Perfumery at home: Meet Sheetal Wathodkar – Perfumer amongst homepreneurs

On some days, the air just smells right, even before we get out of bed. By chance or by divine providence, we breeze thru the day. Certain smells have the ability to lift up our mood. Could be a freshly brewed coffee for some, or could be smell of freshly cut grass for someone else. Our olfactory senses have the uncanny ability to take us back in time; through the memory lane. Not just that, we humans relied on our sense of smells since ancient times to forage for food, notice subtle changes in the weather, and alert an incoming danger. With the passing time, we now need stimulants to rekindle our sense of smell.

Before I formally introduce Sheetal Wathodkar, now would be the right time to read into the glossary of terms provided at the end of this post.

Sheetal Wathodkar, having quit the corporate sector 4 yrs back to nurture motherhood, she now runs a natural, bio-friendly perfumery from her home. She says this way she gets to enjoy both realms. Join me as Sheetal tells us more about the field of perfumery, and how this translated into a homepreneurial opportunity.

Hi Sheetal, happy to have you here. Perfumery is a very niche segment, more so like a secret society. We don’t get to read as much news about this segment in the media as compared to others. You cater your services to such closely guarded / watched circle. But, I am sure there is more to Sheetal than being a perfumer by trade. Tell us a bit more about yourself.

I was born & brought up in the Orange city Nagpur. I grew up in a middle class Marathi family along with my loving siblings and caring parents. I did my schooling from Somalwar High School Ramdaspeth and later did B. Tech in Cosmetic Technology from L.A.D & S.R.P College for Women, Nagpur

While I was expecting my baby I thought of studying further and I joined PGDBA program in Marketing management from Symbiosis Centre for distance learning and completed this course while taking care of my baby.

I just completed NAHA Level 1, a certification from NAHA (National association for Holistic Aromatherapy) to enhance my knowledge in the Aromatherapy field.

Wow, so in a nutshell, you are a cosmetologist armed with a marketing degree who has embarked on a journey to sell aromatic preparations that are high in the therapy-index. In more simpler terms, your preparations' are addressing the beauty and health aspects of the user, and marketing them yourself ensures that it reaches the right kind of audience. Your competitors must be seeing this as a deadly combination.

So, what is this fetish with smell? Your profession demands one to have heightened olfactory senses. Do you?

Since childhood I used to remember smells of soaps, talc, food unknowingly. I could feel that the breeze smells different in different weathers like summer or during navratri or Diwali. Strangely none of my friends could understand what I am talking about.

I studied cosmetology which taught us about making of various types of cosmetics, their quality assurance etc. I also studied Perfumes & Colours as a subject and I liked that. It was about basics of Perfumery.

Incidentally, I got the campus placement in the Perfume Company and there I really got the feel that this is it what I want to do. My childhood Odour memory helped me to learn things about perfumery.

I worked as a Fragrance Evaluator in the Fragrance & Flavour companies in Chennai & Bangalore post my degree education to evaluate their creations.

“Fragrance Evaluator”, that's a job profile I haven't heard until now. What does a Fragrance evaluator do?

Fragrance evaluator is a person who is the bridge between perfume creation and marketing. She/he is responsible for selecting and recommending fragrance samples according to customer requirements.

FE has to translate the market requirement into fragrance language for perfumers to create. She/he must understand market trends and also should have good smelling skills to guide the perfumer. FEvaluators work in a tandem, and they must share good understanding so that the outcome is best perfume.

Perfumers are very intuitive and Evaluators know what is required from the customer point of view.

Up until now, I haven't given much thought about perfumes per se, branded or otherwise. However, I would always make it a point to visit my local florist for a string of Jasmine Flowers or a lone Pink-Rose. I find their fragrance so enchanting. That is pretty much my knowledge about perfumes.

However, you on the other hand, deal with perfumes day-in and day-out. How it all did begin?

After working for almost 5 – 6 years with perfumery chemicals, I got breathing difficulties and I consulted many doctors. Almost every other person told me to change my profession. How could I leave something which I love to do?

I was blessed with a daughter and I had quit the full time career in Perfume Company. What I noticed during this time is that my breathing allergy problem was getting solved. I realized that remaining away from the chemicals relieved me from allergy and that gave me the “WOW” idea of making perfumes which do not contain synthetic chemicals.

I am a true craft lover. Creating something new is my passion. Creating could be anything from a craft article, a painting, greeting card, even a recipe...yeah..I enjoy cooking. Right from my school days I used to enjoy watching various craft shows and then making those craft projects...

I then felt, why not create perfumes? However, I didn’t get an opportunity to become a certified Perfumer as per the industry norms.

