The moment you step out of the Norway film following your Viking adventure on the Maelstrom in Disney World’s EPCOT, you are overcome with a scent so intoxicating; you would think that the Puffin’s Roost has been enchanted by pesky trolls. Alas, what you smell does not stem from troll incantations; it is Laila: The Essence of Norway. Created by designer Geir Ness, this sweet smelling perfume is truly the most glorious aroma to ever grace your nostrils.


Though our dear Maelstrom is no longer in commission, The Puffin’s Roost is functioning at full force and still houses the Norwegian brands we have come to know and love in EPCOT. The most prominent of which is Laila. Mr. Geir Ness hails from Oslo, Norway, and has a very inspiring entrepreneurial story. With dreams of becoming an actor, Ness moved to Los Angeles, CA in the hopes of starting his career. To pay the bills, he worked as a fragrance model in a department store. He was a huge hit, what with his accent, blonde hair, blue eyes, and muscular physique. Often, customers asked him where he was from and what fragrances came from his home country.


Ness realized that Norway was not known for any fragrances, and determined that he would change that. His mother, Laila, instilled within him that he could do anything that he dreamed of. With her as his muse, Ness designed his first fragrance: Laila. Ness could not afford very much, so with a cheap suit, a red carpet that he found in the trash, and a camera, he launched a brand.


He asked students from his acting school to assist him in pretending that he was a huge celebrity back in Norway. At a publicity event that he planned at an LA Nordstrom’s, he rolled out his red carpet, donned his $5 suit, and acted like he was a celebrity. With the students flanking him and acting as if he were famous, he drew a crowd and landed his first order of 1000 bottles by Nordstrom’s. The huge department store believed that this order of 1000 bottles would last them at least 3 months, but the perfume sold out in the first hour that it was on the shelves and even had a waiting list of over 50 people.

This perfume launched into the line of scents that he has today and the many products under the Laila name. Ness is so inspired by his mother that he even puts her signature on each bottle he sells. Mr. Geir Ness became a Norwegian celebrity in the United States almost over night, but he did not stop there. Always keeping his mother’s teachings close to his heart, Ness continues to donate much of his earnings to organizations such as the Los Angeles Aids Ride, Norwegian Cancer Society, Chicago’s Children Medical Research Foundation, Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the I Am 4 Kids Foundation which instills in children that they can do anything so long as they believe in themselves.


In 2009, Ness joined up with Norwegian Olympic Gold Medalist, Grete Waitz, to help her raise money for cancer research as she ran the New York City Marathon. Waitz was unable to run when the time came because of her weakened state due to chemotherapy. So, Ness ran in her place, clocked a time of 4 hours and 28 minutes, and raised $300,000 for cancer research.

Ness has made Laila so popular that it is now featured in gift baskets at the Tony Awards, the Grammy’s, MTV Awards, Miss Universe, Miss Sport Football, and the Euro-Vision Song Contest. Laila is in such high demand and so relies on the presence of its strong creator, that Ness travels 285 days a year to market his brand. He was also picked up by Disney and is featured in EPCOT and on the Disney Cruise Line. So, Geir Ness spends the majority of his time now in the Disney locations.


If you need a little boost today, just think of Geir Ness, a man who is the living embodiment of faking it until you become it. His spirit and work ethic are proof that you can accomplish absolutely anything that you set your mind to. Get to it.


If you want even more of Geir, take a listen to my exclusive interview with him on episode 1 of the Keep Moving Forward podcast. If you like it, please tell me so by leaving KMF a review on iTunes!

My Interview with Geir Ness – Branding the Essence of a Country