.

‘A real scents of pride’: VCU launches signature fragrance

The team of students behind Ewe de Rodney, which hits the shelves at Shift Retail Lab this month, hopes it will be love at first spritz for students, faculty, staff and alums.

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Starting today, there’s a new way for Rams to show their VCU pride. Except in this case, they won’t actually show it – it’s more like they’ll exude it. The university is launching its first-ever signature fragrance this week, sold exclusively – for now – at the Shift Retail Lab on the Monroe Park Campus.

The gender-neutral fragrance, Ewe de Rodney, was created by an interdisciplinary team of students who met in a class called Venture Creation Skills that was offered by Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center for Innovation.

“We were inspired by all those candle companies that have taken off in recent years selling location-based scents,” said Ryan Lawson, a junior majoring in chemistry with an interest in entrepreneurship. “They sell them for cities or neighborhoods or even imaginary places from books and movies. At first, we were like, we should make a VCU candle. But that kind of product just sits at home. We realized we could make something more personal, something you could take with you – which has the bonus of having the customer marketing it everywhere they go just by wearing it.”

“Our hope is it will be a conversation starter. People will smell it and ask them what it is and where they got it,” said Jalal Thomas, who designed the bottle and is majoring in craft and material studies in the School of the Arts.

There's a new way to show off your Ram pride. (Max Schlickenmeyer, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

The team of students are keeping the exact fragrance composition a secret, but they say customers will note hints of James River rock pools, common food aromas from Shafer Court Dining Center, sturgeon musk and sweat from the fragrance’s namesake, VCU mascot Rodney the Ram.

“I don’t want to tell you how many hours I spent following Rodney around campus and to basketball games, just breathing him in and then going back to the lab and trying to re-create his essence,” Lawson said.

Ewe de Rodney will be available for a month beginning April 1 at Shift Retail Lab, the da Vinci Center’s award-winning retail space where student entrepreneurs can showcase their work and test products, services and ideas with real-world customers. As part of the Shelfies program, at the end of the month, the team aims to take the feedback they get from the VCU community, make adjustments to the fragrance’s complex recipe and put it back on the shelves in coming months to test it again before rolling it out to a wider market.

“We’re thrilled to have Ewe de Rodney as one of our Shelfies,” said Garret Westlake, Ph.D., associate vice provost for innovation and executive director of the da Vinci Center. “We’re always sniffing around for the best ideas, and this one was a no-brainer. So many of our students have great Ram spirit, we’re always saying we wish we could just capture it and bottle it. And in this case, a team of enterprising students decided to literally do just that. I like it so much, I’m wearing it right now and I’m almost out of the prototype bottle they shared with me a few weeks ago.”

A photo of a man in a white libe coat holding a glass beaker with a red liquid in it. Next to him, a woman in a white labcoat is standing and looking at the bottle.
The team of students behind Ewe de Rodney spent countless hours in the lab concocting and testing the formula for the fragrance. (Thomas Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

The students put years into researching and developing Ewe de Rodney. They interviewed their peers and alums about their favorite VCU smells, toured several labs on the East Coast that manufacture fragrances and beauty products, and even worked with professors from the School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology and VCU Health’s Smell and Taste Disorders Center to better understand the science behind how humans smell.

“I’ve loved working on this product and getting to know people from across VCU,” said Shelby Atkins, a senior marketing major in the School of Business. “Both my parents went to VCU and even my grandmother is an alum, so it’s given me a real scents of pride to help develop a VCU fragrance. VCU is unlike any other university, and now there’s a smell unlike any other to match it.”