Updated: May 23
Dear Fragrance Fairy,
I want to start making perfumes and have my own fragrance range just like you! I’m really passionate about this and I want to learn about as much as I can but I don’t have any money for training. Please help!
Poor but Passionate Polly
Well, Polly, let’s look at this sensibly. If you don’t have any money to get trained in the art of making perfumes, then you won’t be able to invest in your own perfume range.
Who doesn’t want to have a bank tell you that your account is overflowing?! But to get there, it takes the funds to make your product, the range of oils that are needed, the bottles, the labels, the marketing, the advertisement, the website, the packaging, the PR…
And the list could go on and on. We didn’t even get into lab space, rentals, taxes (please, let’s not even go there!).
So, Polly, if you are serious about creating a range of perfumes, the very first step is to get proper training. It is not only about your passion and interest, unless you just want a hobby.
Let’s take becoming a chef for example. How about Gordon Ramsay? Do you think that he became the chef that he is, with world-wide restaurants, and currently holding seven Michelin stars (as of 2020) without any formal training?
Did he read a few recipe books, look at a few blogs, and watch a few cooking demos on YouTube and decide that he could do it? NO. He had to have proper training which is why, in addition to studying for a degree, he apprenticed under top chefs in the UK and in France.
How can you plan to stand out from the crowd if you do not have formal training under your belt? Will you ever be able to create a masterpiece?
Sure, you can learn plenty online, but will you have the genuine foundation that is necessary? And to go back to your question, you need money (unless you plan to be the one-in-a-billion that makes it big with a secret perfume recipe from your great-aunt Doris who trained in Grasse for twelve years in the mid-1900s). And even then, look at all of the up-front costs (besides education!!) that I mentioned before.
Sure, you know “free” ways to learn, like joining a forum online. But remember, most of the people there are just like you, they are learners, and who's to say the way they tell you to do something is the correct method?
How can you tell the participants who have genuine knowledge versus those who appear to have knowledge?
Anyone can sound convincing with a few scientific words! How will you deal with conflicting information that you will read on a forum?
Who will you look toward to give you the “real” answers?
Ever heard of the blind leading the blind?
What about your peers' suggestion of connecting with a perfumer and trying to get tips, advice and hints from them?
Do you think that someone who spent thousands of $$$ on their education and years of studying will give it to you for free? Will they give away their family silver?
Not likely. Sure they might be flattered that you look up to them but they are far too busy to give the real knowledge you need for free.
Just recall Phoebe teaching Joey how to play the guitar, despite the fact that she cannot read notes or know how to make chords! Oh yeah, but it was going to be free for Joey.
If you want to just throw together a concoction to sell, you will present yourself to your customers like a sports announcer who knows nothing about the game. Fluff. But you will be able to tell them that you think your perfume smells pretty!
Through training, you will be able to share with your customers the theory, reasoning and purpose of your creation. This will forge a trust in you and your product, allowing you to build a relationship. And with that relationship comes repeat customers, further sales, and clients who hear about you through word of mouth.
If your goal is to be a perfumer with your own brand and line of products, you have to remember that this is a career choice. Career, not hobby.
According to dictionary.com, a career is an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework. Part of your investment in your career is your education (and continued education, life-long learning).
If this isn’t convincing enough, we all know that “time is money.” You said that you will learn online and from a few books you got at the library. Great! But how long will it take you to learn everything that you could have learned in a dedicated program? Are you disciplined enough to work at it every day? Will you have reliable sources to whom you can pose your educated questions?
All of this will set back the amount of time to establish your own company and your own fragrance line.
My courses can be done, when dedicated, in eight weeks. But if you prefer to spend over a year (at least!) scouring the internet for half-truths, be my guest.
Start self studying now with books and forums and come back to me in 3 months and show me how much of an expert you are.
You will probably find that you learn more in one day from a good, experienced, grounded instructor, than you can in months online (or with other wanna-be perfumers). Think of all the time, money, energy and resources you could save by making the initial investment in a course,
and how much faster you can get to market before your competitors who HAVE invested in their brand.
I would suggest that you try a short course or even a one day workshop to see if you really could hack it in the perfume industry, it's not as easy as it looks,
Too many people want to own a bakery until they realize that bakers start their job around 3 a.m.! But if you have the passion for perfume as I have, then that will not deter you.
There are a few programs and courses that are highly reputable (in addition to mine), ranging from 1 day to two weeks or even a couple of years. By starting with a shorter course, not only will you learn the proper foundation to perfumery, but you will also learn if you genuinely like it or not!
Maybe you will change your mind, or maybe it will help to reinforce your passion. But either way, you will have the foundation and skills to make the right choice.
Bottom line: If you have no money then it's a bad idea to start a business, if you do have money but are not willing to use it to train in the industry then perhaps you aren't taking your business idea seriously enough.
No education means no longevity in the business. In one word, INVEST. You will thank me for it and so will your customers.