Episode 98: Laura Slatkin, Founder and Executive Chairman of NEST Fragrances

Back in 1992, Laura Slatkin and her husband Harry both had lucrative Wall Street careers on the rise. But their entrepreneurial spirits got the better of them, and that year they left the safety of a steady paycheck to open a home-fragrance shop. This eventually lead to Laura founding NEST Fragrances. In this episode, she recalls the challenges of creating what’s essentially today’s home fragrance industry, why she did it, and how she holds her high-octane life together.

Recorded live as part of our Podcast-In-Residence series with Saks Fifth Avenue.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® hosted by Jodi Katz, Founder and Creative Director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey everybody, I'm Jodie Katz. I am the host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®. The podcast is in fact my side hustle, I have a day job. I am the creative director and founder ... It's true, I have to have a job. I'm the creative director and founder of base beauty creative agency. We're an Omni channel branding agency hyperfocused on beauty and wellness. And out of that agency and my own challenges with self doubt and growing the agency and growing myself personally, I landed into the podcasting business and I haven't looked back. It's super fun.

We just have a little bit of housekeeping to go through before we start the show. I encourage you all to do some social media blitzing when you're here tonight. All the handles and hash tags are on the seat cards, so you can find those on the yellow side. But we are in a building where the Wifi is not really strong, so what I suggest is you actually shut your wifi off and just use your LTE service for the minute or two that you'll be doing that, and then you'll get really good access to data. There's something really special and exciting about what we're going to ask you to do on social tonight. Which is, if you can go to your Instagram, everyone has it open anyway, right? Go to @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcasts. I'll give you a second. And today's post, you'll see myself with Laura our guest for the evening. This is where we're taking questions for a Q and A segment of the show. So if you have a question, please post it as a comment in this feed. And don't be shy, be curious, please share your thoughts with us.

The three questions that we select for Laura to respond to, the authors of those questions will get really great NEST goody bags, all right? So yeah, really good stuff. So you'll want to participate in that. But get off of Wifi because you'll have a hard time accessing. Sorry, it's true. I speak the truth.

Just a little bit, I want to know about you, how many people in the room are part of the beauty industry? Oh, that's a lot. And how many people are very familiar and deeply rooted with NEST fragrances? It's like this whole side of the room. That's so cool. And is there anybody who was just shopping tonight, walking through, curious to see, oh, awesome! Well, can we have a seat for you? I think there's a seat available right there. Is that seat available?

Oh she's sitting there, okay. Thank you for joining us. Is he our only shopper? Any other shoppers? Okay, that's cool. Welcome. You don't get a prize for that, but it gets us more money.

Also on the seat card is the schedule for our next event. The next scheduled event is with Trish Mcevoy, founder of her namesake brands and that will be on Tuesday, March 12th. So please join us same time, same place on March 12th for that exciting guest.

Okay. So this podcast event, the live recording. If you sneeze or laugh, you'll hear it when you download the episode, which is pretty cool. The episode will go live to the world beyond this room next Wednesday. All of our episodes launch on Wednesdays. So you'll get to download this episode next week. And if you RSVP'd, we have your emails, so we'll send you a notification that that episode is available for download, but you're hearing it first, right? And this is a really rare and unusual opportunity to see a podcast recorded live. And it's also a networking event. So I just ask that you turn to someone who's sitting near you, who you've never seen before, and please for a moment, introduce yourself.

Oh cool. That's great. Thank you.

Okay, okay, okay, that's enough. We can pick this up after the recording. Thank you so much for participating. Networking and connecting is so important to me. I wouldn't be here at soc doing this event without the networking and connections that people have been generous with me.

Before I introduce our guest, let me tell you about what, WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® is all about. We are a podcast rooted in the beauty industry, but we're actually all about life journey. So career journey, life work mindset, how we balance our lives. So, the LinkedIn crowd really loves this podcast as much as the beauty industry does, because people are able to get free wisdom. I mean, the people I interview are not just the needs that you've seen on TV like Laura, but they're also entrepreneurs who have yet to reach their goals, and they're also behind the scenes people. Are there any behind the scenes people here tonight? Just one?

So, I started the pod because I really wanted to humanize the industry for myself and that's what we get to do, and Laura is such a great example of what she's going to bring to the conversation this evening. People are really honest and open on the show. We talk about divorce, we talk about infertility, we talk about addiction because this is real life, so this is the way to humanize the business. There's other places we can go for news about new product launches and marketing campaigns and revenue. But on our show we just talk about life.

