Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
What drives women to become entrepreneurs?
I caught up with Linda Pilkington, founder of Ormonde Jayne perfume to ask her what inspired her to set up her business – and why she has a passion for perfume.
What was your first perfume?
The first perfume I remember buying for myself was White Musk from Body Shop, but my first expensive perfume was given to me by my mother – it was Madame Rochas – it had been given to her by a male patient as a thank you gift – but my mother felt uncomfortable wearing a perfume given to her by another man, and so she gave it to me. I loved the bottle – it was a cognac colour with a gold top – for me it was the height of sophistication and glamour. I loved looking at it on the table in my bedroom. I asked her for more bottles – and asked her friends for their empty bottles and soon I had a collection. I used to smell and spray. It was a visit from one of my mother’s friends that linked perfume with memories – as she said certain perfumes reminded her of events in her life.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?
I had a good upbringing and was always encouraged to be independent. I babysat and used to make things such as scented cushions and candles as gifts and to sell.
I set up my first proper business when I was in South America with a boyfriend. We were travelling and decided to stay there longer – but after three weeks was bored and had to do something! A phone call with my mother where I was talking about the heat prompted her to suggest that I sell ice cream! I immediately started to research about machines and recipes and had help from a friend’s German uncle living close by who used to work for a company that made ice cream and introduced me to an ‘expert’. I learn a lot about freezing points and how expensive the recipes could be!
I started by making soft ice cream which I sold by tills in supermarkets – each machine made 120 ice creams a day and soon I had them in 9 stores – I paid $50 rent to have the machine in each store.
Then I opened an ice cream parlour – but realised people didn’t want to eat ice cream in the mornings – so sold croissants as well – and then I got an alcohol license to be able to sell cocktails and desserts in the evenings.
I was working 18 hosd tur days but I loved it.
My boyfriend wanted to live in the countryside , so we rented a farm – soon we were growing soya beans as well as running the ice cream business.
What happened next?
My mother became ill and I came back to the UK to look after her. She passed away sadly. In my absence the ice cream business went downhill. I decided to close it and stay in the UK.
I started to work for 2 Japanese scientists in Bond Street who analysed the impact of pesticides on crops. By chance I met somebody who knew that I had made candles when I was younger. He asked if I still did, and could I make a candle for Chanel for the opening of a new fine jewellery sore. He also invited me to the launch which was held at the French embassy. I made some excellent connections and decided to set up my own company. I was approached by several high end boutiques including Burberry to make candles and perfume.
20 years ago I decided I wanted to create my own perfumes using only luxury ingredients. I was approached by a perfumier who wanted to work with me as I had an alcohol licence. He crated a perfume )Molecule) which became very successful, and would require automation. That wasn’t a route I wanted to take. I wanted a high end luxury perfume house with a shop.
I have ridden many storms – including the 2008 financial crisis , a 300% increase in rent, and now of course the pandemic.
Where do you start when you want to create a perfume?
Usually I start with what I want the end result to be – how I want it to smell and how I want people to feel when they wear it. Then I work out which ingredients will help me to create it. My latest collection La Route de la Soie is different as it is based on the different flowers and scents along the silk route, and so I have created seven perfumes to capture different places along the route – only four have been released so far.
I have tried all four of these – its hard to choose a favourite!
I suggest to my clients that they try a different perfume each day – see how they feel as the day wears on – and how it smells on their clothes the next morning?
Why does the same perfume smell differently on different people?
A lot of it is down to diet and how it reacts on our skin. If somebody has been drinking lots of water and eating salads it will smell differently on them to the person who has been eating lots of garlic or a curry – but eventually the scent will settle as it was intended.
How will the coronavirus affect your business moving forward?
We had already made changes in the shop before lockdown- limiting numbers of customers in the shop, having hand sanitisers and changing how our testers were handled and sanitised between each spray, door handles and counters cleaned between customers. We have testers available to those who shop online and in terms of the launch for my current range, we had venues booked all over the world but that has been changed to chatting to the press via Zoom
What tips would you give to other women looking to set up a business?
You have to want a bigger challenge
Do something that makes you happy
If you have an idea think about how that that would work. If your passion is baking can you take it online? How will you manage your overheads?
I have a friend who had semi retired in her 50s. She has quite a large bust and always complained that she was unable to buy pretty lingerie. She started her own company selling nice bras in large sizes. She made sure the packaging would fit through a letterbox so make the logistics of sending out easier. She recognised a problem and came up a solution – and has made a fortune!
You have to be agile and be able to find solutions to problems.
You can find all of Linda’s perfume creations at Ormonde Jayne