By Laura Fay The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Danielle Fleming mixes her two passions -- fine fragrance and psychology -- at Note Fragrances, the custom perfume boutique she founded in downtown Scranton.
Discerning her dream was not easy, though.
Ms. Fleming was working on a master's degree in counseling/psychology at Marywood University when she started a small business selling scented personal-care products in search of a new way to test theories about the relationship between aromas and the brain.
Eventually, she realized she had to decide which path she would follow.
"My dream was to become a psychologist, and my dream definitely shifted to becoming an entrepreneur," Ms. Fleming said. "And at some point in my career, I had to decide: Do I want to be a psychologist, or do I want to be an entrepreneur?"
The decision was difficult, but, in true psychologist fashion, Ms. Fleming decided what to do by paying attention to her behavior. She took note of what she did every morning when she woke up to figure out what she loved doing most.
"Every morning consistently I woke up and did the business," instead of studying psychology, she said.
After she finished her master's degree, Ms. Fleming worked for Firmenich, the world's largest privately owned perfume and flavor company. Working at Firmenich played a role in the development of Note because it taught Ms. Fleming about the industry and the science behind fragrance.
"Perfumery itself is a very mysterious and magical world, and a lot of people don't know what happens behind the scenes, how you really make something smell. ... I wanted it to be a nice blend of learning and a fun and exciting experience," she said.
Ms. Fleming said she spent two years developing Note and had friends and family try the custom perfume experience at her home before she launched the business in her storefront at Wyoming Avenue and Spruce Street in 2013.
The custom perfume experience includes some explanation of the art and science behind perfumery and freedom to try the available scents to create the perfect blend. Ms. Fleming and her workers explain the "perfumer's organ," a collection of 50 scents, and customers sit at an individual work station until they are ready to have someone actually blend the oils for their fragrance. Note is the only place of its kind, and Ms. Fleming said her process is patent pending.
"They are creating something that's uniquely theirs. It's kind of like a custom-tailored suit; it's made just for you. (The fragrance) fits you perfectly," Ms. Fleming said. "You're in the driver's seat."
The knowledgeable staff and crisp black and white decor make Note feel luxurious but not pretentious, and the slogan "Discover your scent story ..."is put into action for each customer.
"The concept was built to actually put the experience of creation into the customer's hands and to create something that was really fun and unique," Ms. Fleming said.
Marketing coordinator Devin Phillips said Ms. Fleming's dynamic relationship with customers and her open-mindedness make the business work.
"She's there to serve them and you can tell," Ms. Phillips said about her boss's attitude toward customers. "Her vision and creativity are incredible."
Ms. Fleming's shop has four part-time employees and one intern, and their training is intense. It takes about two months to be ready to run a custom perfume experience because workers learn about the chemistry and math behind creating a fragrance as well as customer service, marketing and sales skills.
Another motivation for Ms. Fleming to open Note was her feeling that choosing the newest or most famous fragrance at a department store is not personal enough.
"I felt that ... only you can connect with a fragrance. What you love and what brings up emotions and pleasant memories for you is specific to just you," Ms. Fleming said. "I want to take the creation part of fragrance and put it onto the consumer side, as opposed to us as perfumers saying 'Here, here's what we think you should wear.'"