You were associated with the corporate sector. Then, you went solo. This calls for lot of determination, discipline and above all an inspiration so strong to pull one away from a secure paying job. How did this happen in your case?

I was a career woman at one time, and later, I found myself as a home manager balancing family and taking care of my baby. I wanted to spend more quality time with my daughter in her growing years at the same time I wanted to channelize my creative energies.

My daughter is my biggest inspiration to start this business.

I am a mompreneur now who is a mom first and then an entrepreneur.

I am loving every bit of it.

Bless your little bundle of joy!

Although France (Paris) seems to be the most sought after destination for perfume brands to launch their creation, the art of perfumery is not new to India.

Archaeological evidence suggest that ittar/attar (perfume) have been in vogue since the Indus valley civilization. The Mogul emperors used to gift ittardan (small crystal bottle that contain a highly concentrated preparation of perfume) as a mark of respect and goodwill.

Not just that, we have evidence in Sanskrit literature that cites usage of scented oil to enhance mood. ······· I do keep telling that homepreneurs should make Google their best friend·····

So, your uncanny ability to distinguish subtle change in odour could be perhaps a genetic memory, latent in people like me.What happened next when you decided to go solo? How did your idea take shape? Take us for a walk though your memory lane

AromaOrchard, this is the independent perfumery that I run from my house

AromaOrchard was conceived in my mind almost a year and half ago, in January 2011. Then I explored more and did brainstorming sessions on the feasibility and finally it started taking shape in August 2011. I started sharing my work on my blog in October 2011. I blogged about my perfumery work and shared my idea of Natural Perfumes with my close friends. Almost everybody felt a potential in it

My preparations (for Men and Women) are 100% natural, and are inspired from the beauty of this nature and the complexity of Botanical Essences. These perfumes are made from natural exotic perfumery ingredients & creatively hand blended in small batches using the traditional European perfumery technique.

The scent experience is subtle yet luxurious, personal, enriching to senses, and free from alcohol & synthetic chemicals. I believe this will be a great choice for those who prefer eco-friendly products and/or allergic to synthetic materials normally added to perfumes.
My preparations are specifically for all those people who love the fact that the perfume they are putting on their body is synthetic/chemical free and is EARTH friendly.

Now that you have your perfumery all set up, how did you market the product? I am sure your PGDBA would have come handy. What other services do you offer as a perfumer?

My blog visitors also contact me with their queries and product requests.

Right now I am selling my perfumes online through www.itshandmade.com. It is an interactive online market place for handmade, designer products. Profile | The Shop

I am an artist perfumer and I have a niche segment of consumers I want to cater to. Apart from my Perfumes I offer customized perfumery services which are unique. I conduct Perfume Parties to make an event more special. Personalized perfume for individuals is the ultimate luxury. To make the wedding day more special, I offer customized perfume blending service for Bride & Groom. Apart from this we also provide gifts and favours for special occasions

Word of mouth is of great help anyway. (Facebook is instrumental)

So much ...out of that little bottle... astonishing
Do you still remember the scent of your first sale?

Once my products were ready...I did my first exhibit during a community function in Diwali. The response was good because people were seeing 100% natural perfume for the very first time. First perfume was picked up by a lady who was the first visitor to my stall; she whiffed the perfumes and made a decision by herself to pick one bottle... I was very happy..

It feels great when you receive your first payment.

It was not new for me as I was working earlier in a very decent corporate job with all the fancies...But that was the money I got for working for someone else. The real charm is when you receive money for the work you have created all by yourself and when you are working as your own boss.

I was really touched when one woman entrepreneur placed a good big order for Women's day to gift it to her women employees...that was the best gesture done by a woman for a woman on women's day!!

Indeed, most often it is said about gifts that “it is the thought that matters”. However it takes a little extra effort (on the heart to shell out a good amount of cash) to put that thought into action. What were / are the challenges you had to encounter as a perfumer?

The ingredients used in perfumery are very exotic and sourcing them from right supplier is a task.

Also, I find it very difficult to ship my product as it is a liquid and have to depend on Speed Post service offered by India Post. They are doing the job very well.

Ah! You are the second person to mention about the Speed Post Service of India Post. Priya Agarwal says it has been a deal-saver for her.

Every industry has its share of scamsters, so are the legitimate opportunities. However one has to watch out for signs of scam to safeguard our interests. How is it with the perfume industry? How would you describe scamming in perfumery?

Perfume industry is very secretive in terms of what goes in the perfume formula. So, one has to be very careful not to hand out your formula to ANYONE by any means. People may ask very casually, take away your information and copy the perfume..All the hard work goes down the drain.

