Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview With Sheetal Wathodkar, Founder AromaOrchard


Featuring Woman Entrepreneur

Sheetal Wathodkar,
Founder Aroma Orchard
http://aromaorchard.blogspot.com/

[Category: Strike the Niche Segment
Organic Products]

Sheetal Wathodkar developed breathing problems while working as a fragrance evaluator. Instead of changing her profession she found an opportunity to cater to that target segment which likes eco-friendly products and/or is allergic to synthetic perfumes. Read more to know her story.

Q. Why don’t you tell us more about yourself – your experience, your passions and your education? Do you have entrepreneurial roots?

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. I worked as a Fragrance Evaluator in the Fragrance & Flavor companies in Chennai & Bangalore post my degree education.

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 took a break for almost 4 years to enjoy motherhood before embarking on entrepreneurship. Right now I am working on a certification from NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) to enhance my knowledge in the Aromatherapy field.

I do not have entrepreneurial roots, I am the first generation entrepreneur in my family. 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. Right from my school days I used to enjoy watching various craft shows and then making those craft projects.

Q.  Is Aroma Orchard your first entrepreneurial venture? 

Yes, AromaOrchard is my first baby step towards entrepreneurship.

Q. What made you decide to start your own business? In other words, when did the entrepreneurial bug bite you? 

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 channalize my creative energies. My daughter is my biggest inspiration to start this business and I am loving every bit of it.

Q. Tell us more about Aroma Orchard.

AromaOrchard Natural Perfumes is a small home-based independent perfumery house offering 100% natural perfumes for Men & Women. AromaOrchard Natural Perfumes are inspired from the beauty of the 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.  AromaOrchard perfumes provide luxurious scent experience that is subtle, personal, free from alcohol & synthetic chemicals and is enriching to senses. 

Q. How did you arrive at this idea? What made you sure that this idea made a good business? I believe you have education in cosmetology. Did your education lead you to start the business of perfume? Why not go for a good job career in your field?

Since childhood I used to remember smells of soaps, talcs, 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. Incidently, 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 odor memory helped me to learn things about Perfumery. I was a fragrance evaluator and used to work with the perfumers to evaluate their creations.

As mentioned before, creating something new is my passion. I then felt why not create perfumes? However, I didn’t get an opportunity to become a certified Perfumer as per the industry norms. 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. 

These perfumes are a great option to a perfume lover who is sensitive to synthetic perfumes. It will be a good option for those who love eco-friendly products and all those people who are looking for something unique, artisan crafted, handmade products.  It is 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.

Q. Did you validate this business idea? 

I started writing blog about my perfumery work and shared my idea of Natural Perfumes with my close friends. Almost everybody felt a potential in it & they are willingly spreading the word about my business.

Q. When did it start?

AromaOrchard was conceived in my mind almost a year back, in January 2011. Then I explored more and did brain storming sessions on the feasibility and finally it started taking shape in August 2011. I started sharing my work on my blog http://AromaOrchard.blogspot.com in October 2011.

Q. What is your business model? Are you selling your perfumes through online/offline stores or do you have your own e-commerce set-up?

Right now I am selling my perfumes online through www.nethaat.com. It is an interactive online market place for handmade, designer & eco-friendly products. My blog visitors also contact me with their queries and product requests. Word of mouth is of great help anyway.

Q. What has been your turnover? Are you profitable now? 

We have just launched and the response so far is exciting.

Q.  How do you handle competition?

I feel there is a place for everybody in this huge market. 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 your event more special, personalized perfumes for individuals which is the ultimate luxury. To make the wedding day more special, I offer customized perfume blending service for Bride & Groom. Apart from this I also provide gifts and favors for special occasions. 

Q. Did you start this venture alone, or with a co-founder?

Yes, I started it alone.

Q. How have you funded your business [starting from when it was incorporated]?

It is self-funded so far.

Q. Is there any plan for any outside funding? 

I am not looking for outside funding at this stage. If future unfolds any exciting opportunity which requires more capital then I may consider outside funding.

Q. What have been the challenges of being a mompreneur or a woman entrepreneur – finding the business partner, financing, recruiting, selling etc.? Which in your experience has been the most difficult challenge to overcome? 

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 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 a 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.

Q. What message would you like to convey to the aspiring women entrepreneurs?

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 - that is hardest to do. How can you be there for anyone else if you are not there for yourself?

Q. Last, a little about your family – how did you manage to strike a balance between the home, kids and the new venture? How did you manage all the work of a start-up on your own along with a family to take care of?

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 & my 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 industry and has his work pressures but he is always enthusiastic about my work and 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.