So thank you for joining us, and now onto the reason why we're all here. Tonight, we are joined by Laura Slatkin. Laura is the founder of NEST Fragrances, a lifestyle fragrance brand built on her decades of expertise in the industry. She is a pioneer in home fragrance and the innovative founder of NEXT for Autism, a nonprofit creating programs that improve the lives of individuals and families living with autism. Please welcome Laura.
Laura SlatkinThank you Jodi.
Jodi KatzThis is for you.
Laura SlatkinOkay.
Jodi KatzSee if that works.
Laura SlatkinHello everyone.
Jodi KatzYes it works.
Laura SlatkinThank you for much for coming.
Jodi KatzOh my goodness, it works. Thank you Brandon. So originally when I got here tonight, they had these teeny tiny acrylic stools and I'm like, I'm going to slide right off that thing. Like there's no way. So I'm glad that we have a better back.
Laura SlatkinThere you go.
Jodi KatzThe first question I always ask before events is, is there a stool with a back? And not just, you know-
Laura SlatkinOh it could be scary sitting on a stool. [crosstalk 00:07:03].
Jodi KatzSo thank you so much for joining us here. This is so exciting. There's so many people in the audience here who really want to get to know you-
Laura SlatkinTerrific.
Jodi Katz... And we're going to have that opportunity tonight. So, let's start with an easy question, one I love to ask our guests, how did you spend your day today?
Laura SlatkinToday a very special day because we're launching a new fine fragrance collection next year, and I spent the day with the perfumers going through many, many different fragrances, tweaking them, perfecting them, getting excited about them. So it was a really creative day. So one of my favorites. One of my favorite ways to spend the day.
Jodi KatzAnd you had an eventful weekend?
Laura SlatkinYes. Oh my gosh. I went to go visit my daughter in New Orleans because she's going to Tulanes, she's there for her first year. She's a freshmen. So we spent the whole weekend eating and drinking. So Friday night I went out with her and her boyfriend, Ryan, her new boyfriend and little did I know they had a little plan for me. They wanted to get me drunk. And they did. They did.
Jodi KatzWhere did they get you drunk?
Laura SlatkinWell all over. All over New Orleans. We went bar hopping. Haven't done that in a while. So that was a cool way to spend the weekend.
Jodi KatzAnd what was it like being a mom meeting the boyfriend of your daughter?
Laura SlatkinWell, you know, that's why I think we got drunk because we were so nervous. Seriously. I didn't know what to say to him and he probably didn't know what to say to me. And the liquor just paved the way. It was a fun weekend.
Jodi KatzThat's so awesome. So what fragrance are you wearing today?
Laura SlatkinTonight I'm wearing Wild Poppy, [crosstalk 00:08:36] fragrance. [inaudible 00:08:37] it's a beautiful new fragrance we just launched. And the wonderful thing about it is that it's rose de gras and Himalayan jasmine, two beautiful florals, and then we added Pear, Apricot and Raspberry, which just makes it very spirited, so it's a beautiful fragrance.
Jodi KatzI think of it as really juicy.
Laura SlatkinYeah. It's a fruity floral. Okay. It's a fruity floral.
Jodi KatzSo let's get into, why we're here. [crosstalk 00:09:05] is a special place in your heart.
Laura SlatkinYes.
Jodi KatzTake us back in time to your first relationship with Saks.
Laura SlatkinSo that's really going very far back to 1992. I'd just left Wall Street, my husband and I both worked on Wall Street. My brother-in-law was an interior designer, a world renowned interior designer, and whenever he completed a very important home for a client, he would develop a home fragrance for them, because he felt that that was the final touch on a beautifully decorated home. So he had this exquisite shop on 70th street, Harry and I left Wall Street to join Howard. We were running this shop and we have this idea that we would create a home fragrance company based on his idea of fragrancing homes. Now this is back in 1992 when home fragrance really wasn't part of our lifestyle. Very few people were burning scented candles. There was maybe one or two brands in the market in America.

So we were ideating this collection and in walks Rosemarie Bravo who had just come from [inaudible 00:10:04] and she was on her way to become the new president of Saks Fifth Avenue. So she [inaudible 00:10:09] to the shop and we started chatting with her, and we tell her about our dream to build this home fragrance company. And she said, my favorite three words. Oh my God, that's amazing. I want to launch you. So here at Saks fifth avenue, many, many years ago, 26 years ago, we launched our first company slack any company on the couture floor.

