CORPORATE TO SMALL BUSINESS: A FOUNDER'S PERSPECTIVE
Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood.
My mother, father, sister, and uncle all started and ran their own successful organizations. Early in my life, I could have gone into my family's business—a small local chain of curtain and home goods stores—but I felt I needed to prove myself rather than start as the "boss’s daughter", so I chose a different path. I went to college in 1974, earned my degree in biology (narrowly beating out genetic psychology), and started down that path.
I felt I needed to prove myself rather than start as the "boss’s daughter."
That degree landed me in a quality control job in the fragrance ingredients business. Back then, no one really gave much thought to the fragrance industry. Most people working in it just happened into it by chance. But it was a great landing. From there I got my first job as a chemist at a fragrance design company. I knew by then that lab work wasn’t for me, and when an opportunity at Revlon came, I jumped at it and my true corporate experience began.
As a junior Fragrance Evaluator at Revlon, I learned everything about fragrances and how they were applied to every type of cosmetic and beauty product you can imagine. It was complex and fascinating; I loved all of it, especially the business aspect. I realized that not only was I passionate about fragrance, but business as well. Then, when my manager left the company, I applied for her position and the rest became history. Another step up the ladder.
I spent 20 years at Revlon and worked my way up to Vice President with global responsibility for all their fragrances (and eventually hair care/hair color), becoming a fragrance and product expert with a PhD in corporate politics. Revlon had great people and it was a fabulous yet challenging experience. I took that extensive knowledge of fragrance design and manufacturing to a small family-owned business that had just been acquired by Private Equity. This was my entrance into the world of small business. Fast forward another 20 years and that business wasn't so small anymore, and in 2017 was acquired by Firmenich, one of the largest fragrance companies in the world.
Four decades in corporate and it was time to retire.
Four decades in corporate and it was time to retire. While I greatly respected the new company, now was the time to follow my genetic path of entrepreneurship. The family business had not been doable thus far, and so I seized the moment. With a novel idea and a desire to create something for my family, Artistscent was born.
I went from knowing exactly what I was doing to having no clue.
To say that the corporate and small business worlds are different is quite the understatement. I went from knowing exactly what I was doing to having no clue. Starting during the peak of Covid also brought additional challenges we could have never expected. Intuition which had been so dependable in my career was gone, and while there were a lot of things that were familiar, there were many more things that were completely new. And so another steep learning curve began.
- Sales are a constant rollercoaster ride. One day business is great, then next, not so much. Sustainability is not guaranteed and nothing can be taken for granted.
- Corporate intuition does not always translate to small business strategy. Many good ideas simply don’t work.
- The small business community is comprised of very special and hard working people.
- A novel idea and a great product that people love can almost carry a business on its own.
- Social media – ugh!
I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
Now, almost 3 years later, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. This business has given my family the opportunity to get closer and learn about each other in a completely different way. We all have distinct backgrounds and styles, and while my extensive management experience comes in handy, you must approach things differently when you are working with those you love and trust. Navigating all of this has been challenging (to say the least), but the truth is that Artistscent saved our family during a very difficult time and for that I will be forever grateful.