#SWAAYthenarrative

Uncovering The Scent Of Yourself With Perfume Designer, Sue Phillips

People

Your favorite perfume has the ability to turn your day around, evoke a memory and finish off a look.


But even your favorite perfume isn't truly yours. That Dior, Chanel, Marc Jacobs in your bedroom - they're made for the public - mass produced and widely distributed. While they're wonderful - they're not unique to you.

The Scentarium

Sue Phillips, who started her career with Elizabeth Arden, then went to Lancôme, and then on to Tiffany as VP of Marketing - having grown within the industry ranks - realized there was an opportunity to go out on her own and tailor scents to your liking. "Being in the industry, and being a woman in an industry predominantly run by men, I felt it was very important to make a statement and to start doing one on my own," she says. "Now, customization is everywhere."

We met with Phillips in her "Scentarium" where she walked us through her formulation techniques and how our personality quirks would come to define our custom scents.

“For fragrance, much like in life, in food, in music, there’s a beginning, middle and an end," she begins. "In food you have your appetizer, main course and dessert. In music, you have your overture, your main theme and your finale. In fragrance there’s a beginning, middle and end. So when you first spray a fragrance you smell the top note for the beginning and usually they’re the light, bright citrusy notes, and you can smell them from about 10-15 minutes on the skin. And then it mixes with your body chemistry and then come the middle notes: the florals, spicy and fruity. And then, after about two hours, the base notes begin to kick in and it should last for about 4-8 hours.”

The session with Phillips in her Scentarium (a magically-lit room filled with the potions, perfumes and scents of the world) is intended to be both engaging and educational, during which we build our perfume from beginning, to middle and end. We discover that the biggest difference between men and women's fragrances is the base notes are much more prevalent and bolder in men's. Where a woman's fragrance is lighter, more floral letting the top agents do a lot of the work - the big base notes of men's cologne define their scents.

Sue Phillips. Photo credit Crains New York

She also informs us as we roam through her collection of bottles that one of the world's most beloved perfumes - Chanel No.5 - was created entirely because of a perfumer's mistake. Coco Chanel's perfumer's assistant, Jacques, put too much of the ingredient "aldehydic" (a powdery scent) in the perfume and with that, became the most profitable mistake in fragrance history. It will celebrate it's hundredth anniversary in three years, and is still in the top ten best-selling scents every year.

“This is all about you and your DNA and what matches your personality” she says.

Upon arrival, we take the scent quiz. “I do the scent quiz for several reasons," she says. "It’s to determine your olfactive personality. It’s a lifestyle quiz: it has nothing to do with fragrance, I’ll be able to tell from the answer whether you like fresh, floral or oriental.” And that she does. After collating our answers she's able to direct us in the path of our preferred flavors and intuitively points out what these answers mean for our taste profile.

There lay 18 different perfumes with which she uses to create our scents. Each of them are individually hand-made by her with an array of flavours falling into eight different categories: citrus, fruity, oriental, ozonic, chypre, woodsy, lavender and musk.

Phillips's title is that of Perfume Designer - rather than perfumer (which involves a little too much chemistry and not enough personal interaction for this entrepreneur), which means that she can deconstruct your favorite perfumes into these 18 different flavor profiles and explain them back to you. For this reason, she has been commissioned by an array of corporate companies for events that invite an audience to participate in perfume deconstruction or creation.

Using scent strips, we co-ordinate our formulas. She informs our decisions based on how robust or round the collection of aromas are to her. If our top note is too sweet, she adds a musk, if bottom is too spicy, she adds a lavender note, all while keeping in mind our tastes and likings from the quiz.

"Isn't it amazing how out of these blends you can find something that totally fits your personality, and out of these 18 we can find millions of scents."

-Sue Phillips.

Phillips's "Scentertaining" experience is really just that - a fun ay to understand what your nose likes and why it likes it. Your personality is fully reflective in the vial of liquid you walk away with.

It's no wonder that her scentarium has played host to guests such Katie Holmes, Zendaya and Jamie Foxx among others - this really is a most unique and fun experience for anyone that loves fragrance.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.