Saks has a special spot in my heart and always will.
Jodi KatzLet's go back in time. I didn't know about finance. What was that life like for you?
Laura SlatkinSo I worked at Lehman Brothers for 13 years, and that was an extraordinary experience because I really got to learn about a lot of different industries, different companies. I managed common stock portfolios for high net worth individuals and hedge funds, and it was an extraordinary experience, but I was ready for something new and this was definitely a change.
Jodi KatzYeah, so that's a huge shift for you, both people in the household to make at the same time, which is leaving the business and finance and then saying, oh, let's just be entrepreneurial with my brother-in-law.
Laura SlatkinYes.
Jodi KatzSo what were the conversations in the household, leaving the structure and the comforts of that business?
Laura SlatkinIt was a major risk. It was a big risk to leave the comfort of Wall Street where we both were earning a decent amount of money, to go off and start this company, which was very entrepreneurial and scary because it wasn't like we were going into the beauty industry and there was a big business in color or fragrance. This is home fragrance, which really was not an industry. So not only were we starting a company, but we were starting an industry and paving the way for something different, which was, and proved to be very challenging. The first 10 years were not easy.
Jodi KatzWhat was not easy about it?
Laura SlatkinFinancially. Just growing a company was just not easy because we were paving the way in educating people on home fragrance and selling them home fragrance at the same time. So that was, it was just more difficult. But once we launched our company, everybody got into the fragrance industry. So everyone started coming out with a candle and that was terrific. We embraced that competition because that just made the industry bigger. And then lo and behold, we get a phone call one day from Les Wexner who is the CEO, the founder of, Limited Brands, Bath and Body Works, and he had $100 million home fragrance business and wanted to turn it into $1 billion business and wanted to acquire a company that had an expertise in the space. And that is how we sold our company to Limited Brands. So it had a happy outcome.
Jodi KatzThat's incredible. There is a low, which is the challenge, and the high, which is the sale. Let's talk about what happens in between. So the fragrance business with the interior design focus, how long did that last for?
Laura Slatkin13 years.
Jodi Katz13 years. And my guess is it was, you said it's not wildly successful at first. It really took 10 years for people to start to adapt to that?
Laura SlatkinYeah. Then I would say the last five years, prior to selling, it was really successful and humming. But it took that eight or 10 years to really develop the business.
Jodi KatzSo, how do you practice patience?
Laura SlatkinI think that you really have to know whether you have something or you don't. In the beginning it wasn't humming, but then it clicked and it all started happening. And I think you really have to be ... When you start a company, you really have to be honest with yourself and say, do I have a business and not do what a lot of people do, is stay with something when it's not happening. And you need to really know when to turn the faucet off an exit and get out. And people don't do that. They're just don't, I'm going to give it one more year. I'm going to give it one more year. They say that and 10 years later, they're still saying, I'm going to give it till March. Or I'm going to give it till Jan- you know what I mean?
Jodi KatzIs there a fine line though between thinking it's going to become something or driving yourself into a bigger hole?
Laura SlatkinIt's a challenge to know whether to give it more time. I mean, there were many points where I said, we got to find something else to do, 'cause this isn't working. But, we really worked at perfecting it and it clicked. And when clicked, I knew that it clicked and we had something special.
Jodi KatzSo what's the origin story for NEST specifically? How did NEST start? What was [crosstalk 00:14:53]-
Laura SlatkinOh, so Harry went off to work at Limited Brands, and I was left with no company. And when you were an entrepreneur, not having a company is a very, very scary thing. It's like having no safety net or no baby. It's like someone pulled a rug from under you. So I think a true entrepreneur always has to have a company, and I didn't know whether my husband was going to be happy at Limited Brands. Who knows? It's a $12 billion company and he was used to running his own company. So I started NEST fragrances as a backup plan.
Jodi Katz… that’s quite a backup plan
Laura Slatkin... Limited Brands, he could always come back and he would have a company to come home to. So it was started as a backup plan.
Jodi KatzI love that this business that's released so voluptuous now, was really just, “I need to do something just in case my husband doesn't like his new job.”
Laura SlatkinI'm actually a pessimist. I always look at the glass half empty, not half full. I always think the worst is going to happen, and then I, you know, so I always have backup plans. I always have strategies. That's like who I am. I'm very negative.
Jodi KatzAll your life?
Laura SlatkinAll my life I've been negative.
Jodi KatzWhat would be an example of that? Like in college or your early years in finance, were you just like preparing for the worst?
Laura SlatkinWhen you were an entrepreneur, I think you're always thinking, if this doesn't work, what else am I going to do? If that doesn't work, what's the best ... When you're working for a big company, Wall Street, you're working for a large company, but you own your own business in a sense. But I think, when you have your own business, you're really always thinking, gee, what if this doesn't work, then we'll do this. That happens with inventory. We build this inventory and if it doesn't sell, what are we going to do? Or if it doesn't work here, where are we going to move it? If we don't get the business from here, where are we getting it from? You're always constantly planning, but that's how I operate with backup plans.
Jodi KatzIt's interesting that you consider yourself a pessimist in that way. 'Cause I just feel you're strategic.
Laura SlatkinI call it strategic, but my company calls it negative. Don't be so negative.
Jodi KatzIs that right? You have a lot of team members here tonight. I'm someone who always sat in self doubt, so like I think pessimism travels with that. There's a little gray cloud following me and it's farther away now, thanks to the podcasts of I've been learning the wisdom of our guests to overcome it. But, I really think in the entrepreneurial experience, planning for the unforeseen is just being strategic and smart and organized and staying in three steps ahead, which is what founders do.
Laura SlatkinThat's what we do. And you know, I believe wholeheartedly in everything that we do. I go at it with a lot of passion and a lot of drive and a lot of dedication and perseverance, and I really feel strongly about my company. But I always think it's really important to people level head and be strategic.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about the first few years of NEST. What were you working on at that time?
Laura SlatkinWell it was interesting because my first three years I had a noncompete, so I couldn't actually own my own brand. I could only produce home fragrance for other companies. So we created, home fragrance collections for companies like Laura Mercier, NARS, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Jonathan Adler, Vera Wang, over 100 luxury brands. So in those three years, I really got my PhD in home fragrance and fragrance development. Packaging, I helped them with their retail distribution and their strategy. So it was really a huge learning experience and a wonderful opportunity to meet a lot of different people and work with a lot of different vendors. And that really taught me so much.

