“There is no yellow brick road to follow to Nirvana” with Author Annette Green and Phil Laboon

There is one irrefutable reality I quickly embraced when I joined the 1950s crowd of trekkers bound for success in New York City: there is no yellow brick road to follow to Nirvana. It is a winding path strewn with seemingly insurmountable potholes, endless side tracks, stop signs and false starts. Of course, I had […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

There is one irrefutable reality I quickly embraced when I joined the 1950s crowd of trekkers bound for success in New York City: there is no yellow brick road to follow to Nirvana. It is a winding path strewn with seemingly insurmountable potholes, endless side tracks, stop signs and false starts. Of course, I had no idea how fraught with potential pitfalls such a journey could be. Happily, I was emotionally prepared to take on the world so obstacles didn’t faze me. I was (and am) the eternal optimist and sallied forth full of joy and anticipation to begin my search to find a career in a world I would love, without, I might add, the approval of my family. (Few young women in the 50s left home to follow their dreams — to say nothing of living on their own in a big city.)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Annette Green, “High Priestess of the Fragrance World,” President Emeritus, The Fragrance Foundation, Author of “Spritzing To Success With The Woman Who Brought An Industry To Its Senses” and Fragrance Historian

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

There is one irrefutable reality I quickly embraced when I joined the 1950s crowd of trekkers bound for success in New York City: there is no yellow brick road to follow to Nirvana. It is a winding path strewn with seemingly insurmountable potholes, endless side tracks, stop signs and false starts. Of course, I had no idea how fraught with potential pitfalls such a journey could be. Happily, I was emotionally prepared to take on the world so obstacles didn’t faze me. I was (and am) the eternal optimist and sallied forth full of joy and anticipation to begin my search to find a career in a world I would love, without, I might add, the approval of my family. (Few young women in the 50s left home to follow their dreams — to say nothing of living on their own in a big city.)

I always had my eye on the prize — even when I was growing up in the little town of Belleville, New Jersey. Writing was a passion and gained me status at school and with grown-ups. I was considered the neighborhood scribe . I recited poetry in class, clipped famous philosophical words of wisdom from newspapers and magazines to inspire me, rode my bicycle (often to forbidden parts of town), wrote, acted and produced plays for my friends and neighbors, (costumes provided by my mother), ran a lending library of comic books and movie magazines, spoke up against the prevailing proposition that children were to be seen but not heard. Because my mother enjoyed taking me to the theater and museums in Manhattan, I became a popular story teller.

During my senior year in Weequahic High School in Newark, I was named editor-in-chief of the yearbook. I made up my mind I would live and write in Manhattan and just had to bide my time until I could get there. In the interim, after graduation in 1942 with a secretarial certificate of excellence, I went to work typing and taking dictation in a variety of offices in Newark, including the Signal Corps. A hub of activity during World War II, I learned a lot about a lot. Dedication! Concentration! Efficiency! Selflessness! Nevertheless, I never stopped dreaming of living in New York’s Greenwich Village which I considered an irresistible creative hub filled to the brim with artists, actors, writers and performers. I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

The importance of fragrance at this point in my life was concentrated on my mother’s love of the beautifully-bottled sweet smelling liquid. It was a gift I gave her on every special occasion. She, in turn, introduced me to an assortment of scents which I wore night and day. I never could have imagined that mysterious odors and potions were to become a lifelong obsession which would set me up for success in the world of the senses. As an aside, my exposure to the joys of fragrance started before I was born thanks to a shopping trip my mother made, in her eighth month, to the perfume department in Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia. It was there her water bag broke, making me an accidental citizen of the City of Brotherly Love. As I wrote in my memoir, “Spritzing to Success,” and as the years flew by, I began to consider the possibility, plausible or not, that it was in this city my genes got scrambled and the most unappreciated of the senses — smell — came out on top.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I was sure the winding path I was traveling would lead to a career in fashion reporting. Instead, I got sidetracked by a job with Hearst Magazines which, of all things was as editorial assistant on their trade publication, American Druggist. I was disappointed but promised a transfer to Harper’s Bazaar when a position opened up. I reluctantly took the job not realizing a major social shift was in the works. Teen-agers were flexing their consumer muscle and becoming important cosmetic customers in drug stores. Since I was the staff member closest in age, I was assigned a monthly column to advise druggists how to market to these eager but still unaware consumers. I checked with my local druggist in Newark to ask if I could work behind the counter on weekends to find out for myself how the business was changing and what would or wouldn’t work. He said “yes” and I soon made a sharp career turn which left my interest in fashion writing in the dust.

