Creating scents that are "mindfully formulated" to make you smell good and lift your mood, Joyce Lian tells us about her love story with perfumery.
We love entrepreneurs and small business owners at Honeycombers, which is why we’ve created Launchpad, a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too) that encourages connection, business support and community. It’s a privilege and pleasure to learn from so many talented and inspiring folks, so we’ve decided to share the love by interviewing some of the lovely Launchpad members. Looking for inspiration? Check out how Joyce Lian, the founder of Scent Journer, gets it done like a boss.
What is your backstory and why did you decide to launch your business?
I discovered my love for the art and science of perfumery in 2013 when I was studying perfumery and cosmetic science at Singapore Polytechnic. Before graduating from NUS, majoring in chemistry, I already had extensive experience in top fragrance houses such as International Flavors & Fragrances Inc and Symrise. I’d spend hours memorising the scent of different ingredients to perfect my olfactory skills in the laboratory. I also had experience evaluating and analysing raw materials in fragrances with various extraction methods.
Before starting Scent Journer, I was a cosmetic formulator working on sucrose ester emulsifiers. Then, I moved on to do sales in a bank. But I wanted to go back to the fragrance industry as it’s my passion and I love smelling and sharing my creations.
So, I quit my job and joined a venture-building program with NUS. I spoke to over 300 people to understand consumers’ pain points on fragrances. I discovered that many people had adverse experiences with perfumes, and I knew I could create better. That’s why I founded Scent Journer to empower people to feel their best with our fragrances.
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was the sourcing of perfumery-grade alcohol for Scent Journer. We talked to an established company to purchase alcohol, but seven months later when we were ready to purchase, it was discontinued.
Our motto has always been: if it’s not something we’ll use, we won’t launch it. Coming from a science background, I knew that the common alcohol found in perfumes is usually denatured with methanol – and methanol is toxic. Scent Journer’s mission is to empower people with scents. So, having alcohol that wasn’t denatured with methanol was extremely important to us.
We want whatever we create to be aligned with Scent Journer’s 5 pillars of “mindfully formulated”. We searched and eventually found the sugarcane alcohol we’re using now. We’re also proud that it’s more sustainable.
How do you stay motivated and energised?
I’m very fortunate to work on my passion. Of course, there are always challenges. What I like to do is plan my goals and work backwards. It helps me get a clear overview of what needs to be done and set some priorities. That way, I feel less cluttered and problems are less complicated. It keeps me motivated to look forward to achieving a new milestone.
My role in Scent Journer is a creative one. I like to explore new ideas for inspiration. Also, I’m lucky to have friends working in similar industries as I get the latest insights. I love to smell other new creations in the market. To me, it’s like exploring a new art piece – smelling how different notes and accords harmonise together.
How do you deal with self-doubt or criticism?
Self-doubt comes from being unclear about certain ideas. Coming from a scientific analytical background, I love to read articles to clear up any doubts I have. I also find someone who has more expertise to learn from. It’s important for me to acknowledge that although I’m young and I don’t know everything, I can always get my questions answered by someone who’s good in that area.
When I’m in the product development phase, I love to test my formulation with people – even loyal customers. There’ll always be criticism, but if I know customers love my products, I won’t be that affected by someone who isn’t one.
Favourite place to work?
A place that’s really quiet for me to get in the zone.
Can you share a work ‘mantra’ that you use?
Things will eventually work out as long as I try my hardest and set my mind to it.
One thing you can keep talking about for hours?
Anything about fragrance!
Your go-to self-care activity?
Walking around nature, especially in the forest. Nature is peaceful; my mind is clearer after a walk in the forest. I often find new inspiration by smelling flowers during my hike! One time, I found this really interesting fragrant cannon ball flower.
One piece of advice to your younger self?
You’re doing well. When you do your best and put your heart and passion into it, things will eventually work out.
Get in touch with Joyce Lian online.
Launchpad is a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too) that encourages connection, business support and community. It is designed to make the entrepreneurial journey not only easier, and more successful, but also a whole lot more fun. We offer almost daily activities for members to connect, along with weekly masterclasses, member networking roulette, small-business mentoring and media profiles on Honeycombers. Check it out and join us!