‘A beau­ti­ful aroma in your house will make it feel happy’

Prima (UK) - - Ladies Who Launch -

Debbie Knight, 56, lives in Wim­ble­don, Lon­don, and has a grown-up daugh­ter.

‘Iwas vis­it­ing a lovely bou­tique ho­tel in Florence, Italy, in the win­ter of 2005 when I first came across the fra­grance that would change my life. It was a spe­cial hol­i­day, booked to mark the end of my treat­ment for breast can­cer. I soon no­ticed that ev­ery­where in the ho­tel the air was filled with the most amaz­ing scents, sub­tle but evoca­tive, and I was hooked.

I dis­cov­ered the aro­mas were dis­persed us­ing reed dif­fusers, the first time I’d ever come across them. The reeds, usu­ally made from rat­tan, soak up the liq­uid fra­grance in the bot­tle and cir­cu­late a con­tin­u­ous aroma. I knew straight away I wanted to bring these fra­grances to the UK – I knew oth­ers would love them, too. Although I’d never run a busi­ness be­fore – my job was pre­vi­ously in events – I felt con­fi­dent enough to set up a meet­ing with the sup­plier in the hope of dis­tribut­ing his prod­ucts in the UK. And I was de­lighted when he said yes.

Bor­row­ing £25,000 from my then­hus­band, I or­dered 1,000 bot­tles in four dif­fer­ent scents and paid a de­signer to cre­ate a web­site for my busi­ness, Senti. Next, I hit the road, vis­it­ing shops I thought may be in­ter­ested in stock­ing the prod­ucts. It was ex­haust­ing, and I had many 4am starts and sleep­less nights, won­der­ing if I’d done the right thing. Even­tu­ally, or­ders be­gan to come in, and after a cou­ple of years, I was sell­ing enough to rent a shop near my home. I opened in 2011 and quickly built up a loyal cus­tomer base, dou­bling my sales each year. I could hardly be­lieve it when, two years later, I was ac­cepted into sev­eral ma­jor depart­ment stores, too, in­clud­ing Lib­erty and Har­rods. By 2015, my turnover had grown to £1mil­lion.

All that changed in 2016, when the owner of the Ital­ian fra­grances de­cided to dis­trib­ute his prod­ucts him­self. It was a huge blow and came at a time when I was split­ting from my hus­band. Still, I was con­fi­dent I could start again – this time launch­ing my own prod­ucts. Us­ing all the knowl­edge I’d picked up, I worked with two ma­jor per­fumiers to cre­ate new fra­grances, in­clud­ing my now-best­sellers, Jas­mine & Geranium, and Berg­amot & Gin­ger. Work­ing for my­self meant I had com­plete creative con­trol over the finer de­tails, too, like find­ing a glass-blower to sup­ply me with beau­ti­ful bot­tles, and hav­ing my logo re­designed.

I re­launched in Septem­ber last year, sell­ing from a new, smaller shop where my prod­ucts sell from £38 for a 100ml room spray to £47 for a 200ml reed dif­fuser. I ad­vise peo­ple to place the dif­fusers at hip height near a door so the air flow car­ries the fra­grance, and to turn the reeds ev­ery few days. They should last for four months and you can keep the reeds when the fra­grance runs out to use in the car or shoe cup­board – the scent lasts a long time.

At this time of year, peo­ple love the tra­di­tional aro­mas of or­ange, pine and woods – they get you in the fes­tive mood. In­cred­i­bly, reed dif­fusers now out­sell scented can­dles, and I feel so proud that I’ve cre­ated my own range.’

• senti.co.uk

Debbie’s dif­fuser range

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