But what was interesting about that voyage is the fact that every time we launched a collection for one of these private label clients, they did well, but they didn't do really well. They really weren't knocking it out of the park. I mean, they were successful in their own stores, but the consumer was really, you know, consumers are very smart and you have to watch them very carefully to understand them. And what they were saying to me is, I don't want a fashion designer's candle. I don't want a shoe designer's candle. I don't want a fragrance company's candle. I want to buy a candle from a company, from someone who is in the home fragrance business.

I felt that need. I felt that consumer was telling me that. So that's why I created NEST fragrances, because I felt I owed it to the consumer. Because I had that expertise, I had that knowledge and I wanted to build a really successful, well-organized, important home fragrance company, and that's what NEST fragrances is. The day we launched the brand, we sold like thousands of candles the first day, it was an instant hit from the first day it got on the floor.
Jodi KatzThat's amazing. So for three years, you did all that work for all these brands?
Laura SlatkinYeah.
Jodi KatzThat's an amazing amount of contracts and negotiations and production.
Laura SlatkinYes.
Jodi KatzWas everything just whooshing so fast?
Laura SlatkinIt was exciting. A lot of companies were coming to us because we had that expertise, and it was a very, very busy time, but fun. It was exceptionally rewarding and exciting. And it was a part of my business career that I look back on fondly.

But I think the greatest thing about those years, which really looking at the marketplace and studying consumers and finding out how they were responding to all these various collections and what the needs were. So when we launched NEST fragrances, and I mentioned I've wanted it to be an important company, tapping all the different fragrance categories and really speaking to the consumer in a way that was very respectful.

So, it was important to me that the price point was right, that the quality was there but the price point was approachable. Because I felt that there were candle companies on the market that in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, $90 per candle, and that I thought was very expensive. It didn't allow everyone to buy the candles and really enjoy them and burn them in their home. I'm going to buy this $95 candle, but I'm going to burn it next week when Sally's coming over.