Perfumery is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!!!
It takes thousands of iterations to get that perfect smell in a bottle if you are original in your thought. The materials used for making perfumes need to be of very fine quality...inferior materials don't make them smell that good.

You need to have very good supplier who doesn't do adulteration...especially for materials which are imported like Lavender, Bulgarian Rose etc. And we have lots of such exotic ingredients in our perfumes!!!

This is one question I ask all homepreneurs.

How do you maintain focus and deliver your products on time? Especially when we work from home, the distractions are equally unpredictable. We homepreneurs derive strength from the support of dear ones at home. Is it the same with you as well?

It may sound simple:

As an entrepreneur & as a Mom you have the best of both the worlds. You get to do what you want professionally & be at home to take care of your family; but it is the most challenging. The business needs you and equally your family.

More than finding a balance, I feel prioritizing and time management is the key. We all are running against time and all have only 24 hours in a day. We need to find out how many hours we want to spend for business activities, family time & last but not the least “Me time”. You need to master the time management skill.

We wear too many hats and we are care too much which brings in the guilt. When you are working you feel your child is neglected and when you are playing with your child, you feel work is taking back seat and you need to put in efforts to become successful. To overcome this guilt is a tough cord to strike but it is not impossible

You need to get inspired to do something good and need a sound support to execute the idea. I have all that given by my loving family. My daughter is my inspiration & husband is my great support. We together manage the household chores, take care of our daughter and try to give best values to her. I focus on very important work when my daughter goes to preschool or takes nap. Checking mails, social media networking happens when she is playing.

My husband works in IT and has his work pressures but he is always enthusiastic about my work, my ideas. He guides me in the financial aspects. My daughter recharges me with her never ending energy! My mother, my siblings and my close relatives from husband’s side encourage me to stretch to achieve my dream. I have few close friends who give me the strength I need.

YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE

What would be your word of advice for aspiring homepreneurs who might be interested in perfumery? Could you please share some trusted resource (so that they are not misguided by fake sites when they are beginning to think about it)

There is whole lot of information available online..Thanks to information technology. You can get almost any information on any topic sitting in the comfort of your home. I learnt a lot of time management techniques from various mom's in business who are working from home...you just need to Google it and you have it. I listen to the Blog-talk radio by Lara Galloway, the mom biz coach.

However, for perfumery related info, here are my recommendations

  • http://www.leffingwell.com/
  • http://www.basenotes.net/content/
  • http://www.perfumerflavorist.com/
  • http://www.isipca.fr/isipca/home.nsf/P_CONS

Where do you see AromaOrchard heading in the next 5 yrs?

I have always been an ear and shoulder to lot of my friends and family. I can feel and listen to people deeply and relate to their emotional ups and down. In the coming years I want to marry this ability with my knowledge of perfumes to help people overcome their emotional problems with the use of their very own customised perfume.

Smelling Good and Feeling Good !!

Last, but not the least, AromaOrchard’s journey thus far appears to be highly fulfilling. However, most readers are still apprehensive about the thought of working from home. What would you like to tell them, so that they can find their inner strength to plunge forward with their dreams, just like you did?

I have just started shaping my dream and the journey so far is very exciting, very very encouraging. I feel there is a place for everybody in this huge market (perfumery, as this is where I belong) as long as you believe you can create a difference.

When you are inspired with a dream, God has hit the ball into your court & you have to hit it back with a commitment. Believe in your dream & your abilities; put your heart and soul into it... Success will follow.

Learn to put yourself first, hardest to do.

How can you be there for anyone else if you are not there for yourself.

Yes, to put ourselves first is indeed the hardest thing to do. May be that is what drives all entrepreneurs. I am sure even the most inane minds will find wisdom in your words, and gather the courage to "try", before concluding if working from home is a practical possibility for their circumstances.

Thank you once again Sheetal for taking the time and talking to us about your journey thus far. We all wish you all the very best for AromaOrchard, and hope to see you as a master perfumer in the coming future.

Readers, you can connect with Sheetal @Twitter, @LinkedIN, @Facebook.

Glossary of terms :

Perfume : A substance, extract, or preparation for diffusing or imparting an agreeable or attractive smell, especially a fluid containing fragrant natural oils extracted from flowers, woods, etc., or similar synthetic oils.Perfume - is derived from latin Per - fumum which means through smoke

Perfumer : A person who makes perfumes

Perfumery : A place where perfumes are prepared

Cosmetology : Study of cosmetics preparation and its uses.

Cosmetologist : An expert in the preparation and use of cosmetics

Aroma Therapy : The art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.

Comments

  1. By Subramaniam

    Reply

    • By Sheetal

      Reply

    • By Sunil Kumar

      Reply

  2. By RAO

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*