No matter how much experience I have gathered in the past 25+ years as a professional, I must continue to push myself to learn and grow by asking myself, “How hard could it be?”
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sherry Orel, CEO of Scentered, a range of aromatherapy balms, candles and body care products that, through their Wellbeing Ritual, teaches customers how to use the power of scent to influence mood, behaviors and create positive wellness outcomes. Scentered is focused on overall wellness and sustainability with an emphasis on the Creative Reusability of their packaging.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Scentered was founded by my business partner, Lara Morgan, who relied heavily on essential oils and aromatherapy while she was building and selling a successful global hospitality amenities company. She was frustrated by the lack of portability of other brands in the space and set out to create a line of 100% natural aromatherapy products that could meet the needs of both people new to the category and those well-versed in the benefits of essential oils who were looking for convenience. After test marketing in the UK for a couple of years, Lara and I teamed up in 2018 to take the concept global and to expand the brand into other categories and usage occasions.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The story of how I came to Scentered I think is a bit interesting. I had just finished the sale of the company I had been running for 14 years and while I loved what I did, I knew the company was in good hands and I was ready for a change. About a month after the sale of the company I went on a professional women’s retreat to Scotland, somewhere I’d never been. There, I met this ball of energy who was passing out samples of Scentered- who turned out to be Lara. We compared notes as she realized that my former company was “that company” in the US that was putting brand-name amenities into hotels for free (in direct contrast to her licensing model where hotels purchased her products to put in-room). She shared that this competitive threat was what prompted her to sell her company ten years prior. Meanwhile I was now at a crossroads, looking for a new opportunity. My vision for my next challenge was to scale a global business while helping people to live better, happier lives. After six months of conversations and meetings across multiple countries and time zones, we agreed to partner and I took the lead at Scentered almost a year to the date after meeting. From this experience, I reinforced the belief that I rarely regret the times I’ve said “yes” and that all the “yeses” it took to get both of us busy professional women in the same room at the same time were not coincidental, but rather a testament to how we have both approached our careers. No matter how much experience I have gathered in the past 25+ years as a professional, I must continue to push myself to learn and grow by asking myself, “How hard could it be?”
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my biggest learning lessons happened when I was in my mid 20’s and I was passed over for an opportunity. I had been traveling all over the Midwest calling on B tier accounts and was promised that once a marque account in my hometown, Chicago, opened up, I would be next in line to take it over. The Kraft Foods account was changing hands and instead of assigning it to me, they gave it to someone with less experience. I was steamed! After work I met a colleague at a nearby watering hole and boldly vented my frustrations over a glass of vino (or two). The next day the head VP of our office called me in and shared that another manager had been at the same restaurant and overheard my rant. My colleague was also reprimanded for participating in the conversation. I could have chosen to direct my frustrations at the fact that I was justified in my feelings having been passed over or been angry that the other manager had gone several levels above me to report this situation rather than come to me directly. But I took responsibility for my actions. I was mortified that sharing with my colleague might have put her in a compromising position and probably further delayed my aspirations. I took full responsibility, put my head down and nose to the grindstone. I focused on doing the job that I had to the best of my ability and ended up doubling my sales goal for the year. Within six months of this at the time seemingly critical mistake, I was offered a promotion and transferred to run our northeastern region. It was a major display of faith by the very same VP who had reprimanded me. So aside from remembering to NEVER vent office politics a stone’s throw away from the building, I’ve carried the lesson with me that it’s my job to be the person that deserves the next opportunity and if I focused on that, the opportunities would follow.