And today, really, people love to enjoy fragrance. They like burning candles. Millennials grew up with home fragrance, so it's part of their lifestyle. So if you're a baby boomer, it may not be part of your lifestyle, but for millennials it's part of their lifestyle.
Jodi KatzSo you had told me that being an entrepreneur is like being on a rollercoaster.
Laura SlatkinYes.
Jodi KatzAnd this is a picture that I had painted as well. Most of the past 12 years I felt like I was hanging upside down on the rollercoaster, and I just really wanted to be on like the whooshing straight parts that kind of goes twisty with the wind in your hair and you're laughing. What are some examples of these roller coaster experiences that you've had?
Laura SlatkinI think, and I tell my daughter about this all the time, life is a rollercoaster. We all have ups and downs. When you're up here and you are so happy and everything's going right and the world is perfect, you have to remember how you feel up there because there're going to be times when you are down here, on the bottom. And it feels awful to be down there, but you have to remember what it felt like to be up at the top. And how do I get there? What do I have to do to get there? But I guess my worst experience with a rollercoaster was when we were doing private label.

I was working with mostly luxury brands, but I had the opportunity to create a home fragrance collection for a very, very large brand that was very Nass. It was a very, very exciting opportunity because if we did, it was going to be a very, very big business. And, this person who ran this company was actually a friend of mine, not a very close friend, but she was a friend. So we had a memorandum of understanding and the contract was with the lawyers, but we did everything for this collection. We created all the fragrances. We designed all the packaging. I went out to every retailer nationwide to present the collection. All the retailers were in. Everything was lined up. And I'm on my way to dinner with my husband on Madison Avenue and I looked down at my iPhone and I see someone's calling me and there's a message. So pick up the phone and I listened to the message and it's the CEO of the company telling me that the deal's off.

Now my entire year was based on this launch, and it was like a dagger going through my heart. I couldn't breathe. And I said to my husband, "Harry, you're not going to believe it. So and so just called and left a message that the whole launch is off." And we walked into the restaurant, we sit down, we order, and then I just stood there frozen thinking, oh my God, what am I going to say to all of the fragrance houses that worked so hard on all of these fragrances? What am I going to say to the vendors that are preparing for this launch? What am I going say? Oh my God, what am I going to say to the retailers?

I just was sitting there sweating, thinking about all of this and most important, what was I going to say to my team, my company. The people that work for me that look at me as their leader. What am I going to say to them and can I resurrect this? And Harry just turned to me and he said, "Laura, if you're just gonna sit there, we can go home." This was date night.

Anyway, it couldn't be resurrected no matter how hard I tried. That was a low, but I called everybody into my conference room and I said, "If you're going to be an entrepreneur, you need to know what it's like to be on a rollercoaster. There are highs and their lows and we're definitely at a low." And I delivered the message to them and the whole place was like oh! Everyone gasped, because it was so shocking. I said, "Now don't do that." I said, don't do that. Don't go there. If you want to be tough and you want to succeed, you're going to have to dig deep and find the strength to move on and just take this moment and make it a learning experience, because I have a solution for us. We're going to take all those fragrances. We could do all that packaging. We're going to take all those retailer relationships. We're going to put our own name on that brand, and get ready, let's go."

So those highs and lows are really important.
Jodi KatzRight. And that low took you right to where you are now.
Laura SlatkinYeah.
Jodi KatzEverything happens for a reason.
Laura SlatkinEverything happens. I think that that enabled us to launch NEST fragrances a year later, and really focus on what was important our own brand.
Jodi KatzWhen I walked into your office last week, when I met you for the first time, I was sitting in the reception area and I thought you did it. You built what you built with all the different financial transactions and the other things that move the business forward, you're still here leading your vision the way you want to. And that just doesn't happen all the time, right? Things don't always go that way. And it was so great to be in the presence and sitting in the building where this was happening. I felt really so proud of you, and I hadn't even met you at that moment because I meet a lot of entrepreneurs. I meet a lot of people behind the scenes, and this is just the way it should be. And it's just not always the way it is.
Laura SlatkinYes. I'm really proud of the company. It's so incredible, but the brand is so loved. Like even when I was in New Orleans this weekend and my daughter would say, oh, my mom, you know, she has NEST fragrance. Oh my God, I love NEST fragrances. Everyone always says, oh my God, I love NEST fragrances, and a big smile comes on their face. And that's my measurement of success. That people look at my brand and think about my brand, it makes them smile, it makes them happy. And that's all I need. That my brand is so loved, and I love that. It makes me really happy and proud.
Jodi KatzI want to switch gears a little bit, and tell the audience, in addition to NEST, you're the founder of NEXT for Autism, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities and resources for families living with autism. Why did you start NEXT?
Laura SlatkinWell, that's another low in life. At 17 months of age, my son David, who's Allie's twin brother, I have twins, was diagnosed with autism, severe autism. And when he was diagnosed with autism, I didn't really know anything about autism. There was one friend that I had at the time, that had a child with autism. So I went out and I bought all these books and I read all these books about what could happen, and really horrible things. That they could never talk or they would have aggressive behaviors or et cetera, et cetera, and I cried myself to sleep. And the next morning my husband said to me, "Crying isn't going to do anything for David. Crying is not going to do anything for Allie. Crying is not going to be good for our marriage. It's not going to be good for our family. Roll up your sleeves and do something about it." So I did.

