Everyone has special people in their lives, whether they are family members, childhood friends, or mentors and colleagues from the workplace. I have worked at quite a few fragrance companies in my career, and have noticed that the connection to many of my former colleagues have waned, but aren’t gone. And that is due to the beauty of social media that has enabled me to reconnect with many of them. In fact, I’ve actually been able to nurture some of my professional relationships to a greater extent. Of all of my former colleagues, I am so grateful for keeping in touch with a very special person who I worked with at Coty from 2001 until 2014. Looking back throughout our career together, Linda Singh has been a constant, loyal friend who has given me so much moral support since leaving Coty and even more so since I started the Scent Guru Group in 2017. I have learned by watching and listening to her, and have been inspired by her tenacity and entrepreneurial-ship. Who said we don’t need mentors even as mature professional women?
Both Linda and I have reinvented ourselves starting new careers that have enriched our lives in very different and meaningful ways, far from the sophistication of the perfume industry. For this month's blog, I have interviewed Linda who is sharing her story of her current phase in life as a boutique retailer and of some of her favorite scent memories:
Ruth: How has your professional life evolved after leaving your corporate position in sales and marketing at Coty to owning your own boutique in Crisfield Maryland?
Linda: Becoming an entrepreneur was always a dream of mine from a very young age, so after I left my 30-year career in the beauty industry, I started Sitara Collections, an online jewelry store featuring handmade gemstone jewelry made by Indian artisans.I still have this business to this day and have expanded to include a wholesale division, and also sell on Amazon and Handmade.com
Ruth: You helped me set up both Shopify and Amazon sites for my business, but I believe you were able to set up your own sites on your own, is that correct? Was that challenging for you to learn, or is that come to you instinctively?
Linda: I originally had SitaraCollections.com professionally designed, however when the costs started adding up, I decided to learn website design on my own.I first started with Volusion, then moved to Big Commerce, and finally settled on Shopify for the website.It was actually very easy to learn to set up and the support from the Shopify team was amazing.I now have a Shopify storefront for SitaraWholesale.com, SitaraCollections.com and BayGiftVault.com.Shopify makes it very easy for anyone to have a website and has many features for the low monthly price for hosting.
Regarding Amazon - I’ve used Amazon as a seller platform, both Amazon Seller Central as well as Vendor Central.Sitara Collections now uses Vendor Central, which is where you receive PO’s from Amazon on a weekly basis.Amazon is a very complex company, and you need to continue to learn how to work within their processes, how to optimize your listings to get found, and how to use the Sponsored Ads to showcase your product to new customers.
Ruth: How did you find Crisfield and what made you stay?
Linda: I moved to Maryland a few years ago to escape the high cost of living in Stamford, CT and ended up in Crisfield, MD, a city on the southeastern shore of Maryland. I’ve settled here due to proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, beautiful sunsets, friendly people and a low cost of living.The town was once billed as the crab capital of the world, and many watermen still ply the Chesapeake Bay crabbing and fishing.
The original Bank of Crisfield building, built in 1892 on a bed of oyster shells, was available for retail space, at a reasonable price, and my original ideas was that it was the perfect space to showcase Sitara Collections handmade jewelry, but upon further thought, I decided to open a gift boutique / gallery and focus on local artisan gifts, local artwork, selected brand names with a nautical, Maryland or coastal theme, while also showcasing Sitara Collections handmade jewelry.It is named The Bay Gift Vault and is a few blocks away from the Chesapeake Bay.
I not only love talking to the tourists and locals, but love meeting the local artisans who have their products in my store. I’m planning on staying in Crisfield and have since joined the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Crisfield Action Coalition (G.C.A.C.). in order to influence the city of Crisfield to become a thriving city once again.
Ruth: what are some of your favorite scents, and what are some of your favorite scent memories ....and why?
Linda: Some of my favorite scents are roses that remind me of raspberries, and the smell of coffee first thing in the morning.My best scent memory is picking raspberries up in Door County, Wisconsin with my sister and grandparents. One raspberry for the bucket, one raspberry for me (which was fine since it was my aunts property); all the while trying to escape getting stung by the almost always present bees. We would return home via Manitowoc, WI where our favorite restaurant served Chocolate Malts -and at a young age, we were so impressed that we got a chocolate malt in the glass, and they gave us the container they made the malt in so you could get a 2ndserving of Chocolate Malt.Those were some of the best summer days I had as a child.
Ruth: You have done a lot of philanthropic work. Which ones are you particularly passionate about and why?
Linda: You’re right about giving back and making a difference.I’m currently focused and passionate about donating a percent of my net proceeds from Sitara Collections to the Helping Children Succeed, a 501 (c) 3 foundation, which goes towards a school my ex-husband and I built in Chanchali, India.I like to say it’s our way of adding love and equality to every purchase!Additionally, I do support the local community through sponsoring local school and church projects.
I am indulging in the aroma and flavor of chocolate today because it's my daughter's birthday and her favorite treat is chocolate. The photo is of young Claire in a Signal Toothpaste ad in France that is connected to a special memory of chocolate, and how chocolate helped her have more confidence and trust in the ad agency crew who hired her as a model for the ad.
I often use metaphors when I write and since baseball was a big part of my childhood growing up, I like to use terms from this sport in my storytelling. As a rookie entrepreneur and small business owner, I admit it has been a challenge to get to 3rd base but it will be even tougher to reach home plate and I'd rather run there, versus walk. Being a small business owner has its good and bad points: The good ones are that we can forgo some of the multiple layers of management to make decisions because there is one clear goal and no politics involved. More often than not, the key to a smooth launch is the ability to pull the right talent together to make a great team. On the other hand, the downside is that we suffer from the lack of economies of scale and have to pay to play--usually all up front-- before any production lines get the "go" sign. Whether you are a small or big business, there will always be some hiccups along the way. For me, there were just a one or two foul balls, and some curve balls that went array, but my glove fits