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Female Founders: Nicole Eckels of Glasshouse Fragrances On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

The people you work with are critical to your company’s success. Yet, like any leader, I have gotten this wrong from time to time. When I was starting out, I didn’t have the experience to understand what skills, knowledge, and attributes a person should possess, yet, if you get it wrong its often incredibly time-wasting as well as expensive.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Eckels.

Glasshouse Fragrances was founded in 2005 by Nicole Eckels, a New York firebrand far from home. Having ventured to Sydney in search of adventure, Nicole found the native scents of New South Wales to be exotic and enchanting. The products that brought them to life? Not so much. So, she created Glasshouse Fragrances to fill the fragrant void in the market.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I don’t think there was any one thing that led me to create Glasshouse Fragrances. There were many, many little steps that in hindsight lead me to where I am now. I had a mother who loved beauty and the transformative nature of makeup and fragrance. Her love of it led me to believe that your sense of smell is the most powerful one of all. Over time, took me to my first role in beauty where I was a resident make-up artist for CHANEL at Saks Fifth Avenue. The thing is, with that role, I not only developed my skills as an artist, but I was also honing my skills in understanding what women want. I was also understanding the idiosyncrasies of clients and building upon my emotional intelligence, to create a successful sales career. From there I moved into a more corporate B2B role, which taught me the more organizational and corporate skills that I would use throughout my time at Glasshouse Fragrances.

The company itself came about after relocating to Australia as a single mother. I went to replace a much-loved candle and realized there was nothing in Australia that offered high-quality fragrance. It was at that moment, that I set out to create my own brand, but with the highest possible standards. The first fragrances were made in my kitchen and tested with my friends and family.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There are many stories. After running a business for 17 years the stories all merge and help to create the business that it is. A broad story, that impacted me, in the beginning, was how few people believed in the concept of Glasshouse Fragrances. They didn’t believe that Australians would want to buy candles for their homes on a regular basis, or that they would spend $50 on them. So, my challenge was to get them to fall in love with the scent. I gave retailers a candle to light on their store counters, for free, and within minutes customers would be asking what the fragrance was. The sales started coming in quickly.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest thing was when I was attempting to make our first candles. I had no idea what I was doing, and our first products smelled amazing but burned terribly! Trial and error and years and years later, I am now happy to announce that our candles are some of the best in the world.

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 get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had the support of people over the years that have helped me along the way. Without the advice and support of others, I think it’s hard to achieve your goals. The people that have been the most helpful and that I have learned the most from are my business partners, I am very lucky to have met them. For those in business who have had so-so partners, we know how lucky I am.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

That’s a complex question. And I’m not sure I can speak on behalf of other women. What I can speak to is why I started my business, and often, I know that it will resonate with a woman reading the interview. I started Glasshouse Fragrances because I believed in my vision and believed there was a demand for what I would go on to create. I believed I could create a future for my son and me in which I was able to enjoy financial independence. I love the creative process and the challenges that running a business brings, and I knew that by following my passion, we would be successful.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Women should be more visible about their success so other women and children see this as normal and more possible for them. I think, as often as possible, we should be highlighting and celebrating female leaders — across all sectors — and the language used by media particularly should be positive. I also believe that this shouldn’t just be applied to women, it should be for any person that has had to overcome adversity to realize their business success whether they are female or not.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Having a woman in business is essential to good commercial outcomes. Women and men together make better and more balanced decisions for everyone. We add a different perspective to situations because after all, 50% of our population are women and we are often more in tune with what they want and how they feel at an emotional level. Women make many of the purchasing decisions or influence the decision-maker. It just makes sense.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

In my opinion, not everyone is cut out to be a founder. In the same way, not everyone is cut out to run a marathon, or swim the English Channel. Some people are born to be leaders, and some are born to be the worker bees, and both are equally important. I don’t think you can pigeonhole traits because someone will always prove you wrong. For me strong leaders are dynamic, resilient pragmatic, and curious, they are willing to take risks and will shoulder the responsibility of them. They share the success with the team, and they lead in times of crisis. They also have very little time left over for others so it can be a challenge.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. The people you work with are critical to your company’s success. Yet, like any leader, I have gotten this wrong from time to time. When I was starting out, I didn’t have the experience to understand what skills, knowledge, and attributes a person should possess, yet, if you get it wrong its often incredibly time-wasting as well as expensive.

2. Buckle Up: this is going to be a long ride. Take care of yourself, spend time with your family, and don’t stress all the time. When I started out, I worried all the time about everything…and occasionally I still catch myself still doing it. I have learned this… worrying is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere. It’s also incredibly bad for your mental health so I try to stay calm and relaxed most of the time. Everything always works out.

3. You will make mistakes and that is just the way it is, learn from them and move on.

4. Not everyone will like you, some people will even hate you. I have thick skin and I stay resilient which luckily for me, is in my nature.

5. Your gut is where your talent and vision live, and it’s a unique point of view. This has served me in my life and in business. I wish I knew that from the start, I would have trusted it more and believed in myself when others didn’t.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I believe so. Or hope so. I spend a lot of time mentoring young people, aspiring entrepreneurs, and women in business. I invest in empowering the team at Glasshouse Fragrances, so they too grow into strong leaders. We donate resources to people and organizations who are in need or that we believe in. When I have more free time I will do a lot more of this.

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

For my next venture, I have an idea that I am really excited about that I can’t wait to tackle soon. I am not sure how quickly I can scale that idea, but the impact it will have on the lives of the individuals who we touch will be profound. I haven’t fully developed the idea so am not going to share it but stay tuned!

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet Alessandro Michele, the Creative Director at Gucci. He is brilliant. While I know he may not be based in the USA, you never know, he might be a reader!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Female Founders: Nicole Eckels of Glasshouse Fragrances On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.