I went into high gear and really our first journey was to really research everything for our own son. Find a school for him, find a doctor for him, get them evaluated, get him this, get him that. And what we learned was, there were so many voids in the city that we lived in. We lived in New York City, one of the most important cities in the world, yet there were so few schools or medical centers. In fact, if you wanted to find a really great school, you had to get in your car and drive over a bridge to New Jersey. So Harry and I decided to start NEXT for Autism, which, is a magnificent organization. We've opened up two charter schools here in New York City. We built a major brain center with Columbia University, Cornell University and New York Presbyterian hospital. We built a wonderful training institute at Hunter College to train teachers. We've graduated 400 teachers.
Jodi KatzWow.
Laura SlatkinNow we're building a major program for adults with autism, in Westchester. It's a community living program where adults with autism can live in the community, work in the community. And then we have a corporate consulting program where we go into corporations and we actually advise corporations on how do they hire individuals, adults with autism. Because if one out of 59 individuals, are affected by autism, then we should be seeing one out of 59 and our workplace, at the movie theaters and the supermarkets. So we're working with corporations now and training them on how do you provide an environment that is autism friendly.

So all this work has been enormously gratifying. And, we've met so many different people along the way and it's broadened our horizons and made us better people and I'm really proud of that work.
Jodi KatzHow can families, leverage the resources of NEXT?
Laura SlatkinWe have a wonderful website, www.nextforautism.com, and right there you can learn about all the different programs that we've built.
Jodi KatzAnd how can people donate?
Laura SlatkinHit that donate button.
Jodi KatzAt brains meet beauty we'll be doing that this evening after the show.
Laura SlatkinOh thank you.
Jodi KatzI'm so proud of you for all that work. It's incredible. It's a side of you that I didn't know about, I had to do a little [inaudible 00:30:57].
Laura SlatkinThank you. Thank you. You know that's another instance of having a low and then I can tell you the day we opened our charter school, our very first project was a high. And that's what life is about.
Jodi KatzSo is there a reason that you need it NEXT when NEST and NEXT are almost the same word?
Laura SlatkinActually, we started out calling it, New York Center for Autism and then we change it to New York Collaborates for Autism. But then our work became national, and then we were always thinking, what's next for autism? We started out with the school, but then it was a medical center and then it was, as David got older and we understood the challenges of having a child with autism as an adult, what's next for autism? We're always thinking, what next can we do? Is it employment? So it just was an inappropriate name.
Jodi KatzSo my last question for you is really about life work balance, which is something that we talk about all the time as individuals and with our friends. So you have your household with Harry and your daughter, you have your autism community and your support for David and then you have this business to run, right? This is a lot.
Laura SlatkinYeah.
Jodi KatzSomeone could say we do some research for autism, but you open schools and programs and make it national. It's a heavy load. How do you move through these tasks during the day and make time for you? And what is time for you look like?
Laura SlatkinI have three parts of my life. I have the NEST, NEXT for Autism and in my family life. It's a challenge balancing all of them. But I've learned that if you have really, really smart people working with you, you can get anything done. You're not always doing yourself. You always have a great CEO. You always have a great partner, you always have great people that work within your organization that are really passionate and loyal about seeing the company, whether it's NEXT for Autism or NEST fragrances succeed. It's all about people. It's all about teams. It's all about creating a culture, a culture where people really want to prosper and succeed and make a difference in whatever they're doing. So it's about people, it's about teams, it's about collaboration.
Jodi KatzAnd does downtime look like for you? When you close your eyes, you're like, I need some time to myself. What are you doing during that time?
Laura SlatkinA glass of Scotch. No. I like with my husband and we enjoy each other's company and we'd like to go out to dinner and spend time together. We just got a house in Florida, so we're excited about that. Just basically relaxing. But you know, being on my phone and doing the work in between, everything is always what keeps me going.
Jodi KatzWell thank you for sharing. It's now time for questions. Cate's going to give me some questions, which is ... Oh you hearted them? How smart. Okay. So this is from @EprioriSynthetic, are you here? Oh hi. What is your name?
Jodi KatzJulia. So Julia asks, what are your favorite elemental sense to work with?
Laura SlatkinWhat are my favorite-
Jodi KatzWhat are your favorite elemental sense to work with?
Laura SlatkinElemental sense.
JuliaBasic sense.
Laura SlatkinBasic sense to work with? Fragrances?
Laura SlatkinOkay. So we have a very wide repertoire of fragrances. It's important that we're chopping every fragrance categories. So, my favorite kinds of elements to work with are gourmand fragrances. I absolutely love gourmand fragrances. So vanilla orchid, and just anything ... We have a wonderful pumpkin chai candle that I absolutely love, but I love vanilla based candles and I love gourmand scents.