I was smitten by these young customers who were ready and eager to learn everything they could about cosmetics and fragrances. I quickly understood I was dealing with deep psychological needs. My column was a success. I also tried my hand in the art department but was a flop. My bosses ignored this glitch and sent me to the private Shipman School of Journalism in Times Square. I graduated with a Certificate of Accomplishment. The experience gave quite a lift to my professional qualifications and encouraged me onward. When I left the magazine it was not only to go work for a cosmetic company but to enroll in a journalism class at New York University. I attended at night for several years, paid for by my mother who cashed in her World War II War Bonds. My goal was to learn everything I could about writing as a profession as well as about the beauty business from a behind-the-scenes perch.

I was lucky to find what I considered the perfect job at Richard Hudnut/DuBarry which in the 50s was a competitor to Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. The company also had a salon on Fifth Avenue. Among other things, it offered women membership in what was called The DuBarry Success School. There were classes in make-up, hair styling, exercise and skin care with a bit of fashion news thrown in. My job was to write a monthly newsletter for these women on trends in the beauty, fashion and the cultural worlds. It was fun and fulfilling, except my boss was an extremely difficult woman who ruled her department with an iron hand and was loathe to give anyone credit for ideas or work well done. In fact, just the opposite. She made them her own.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I grew increasingly frustrated and decided to leave although I didn’t have another job. Unknown to me I was on the radar of another executive in the company, Christine Chiossi, who wanted me to work for her as a sales training writer. I was thrilled because I admired her tremendously. The fly in the ointment was the boss I was leaving. She did everything possible to block my move. It was very dispiriting to say the least. After endless discussions with Human Resources, Miss Chiossi prevailed. I happily moved into her orbit. That was my lucky day. She became my mentor and lifelong role model and taught me everything I could ever want to know about what it takes to lift products into the stratosphere. I worked round the clock and enjoyed every moment as I broadened my circle of professionals. After a year or so, I found my in-box filling with job offers. I hesitated because I felt it would be unfaithful to leave. Astoundingly, this incredible mentor practically shoved me out the door with the admonition that I must take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I did just that.

I went from becoming a beauty, fashion and celebrity editor at MacFadden Publications (True Story, True Romance, True Experiences and Photoplay) to eventually opening my own PR and Marketing Agency, Annette Green Associates. I learned about deadlines and being a jack of all trades. After about a year, I burned out and decided to try freelancing. It wasn’t as easy as I imagined. Assignments were few and far between.

One day, out of the blue, I received a telephone call offering me a job as Assistant Women’s Page Editor at NEA, the syndicated arm of the Scripps Howard News Service. I didn’t hesitate to accept. What an opportunity that turned out to be. In addition to being responsible for churning out an assortment of features on women’s subjects, I interviewed a host of celebrities including Frank Sinatra. Each assignment added another quill to my bow to give me an edge in the years ahead.

I left after a year or so to accept a job as public relations director for a French perfume company, Lentheric, led by its President, Jack Mohr, an executive I had worked for at Richard Hudnut/Dubarry. Although I knew very little about how to do the job, I was assured by my soon-to-be boss that he had every confidence I would find out. Thanks to my journalist friends, of course I did. A great adventure was about to begin. All I had learned came into play. I not only wrote press releases and training materials, but I learned how to be a public speaker, deal with celebrities, represent the company at conferences in Paris and beyond. Most importantly, as I took on more and more executive responsibilities, I began to understood what skills and accommodations counted the most.

I settled in for the long run. Not to be. The company, to my surprise, was sold to the Olin Mathieson Corporation and I went along with the package. I became part of an all-male public relations department working on Winchester guns, roller skates, polyurethane and, of course, perfume. I learned from a group of experts about working with the international news media and my new colleagues learned to put up with perfume wafting through the office. It was an iffy situation but I was determined to stay put for a while.

