If you’re cultivating your perfect scent with homemade DIY perfume concoctions that garner rave reviews from your co-workers, or your purses and desk drawers are chock full of perfume, you might be destined for a career in fragrance. This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we’re chatting with JT Siems, the owner behind Sweet Tea Apothecary, a signature fragrance company. Scroll on for her transition into the world of beauty products after a career as a high school teacher.
Meet The Fragrance Pro: JT Siems
After teaching English literature in an inner city in California for several years, JT realized that as rewarding as teaching was, she felt emotionally drained. A move with her husband to Washington state inspired her to jump into a new career. Perfume making was a hobby she loved, so she decided to try selling her goods. JT combined her love of literature with scents and launched Sweet Tea Apothecary. With perfume oils like Sylvia, inspired by The Bell Jar, (an intoxicating blend of vanilla, clove and fig) and the sweet smelling Pemberley, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, JT has created unique fragrances that have landed her awards from the Seattle Artisan Fragrance Salon. “I’ve actually had English teachers order class sample sets to use for writing exercises, which is a huge honor to me,” says JT.
1. Go all in. When JT moved to Washington state, she jumped right into Sweet Tea Apothecary, rather than update her teaching credentials from California. While she admits it was stressful in the beginning to launch her perfume company, she says, “I might not ever have started without the push.” By taking the leap, she learned as she went along. “Starting is the fun part because you get out of your head.”
2. Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with your loved ones. Sure, it might seem like your friends and family think your solid perfume line is a cute “Etsy thing,” but your dedicated squad of friends will be there 110 percent to support you. Speak up. Tell them what you want to do. Discuss your plans, and get their feedback. “I was afraid my husband would be stressed about the money, but he was the best from the beginning. He thought it was really cool, and we used to get coffee and discuss what things I needed to think about, like marketing, packaging, shipping and my platform,” says JT.
3. Use criticism to your advantage. When heading to craft shows or getting your first Etsy reviews, you might feel stung by any negative feedback. But, JT thinks this is the ideal opportunity to learn what you could fix and tweak for next time. “When people criticize you, always respond with grace and good customer service. I’ve had a few angry emails and can honestly say that by not letting it get to me, we found peaceful and pleasant resolutions,” says JT.
4. Sniff out inspiration. When developing new fragrances, JT finds dozens of different ways to brainstorm. Reading, a whiff of a scent while out or a new ingredient that she’s excited to use can all help her formulate a perfume oil. “Or I pick ingredients based on lines they’ve written or offhand comments my subject has made. My unisex cologne Dharma Bum was inspired by a trip with my classmates in college, where we went to Big Sur and read The Dharma Bums,” says JT. This part of the creative process is JT’s absolute favorite thing about working for herself. “It’s a rush coming up with a new formula and immersing myself in a subject’s life.”
5. Be passionate about what you do. When potential customers and loyal fans see that you absolutely adore what you do, it shines through. When she developed a candle line for Sweet Tea Apothecary, the candles didn’t sell as well as the oils. She quickly realized that her perfumes and the stories behind them were what drew in her customers, and she stopped producing the candles. “People love seeing you get passionate about your product,” says JT.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Take Beginning Classes at The Institute of Art and Olfactory (starting at $50): Located in Los Angeles, this nonprofit organization offers open sessions for beginners to learn the basics of making perfume. For more advanced sessions, snag a spot with perfume professionals in two-day workshop intensives.
2. Start Your Creative Business with Etsy (Free): This online video from General Assembly will get you started on learning what you need to know to launch your Etsy shop from business basics to must-use online tools.
3. Plan a Literary Road Trip: If you’re like JT and find inspiration from your favorite writers like Cheryl Strayed and F. Scott Fitzgerald, follow their trails with this handy interactive US map from the folks at Atlas Obscura.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Sweet Tea Apothecary)