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I’ve been a bit of a “brain geek” for about a decade. I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of articles about how the brain learns and unlearns, how it stores information in the conscious and subconscious mind and how habits are formed and broken. I’ve also worked with major manufacturers that understand the appeal of scent, from P&G to L’Oréal. What excited me most about Scentered was the ability to teach people how to use aromatherapy and essential oils not only for the topical medicinal benefits embraced by eastern cultures for millennia, but to teach people that they can use scent to set a mood or purposefully create a desired mindset. We’ve all had those experiences where you get a whiff of something and it brings you back in time, to your childhood, a place, or a mood. The smell of fresh bread that brings you to your favorite place in Italy or a perfume that reminds you of someone from your past. The subconscious brain detects and logs most of the smells we encounter, creating a meaning and linking the emotions associated with that meaning. For example, if that perfume you smelled was worn by your favorite aunt, your brain created a positive set of emotions that will be delivered to you automatically. Likewise, if it was worn by someone who had wronged you, the emotions served to you would differ dramatically. At Scentered, we want to teach people how to “game their brain” and create conscious scent-meaning correlations to deliver the emotions they desire, on demand. Imagine if people had a portable tool that allowed them to instantly focus, manage their stress or embrace joy on a moment’s notice? If we could teach people how to use scent at bedtime to sleep better and be more rested and productive? We think we can change the way people mindfully drive meaning and purpose help them live happier lives.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Do what you can today. What you can’t do, just let it go. There is never a day when it all gets done. Whether it’s returning emails, folding laundry or using recycled bamboo toilet paper. Cut yourself some slack. Saying you’re eco-conscious or organic but buying a giant bag of Cheetos doesn’t make you a fraud, it makes you real. Decide what your true deal-breakers are and stick to your guns, but be open when reality sneaks in. If you’re a stickler about sending your kid to school with only reusable containers, don’t beat yourself up when you grab a handful of zipper bags for snacks when you travel. Give yourself credit for the small wins along the way.
- Breathe. Consciously. When you transition from conversation to conversation, when something has caught you off-guard, when you’ve royally messed up. Deep breathing not only has loads of proven health benefits, it gives you precious seconds when you can regroup, rethink, and maybe reevaluate your next move.
- Move. Sitting to standing. Standing to squatting. Arms from your side to above your head. Walking around the room or the block. It’s fantastic when you can get that 30 minutes of cardio in or when your wrist device buzzes with your 10,000 steps, but little movements add up throughout the day.
- Push boundaries. Going a tiny bit further than you ever have or think you can is still the farthest you’ve ever been. Make “BAG” goals (Big, Audacious Goals) but set achievable milestones along the way and note them. If you don’t notice and give yourself credit for smaller achievements you’ll lose motivation before you reach the goal line.
- Express gratitude. Neuroscientists will tell you that simply expressing true gratitude stimulates the brain to produce hormones that make you happy. Religious scholars teach their followers to give thanks because when you can appreciate what you have you are more at peace.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A “movement” is exactly what Scentered is aiming to start with the scent revolution.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Take more people to breakfast. People relax and are more willing to share over a meal, whether that’s a mentor or a boss. Lunch is a harried time, but breakfast is a great opportunity to get someone when they are fresh and aren’t running from a previous meeting that might have put them in another mindset. When you’re young and on a budget, bringing someone to a dive for eggs and bacon is easier on the budget than pricier lunch options.
- Stay organized. When you’re overwhelmed, being disorganized makes things seem twice as hard. When you can keep your priorities straight and your environment low-clutter, you spend less time searching for things and more time getting things done.
- Remember names. I have always struggled to remember names. I’ve tried all the “tricks” over the years and still I’m only about 80% of the way there most days. If someone I looked up to would have stressed to me the importance of this, I might have mastered this when I was starting my career. Still a work in progress.
- Know your value. Don’t be afraid to ask for what your worth. “Deserve” isn’t the word to use when negotiating. Never use seniority as a negotiating tool. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what is commercial and be very specific in what you ask for based on the facts of your contribution. Don’t assume that simply working hard is enough for others to reward you for your efforts.
- Hire the best talent you can afford. It’s more expensive to hire, fire and replace someone than to hire the more talented and usually more expensive person in the first place. The toll on the company for under-hiring isn’t just monetary, as the impact creates a ripple effect over company culture.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability is at the heart of all manufacturing decisions we make at Scentered, from using 100% recycled plastic for our hair and body line to using expensive but beautiful glass in our candles so people are inspired to keep and repurpose them. Personally, I’ve worked to make more sustainable choices in our household- eliminating plastic water bottles from our grocery list and switching to bamboo paper products like facial tissue and toilet paper. This year, we’ve experimented with bee’s wax food wrap and wool dryer balls.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!