Before I could make a move, however, Lentheric was sold to Helene Curtis, the Chicago-based hair care giant and I had my choice to stay or go along. It was an easy decision. For the next two or so years I headed up the marketing, PR and promotion department in the New York office . It was an assignment I thoroughly enjoyed until Helene Curtis decided to close the New York office and move us all to Chicago. Not me! Instead, that’s when I decided to open my own public relations agency encouraged by colleagues and potential clients.

I took space in the offices of an advertising agency and moved in with the help of a lot of loving hands. Unfortunately, I faced a crisis a few months in. My first and only client was a fashion advertising agency, Altman Stoller Chalk, which represented Helene Curtis. We agreed to a 3-month trial. I was assigned projects for several of their clients and because everyone was pleased with the work, I felt confident all was well. However, one sunny day I was asked to meet with David Stoller who advised me it was costing the Agency too much money to offer my services to their clients and the Agency would not continue our relationship. I was stunned. As I made my way back to my office, I stopped into a coffee shop for a cup of tea. My head was spinning as I pondered a survival strategy. By the time I finished drinking the tea, I felt calm and more determined than ever to move forward and do whatever it might take to build my business. My fallback position was to throw in the towel and get a job.

Fortunately, about a week later a beauty editor I knew recommended my agency to the head of a small, fine French perfume company, Corday. The Agency was retained and we continued to pick up a variety of clients. The clincher, however, was when California-based Max Factor bought Corday and during the proceedings met with me and decided to hire the Agency to represent the company in the East. I was ecstatic. It was an extraordinary ten-year relationship which sealed the success of my Agency. In fact, we were doing so well, that when a group of fragrance executives approached me about working together to try to save the defunct Fragrance Foundation — pro bono — I agreed.

I had covered the non-profit, educational Foundation as a reporter at NEA in the 50s and thought it was a remarkable voice for the U.S. based French perfume industry. My job was to rebuild the organization, if possible. The challenge was to discover the reasons why American women, who rarely worked outside the home, didn’t wear fragrance except on special occasions. I was challenged on every front and told by industry members, over and over again, no one wanted the Fragrance Foundation. Forget it!

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Only true grit inspired my determination to override the negativity. For reasons I can’t really explain, it was never in my nature to give up or turn away from hard times. I dug in and began to analyze the depth of the problem. It became clear to me I needed to make some important alliances with influential industry leaders to give my plans credibility. I reached out and found a few who believed in the mission. Fortunately, my timing was perfect. Women’s lives in America were undergoing incredible changes as the workforce opened up to them. I took advantage of what was going on by introducing the concept of a “wardrobe of fragrance” to guide women in their choices, depending on whether they were at work or out on the town.

Next, I moved the industry away from the luxury connotation of “perfume” to the more generic appeal of “fragrance” which covered the whole spectrum of products from colognes to soaps. As time went by, and women began to understand the roles of fragrance in their lives, it gave companies the impetus to introduce a growing number of new fragrances as well as develop line extensions to existing brands which increased sales dramatically and lured American companies into the mix. As the influence of the Fragrance Foundation grew, I was caught up in its magic and it wasn’t long before it became the lode star of my life.

Slowly I let my public relations business turn away from its client base which allowed me to devote more and more of my energies to the fragrance industry here and abroad. It took me ten years to turn what was a small $500,000 French perfume business in the United Sates into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.

My position in the industry has had its ups and downs as successors have come and gone at The Fragrance Foundation. The current President, Linda Levy, however, has reached out to me as a kindred spirit dedicated to the importance and pleasures of fragrance.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Today, I continue to savor the fruits of my 40-year journey. Three years ago I decided to write a book, Spritzing To Success With The Woman Who Brought An Industry To Its Senses, detailing the ups-and- downs which made each day a challenge to be conquered. It was published in September, 2018 and has been exceptionally well-received in and out of the industry. In fact, closing out 2018, it was named Best Fragrance Book by fragrance blog ÇaFleureBon who has been awarding the Best of Scent awards since 2010. ÇaFleureBon is the Number 1 niche and natural perfume blog in the world and a top international fragrance/beauty site.