Two years ago we launched a mechanical sugar cookie, and it was a bourbon infused sugar cookie. And this fragrance was the best fragrance we've ever launched. The only problem with the fragrance is I'm the only one who liked it.
Jodi KatzIt didn't sell?
Laura SlatkinIt didn't do really well, no. And I kept telling everybody, well, you've got to burn it and then everyone's going to buy it. And they burn it and then I called them back a week later. Did they buy it? No. Sometimes I'm alone on that.
Jodi KatzSo do you discontinue fragrances for those reasons?
Laura SlatkinYeah.
Jodi KatzSo our next question is from @SarahFitskutz? Are you here? Oh, Hi Sarah. Sarah's question is, what advice would you give to a young person with an entrepreneurial spirit, but he's not sure what their passion is?
Laura SlatkinI can only tell you what I did when I was very young and I just worked at a lot of different companies till I found what I was passionate about. And that process rules out and it rules in. So, I think I was a psychology major and I volunteered a different psychological institutes and hospitals and various places, and I learned that it wasn't for me. So I think the only way to really find what you want to do is to keep interning and volunteering and giving. Exposing yourself. Because when you find that one thing that really turns you on, you will know exactly what you need to be doing for the rest of your life.
Jodi KatzGreat. And our last question, and the people who had your questions, see Cate, she has a goodie bag for you. @IDaccessories, are you here? @IDaccessories ink? Nope? Let's pick a different question. You're not here. You have to be here to win. How do you work with noses in the fragrance industry to develop your fragrances?
Laura SlatkinWell I work with perfumers I'm in the industry. And-
Jodi KatzSorry, this is @ToryCathy. Are you here? Hi. Okay.
Laura SlatkinHi. I find inspiration, for example, I'll go back to my daughter again. Last year we were working, maybe it was two years ago on a new fragrance for our fine fragrance collection, and I was in Charleston, South Carolina. They're visiting schools and we took a walk in a historic district, and I came across this house that was covered in wisteria from head to toe. And I've always loved that wisteria flower, the beautiful artistry of the flowers, so magnificent. I went home and I called up a perfumer that I had never worked with before. And I said, "Thinking about doing a new fragrance, and I was wondering if you would like to work with me on it?" And he said, "Sure, I've always wanted to work with you." So I said, "Well, I have this idea in my mind that I want to do a wisteria fragrance." And it was dead silence on the other end of the phone. And I said, "Hello?" And he said, "Yes." He said, "Come to my lab tomorrow. I have to show you something."

So I went to his lab and he explained to me that when he was in his 20s and working in Givaudan, he had the opportunity to capture the essence of the wisteria that adorned the home of Maria Antoinette at Versailles. And he's been holding onto it for some 25 years and no one's ever asked him to create a wisteria fragrance.

So I smelled this essence and I said, ""Oh my God." It was beautiful. And to that we added Bulgarian Jasmine and Bulgarian rose and imperial jasmine, which he considered the king and the queen of any important floral. And then watering nuances so that we can capture the ethereal beauty of the fragrance.

So that's kind of how I work with perfumers. Become inspired to create a particular fragrance. And then we work together with ingredients and make history. Fragrance history.
Jodi KatzThank you for that. Thanks for your wisdom, Laura.

To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes. And for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast. Thank you so much.
Laura SlatkinThank you.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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