I met Aggie Sygnarowicz when I was a beauty writer at Glamour and she was the beauty assistant (check out this vintage 2007 Girls in the Beauty Department post from when she was a cute lil' intern!). So imagine how excited I was a month or so ago when the press release for Aggie's new fragrance brand Nomaterra landed in my inbox!


Nomaterra is a very cool concept; the scents are based on specific locations and come in chic travel-friendly packaging. But beyond being intrigued by the products themselves, I just had to pick Aggie's brain a little about how she got this whole thing started--I mean, what beauty-obsessed girl hasn't fantasized about creating products of her own? Here's a Q&A I did with Aggie that'll give you a little peek into the world of a new beauty entrepreneur. (Tell me at the end whether you think you'd have it in you to launch YOUR own brand!)

When did you first get the idea to start a fragrance brand?

I knew pretty early on while working at Glamour that I would eventually want to start my own beauty brand. I think I would talk about it all the time too, because former interns have recalled those aspirations! As a beauty assistant at Glamour--my favorite magazine growing up--I got to interview experts in the industry, people I had looked up to my whole life. I met well-known perfumers and learned about their process of creation ... the story, the inspiration, the science, the meaning behind the bottle, the production process, and how it all came together with marketing in the end. There's a lot more to it than people think. And the story is a big part of it. In my opinion, you can't just create to create; you have to be inspired, feel a passion for the story, for the meaning behind the scent. Anyway, what drew me most to fragrance, and what made me start to think seriously about creating my own, was this beautiful marriage between science and scent. Makeup wasn't for me because there was not enough science behind it. Skincare I loved, and still love, but you have to have a more medical/dermatological background to create skincare. Scent is just beautiful and it's actually the sense that is most closely linked to memory.

What were the very first steps you took after getting the idea?

After I finished my post-baccalaureate science studies at Columbia University. I ordered some basic essential oils like bergamot, patchouli, vanilla, rose, and a few others, and read as much as I could about how to create fragrance compositions. I learned about top, mid, and base notes, and how to create blends. I learned about longevity--how, for example, the base notes are the anchor of the fragrance, because of the larger molecules found in base notes, they cling onto the skin the longest. Or the different ratios of water to alcohol to oil depending on whether you are creating an eau de parfum, eau de toilette, or cologne. And basically, I just started playing! I trusted my nose to steer me in the right direction and I utilized my knowledge of chemistry and experience in beauty to fine-tune the final compositions. When I had my first two fragrances, I packaged them in little vials with labels and sent them out along with a questionnaire to friends and family, and friends of friends. After I received their generous feedback, I went back and tweaked the scents a bit more until I had my final products. Once I was confident I was onto something, based on the positive feedback I was getting, I found an up-and-coming graphic designer to start working on a logo and packaging design. During this time, I had also come up with the brand concept of creating travel fragrances for the on-the-go lifestyle. Travel has always been one of my greatest passions in life.


What has the most challenging part of starting your own beauty business been?

What hasn't been a challenge! So many challenges arise with things that you don't even foresee. The important thing is how you handle those situations, and how quickly you are able to adapt and be flexible. Funding has been a challenge. Since we are entirely self-funded, all of our savings and donations from family have gone to the quality of the products. As a result, we do all our own sales, PR, marketing and so forth. Another challenge is finding the right people to work with, that do great work and want to support a start-up and encourage its growth. We found that with one company we work with, Bert-Co. They do our packaging and they have been tremendously supportive and have believed in us from the beginning. There are other manufacturers that are just looking at how large of an order you are going to place, as opposed to forming a long-lasting relationship. Staying confident throughout every situation even when you feel anxious inside is another challenge.

How is Nomaterra different from anything out there? How many stores are carrying it so far?

We take "travel-friendly" to the next level. Not only are our fragrances based on locations, but the process in which we create our scents is quite unique. A major part of making the scents authentic to the location is that we actually do extensive historical/archeological/anthropological/biological/geographical research and record in a spreadsheet what grows or used to grow indigenously in that area, which has a major impact on the smell of the area, as well as speciality foods or spices eaten and used in that area. Another way we are different is in our fragrance components. We use a custom-designed travel spray that's aluminum on the outside and houses a glass insert with the juice inside, so that it's not exposed to breakage during transit. You can literally throw it in your clutch, bag, carry-on, whatever, and it won't spill or break. Our fragrance wipes are totally unique to our brand and took more than a year to formulate.

So far, eight different stores are carrying our brand, which is exciting, as we just launched in January. We have a boutique favorite like Shen Beauty in Brooklyn carrying our wipes and bottles to Fenwick Department Store in London carrying our line. DermStore.com will also be carrying our collection this spring, which will allow anyone who's not near a store to purchase our products.We're also in talks with some bigger retailers in the States, so stay tuned!

What's your advice for someone who's been dreaming of starting a beauty brand?

Go for it! Don't wait for the "right time". You have to truly LOVE beauty, and know the ins and outs of the industry. Do lots of market research, try every product on the planet to truly know what's missing. You have to be immersed in beauty and cosmetics to really know what is needed, to create something innovative and new, because that's what will stand out. Know who your ideal target customer is and what sort of product they will enjoy. Know that's it's not just about loving beauty, but business as well. You have to enjoy being a self-starter who's willing to stand out from the pack. It's risky and scary at first, but as more and more people try out your product and enjoy it, it's so incredibly rewarding to feel like you put your everything into creating a product that people love.

__So go on, everyone, check out Nomaterra--and then let's talk below: If you could start YOUR own beauty brand, what would it be? __

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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