In a separate judging, Spritzing To Success has also been chosen as one of the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs (NABE) Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winners for Fall 2018 in the memoir category.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

Giving advice is often a thankless effort, but if I were to pick five of what I consider the most meaningful qualities I would top the list with PASSION with a purpose. It is not enough to feel passionate about changing the world, but to know how to incorporate that emotional bonus into a strategy which will assure success.

That is what I did when I conceived the idea of establishing an awards program, inspired by the movie world’s “Oscars.” I was passionate about finding a way to express, on a national stage, the inherent artistry of fragrance development, its packaging, advertising and marketing. I prepared a proposal for the Board of the Fragrance Foundation in the early 70s, which was approved overwhelmingly. I began the process of developing a feasible format which would give the industry a visibility beyond sales. The “FiFi” Awards, introduced in 1973, evolved to become an industry game changer, driven by celebrity participation, which eventually inspired similar ceremonies in Europe. It continues as a magnet for recognition and growth of the industry.

The essence of grit is DETERMINATION. Without it the possibility of achieving one’s goals is illusionary. It takes 104% of your dedication, energy and preparation to develop and execute a master plan of action. Even with all the determination you can muster, you must add a noticeable dose of ENTHUSIASM to the mix. Since enthusiasm is known to be contagious, you will want to make a public display of the potential of your plan to attract critical support and encouragement.

These are the forces I combined to help me establish the study of beauty and fragrance marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. It was in the early 80s that I began to think about how difficult it was to enter the industry, particularly for women, with specific educational credentials which would place them on the executive ladder.

I approached FIT with the proposal for such a curriculum. The first reaction was there was no fit since the college was dedicated to fashion. In response, I laid out recent indicators which revealed that the concept of fashion was moving into a wider circle. In fact, automobile manufacturers, liquor distributors and even toy makers were beginning to refer to the fashion appeal of their products in an effort to reach the ever-widening impact of women consumers.

I convinced the school it was part of a major social upheaval in perceptions. I finally got a “yes” but only if I would teach an elective every Thursday afternoon. I had to say I would or the proposal would die. After about a year, word was spreading among students throughout the college that the beauty industry offered opportunities beyond what was available in traditional fashion companies. Before long, I was approached by the Dean of Students to work with him on developing a Bachelors Degree program. I was thrilled and found the perfect talent to teach the course.

Graduates were beginning to find excellent, challenging positions in companies whose doors had been closed to them. Before I knew it I was recruited to help FIT take the next step and develop a Masters Degree program. I worked with a high-powered committee over several years to develop the program which is now a staple at the college. Because of the enthusiasm generated by all of us, financial support by the beauty and fragrance industry began to build and today the partnership is unbreakable.

My fourth piece of advice is to train to be a FUTURIST. It requires, among other things, being aware of the large and small changes taking place globally which could impact how we live, love, play and interact with each other. In that spirit, in the early 90s, I conceived the idea of developing a major conference which I titled, “Summit 2000 — Preparing for the First Global Civilization.” The goal was to expose the fragrance industry to a depth of information to help move it front and center as the world prepared to enter a new and challenging Century. I found the perfect partner, Dr. Howard Perlmutter, Professor of Management and Social Architecture at the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at Wharton. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Perlmutter thanks to contacts at the Lauder Fellowship Studies Program at Wharton. I worked in tandem with Dr. Perlmutter, an acknowledged globalist himself, for over a year. When we were done, we had constructed a symposium that would be the first-ever funded by one U.S industry.

A cross-section of the most advanced thinkers were invited by Dr. Perlmutter to participate in discussions which included political dynamics, economic expectations, scientific, technological, medical and ecological arenas. Attendees primarily included industry leaders. Fragrance itself, however, was not the subject. The Summit was divided into two parts. The first was the Wharton Conference which took a generic overview of global changes to come Then, with the help of a fragrance industry committee chaired by the futurist Edie Weiner, President of The Future Hunters, we reformulated what had been presented at Wharton to address the specifics of the fragrance industry. Dr. Perlmutter and several of the speakers and members of the fragrance world participated in the New York symposium which was held in New York at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Looking back at the amazing insights shared by the experts at Wharton and Lincoln Center, it is remarkable to realize much of what they predicted has come to pass.

