What’s your name:
Chavalia (Dunlap) Mwamba
What do you do and what inspired you to do it:
I am a niche and bespoke fragrance designer. I’ve always been intrigued with fine fragrance, but after developing sensitivities to certain chemically-laden fragrance products, I wanted to provide scented luxury for myself and other conscious consumers without one of the reaction triggers called Phthalates. (Phthalates are used to extend the wear of a fragrance but have been linked to carcinogens.)
When did you know you were on to something with PM Fragrances:
I knew PM® was special when after only two years of being socially visible [social media], I was sought out to introduce and present my brand at an exclusive 3-day fragrance evaluation excursion in NYC called Sniffapalooza.
I’d been following them for a number of years prior to the founders’ invitation, and it was my first time speaking to a crowd of enthusiasts such as myself.
Where do you find inspiration for your scents:
I find inspiration in plain curiosity – wondering what certain fragrance notes will smell like together. As a musician, I relate fragrance notes to musical notes and therefore aim to create harmonious pieces with pleasant embellishments. Oftentimes, I will even “phantom-smell” a potential idea and have to jot down the possible ingredients/notes prior to sitting down to blend.
I also tend to work in themes, and I like to see how one note will work with two totally different ideas. To me, being a perfumer is all about having a completely open mind to a variety of ideas and being willing to carry out countless trials, being aware that not all blends will end up for sale nor be a winner.
How do you balance work and home and how difficult is that for you:
As a mother of 2-year-old highly active twin boys, no two days are ever the same as far as my work schedule. I work in segments of varying lengths, keeping the deadline goal in plain view on my calendar.
I always make sure any event I’m asked to sponsor doesn’t interfere with my active duties as a wife and mother. Fortunately, I’m able to continuously build PM full-time while my husband works in the corporate world, so even though I’m between home and my studio, I’m caring for the boys, filling orders and completing event sponsorships as they come up.
Now that the boys are older and can entertain themselves, it’s a little easier for me to work for longer periods of time uninterrupted. They just have to have constant engagement and plenty of snacks! If the task isn’t too daunting, they love to assist by helping clean up and throw away any scrap packaging.
Best business or personal advice you’ve ever received:
The following has been my business mantra as paraphrased:
“If presented with an opportunity that you may be unsure of your ability to carry out, say yes then figure out how to do it.” – Richard Branson
Any words of advice or encouragement for those who wish to follow in your footsteps as an entrepreneur:
Write every aspect of the vision and make it plain to be easily understood by a 3rd party. Detail how you’d like your business to appear, who your target customers are and what sets you apart from your direct competitors. Study them or those in a similar line of work you’re entering and see what’s working for their brand and company. If you spot areas of improvement, that’s where you fill the void!
Have a business plan and legally protect your business name and/or slogan, starting at the local level. If you happen to be a minority business owner such as myself, look into minority certifications for potential business funding and access to small business perks.
Pre-paid Legal has proven to be a valuable investment for PM in the event of any legalities arising, which I have been a member of since 2010 and utilize fully.
How do you define success:
If you set a goal no matter the magnitude and reach that goal, that alone is success and should be celebrated to make room for more goals and milestones to reach.
What would you say to motivate a younger you to be successful in life:
Whatever interests you, (regardless of popularity) that brings you happiness and you can sit and do for hours without clock-watching or dreading the day of the week, figure out how to make that your living so you don’t have to be bound by what society says is a career. Having several interests to make a living from always helps, in case one business enters a “lean” season.
What are your plans or goals for you and your company in the near future:
PM has added phthalate-free luxury room and vehicle sprays as well as aromatherapy diffuser blends, so my goal is to partner with custom home builders, luxury automobile rental companies and hotels to offer our bespoke fragrance creation services for VIP customers.
What do you like to do for fun:
I am a foodie, so I love trying new foods and desserts (particularly from other countries), reading, traveling and creating jingles (when time permits).
What do you love most about the Dirty South:
I absolutely love the southern hospitality that the Dirty South possesses. Even if we don’t personally know someone, it’s just common courtesy for us to smile, nod or wave. Something as simple as a small acknowledgement can brighten someone’s day. For the most part, Southern men are still quite chivalrous, so if they see a lady entering or exiting a door with either her hands full [children] or without a male companion present, they will hold the door open with a smile.