I am all about making sense out of scents

Thursday, August 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Stephen Nyaega tests select samples of scents on the writer to determine what suits her best. Photo/HARRIET JAMES

When I met Stephen Nyaega at a cafe sometime back, I was curious about this world of perfumes he was passionate about.

He calls himself a fragrance connoisseur or cognoscenti, a person who loves perfumes and can assist others know the exact kind of perfume that suits them. 

It’s quite a new concept in the country and people like him are amongst the first to tap into it. 

He asks me the colour and drink I liked, my interests, profession and culture, which all play a part in the kind of perfume that best suits me.

Upon telling him he responds that since I am a writer and writers are intuitive, I would love citric, minty perfumes, something that is not shouty, but can last all day. 

“A majority of individuals in analytical careers are predominantly inclined to light, fresh, citrus or minty scents due to its calming nature,” notes Stephen. 

“I also noted most warm colour enthusiasts are normally attracted to musky, woody, spicy or sweet fragrances,” he adds.

Stephen adds that fragrance says a lot about the person wearing it: their mood and character. 

“Sometimes we might forget the face, name or even the complete details regarding an individual, but we can never forget what a person smells like.

The perfume one opts for is vital while representing themelves,” explains Stephen. 

In 2012, Stephen was in a discussion with his two friends who had passion in perfumes and they identified a gap in perfume distribution. 

Stephen displays fragrance samples he uses when consulting with clients. Photo/HARRIET JAMES

At that time, he admits he wasn’t much of a perfume fanatic, but intrigued with the idea, he began research via the internet and observation to understand why clients preferred specific scents to others.

“The venture made me discover different personalities and other elements that influence the choice of perfume a client chooses or buys,” explains Stephen. 

With this curiosity, he dug deeper to find out the various types of perfumes that can be worn by different cultures, psychology, personalities, as well as professions.

This he did for eight years while still working at a telecommunications company in the customer care department. He resigned in 2018 to pursue fragrance consultancy full time. 

Effective strategies 

“It took me awhile to understand that personalities play a role in the choice of fragrance.

Fragrance is an art and it is diverse, hence different people have different types of personalities and it’s been a journey to know the type of scents that they do.

I am glad my job enabled me to think critically to identity and analyse gaps in the perfumery industry and thus I was able to establish innovative services that meet the needs of my target market,” adds Stephen. 

He is also glad that his former job taught him relationship management skills, which has assisted him in implementing effective strategies in gaining and retaining potential customers.

This has consequently resulted in fostering an 80 per cent customer retention rate in the business. 

“When I tell people I am a fragrance connoisseur, they feel that it’s a unique career worth exploring.

It surprises people, because most times, when they buy perfume, they just pick what they like without thinking about how it affects their image.

Your fragrance has to tell a story about you. It sells out who you are, your brand,” he explains. 

Stephen adds that there is an increasing need for such services and the culture has evolved as more people need their brand to be enhanced and to come out by everything they do, including the perfumes they wear. 

“Before, fragrance used to be just for elimination of body odour and now due to the evolution of culture, it has become much more about identity.

Someone wants to know their distinct smell and that no one is sharing the same fragrance with them,” continues Stephen. 

From his research, Stephen has noted that different communities have different scents and preferences.

For instance, the scents the Somali community prefer are regarded as strong.

They indicate the arid and semi-arid geographical location where they live.

The difference also comes in with how cultures look at fragrance. For example, how we look at fragrance as Africans is very different from the West.  

“The Western world observe scents based on seasons. For instance, lighter or less concentrated scents are worn during summer and warmer scents during winter.

In the Kenyan setting, we normally don’t pay attention to seasons. A scent is applicable in all seasons,” he says, adding that in some Kenyan settings, scents are mostly on functionality while the westerners are inclined on identity rather than functionality.

Creative visualisation 

The choice of fragrance is also affected by profession and gender. 

“Task-oriented leaders would go for woody scents compared to people-oriented leaders, who would opt for floral if they are women and go for bolder scents if they are men.

Introverted people love their space, hence they would go for citric scents that have a low intensity, not too strong or pungent smells,” he continues. 

As for floral perfumes, for a long while, humans have loved flowers and anyone who wears such fragrances signifies they are people persons.

The perfume fills places and being a people’s person it uplifts people’s spirits, says the expert.

With it being a new venture, Stephen has had some challenges conceptualising his career, especially on digital platforms. 

“I had to creatively visualise what I do in a simplistic manner both verbally and virtually so as it felt tangible to clients,” he expounds on how he wants clients to interact with perfumes. 

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the consumption of beauty and personal care products, such as perfume and fragrance has declined, resulting in the closure of many specialty and airport stores.

In turn, this has led to a crisis in supply as border restrictions impacted the importance of these products.  

“It affected brands sold in retail stores due to low turnout of customers.  It’s, however, important to note that most sales are now obtained online, which resolves the retail challenge,” he says.

Stephen is glad that his new found passion and venture has enabled him to explore his creativity and is currently looking at designing his own fragrance line. 

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