My fifth choice of indispensable characteristics which I believe are necessary to success is JOIE DE VIVRE — which translates into making decisions which are not only positive and well-executed, but reveal an understanding that there is an art to adding pleasure into even the most mundane activities. I interpreted this philosophy into an extremely successful project which was designed to exhilarate and excite consumers who were becoming increasingly bored with the shopping experience and product overload. I took advantage of a massive tent we had set-up on the grounds of Lincoln Center for a private attendee dinner after the “FiFi” Awards Ceremony.

We invited members of the Foundation to participate in what we called, “Fragrance Fun Day” to take place the day after the ceremonies. The idea was to create a perfume playground under the big tent for the public. That is exactly what happened. Opening ceremonies included the presentation of the Mayor’s Proclamation. Foundation members set up areas to allow attendees to make their own perfume, visit an “open air” theatre-in-the-round headlined “Stars on Stage” for celebrity guest appearances, prize drawings and interviews. Children had the opportunity to walk through a simulated rain forest and discover where rare ingredients for perfume come from, everyone was invited to stop by a “movie theater” to view films and videos on fragrance history, ingredient gathering around the world and a film the Foundation had produced for a museum exhibition we had mounted in the 80s tracing the influence of social changes on fragrance creation and acceptance — “Scents of Time.”

Stores throughout the city tied-in and distributed tickets to fragrance customers. We also made tickets available to New York’s Visitor’s Bureau and other special locations. We rented double-decker busses that circled back and forth between the stores and Lincoln Center to transport the public. 3000 people joined the fun and most stayed and played until closing time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely! Of all the extraordinary mentors I had, I have to say, Jack Mohr made the greatest impact on my career. His early recognition of my talents led to opportunities in the fragrance world I never could have imagined and, most importantly recommended me, and my PR Agency, Annette Green Associates, to a committee of fragrance industry leaders tasked with saving the defunct Fragrance Foundation. I was on my way to fragrance Nirvana.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am particularly proud of the Bachelors and Masters Degree programs I helped establish at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Graduates from the program have been accepted for meaningful positions in companies throughout the industry. The sale of my book, Spritzing to Success, will benefit students in the program at FIT as well as the Annette Green Perfume Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. FIDM has also established a curriculum similar to the one at FIT.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

In addition to promoting my book through personal appearances, lectures and media coverage, I serve on the advisory committee of Sparks and Honey, a major interpreter of trends around the world and their impact on global societies.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Executives devoted, as I was, to helping their employees thrive, should consider an open door policy which encourages creative exchange and the opportunities to grow and develop in the company. The addition of a dollop of kindness and encouragement will go a long way to assure that those who are on the line dedicate themselves to turning company goals into reality.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Given the increasingly complex, technological demands of the workplace in today’s world, I believe industry leaders should join together with dedicated philanthropists, local and national government agencies and human resource professionals to create LEARNING CENTERS in cities across the country which will provide the insights and opportunities for workers to move, successfully, into the future. What’s more, these LEARNING CENTERS should supply psychological support.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite “life lesson quote” is Churchillian. “I like things to happen; and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” This has been my philosophy throughout my life. From my leaving home to pursue my dreams in the early 50s to finding success in the editorial and corporate worlds and finally to reaching fragrance Nirvana with the appointment of Annette Green Associates to help save the defunct Fragrance Foundation, I was at the heart of change and making things happen. My work has been hailed for helping to propel the small $500.000 business of the 50s to the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. I have been referred to as the “muse” of the fragrance world. It is a source of great satisfaction to know at the end of the journey I did, indeed, make a difference in the dynamic growth of the global industry and established appreciation of the artistic and scientific role of fragrance in people’s lives.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on Facebook, Annette [email protected] To SuccessOfficial, LinkedIn and on my author’s page on Amazon.com, Spritzing To Success. They can also go to my book website, www.spritzingtosuccess.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Build Your Own Yellow Brick Road…

by Trish Tonaj
Thrive Style//

Beating Out Anxiety: One Thought at a Time

by Nicole Campbell
Make a Wish....One...for all!

From Sacrifice to Possibility!

by Veera Khare Asher, DMA, CSCS, USAW
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.