10 QUESTIONS WITH OUR FOUNDER AMY CHRISTIANSEN

10 QUESTIONS WITH OUR FOUNDER AMY CHRISTIANSEN

  • 15 November, 2019
  • Emily Taylor

With a background in social work and a love of fragrance developed through years of travel, we sat down with our founder, Amy and asked her some important questions about how Sana Jardin came to be... 

  1. Why did you choose to start Sana Jardin?

I have long thought business can be a vehicle for social change and I saw luxury perfume as the opportunity to economically empower women hidden at the bottom of the supply chain, through commerce not charity.

I have been motivated to help lower income people in need since I was a little girl, which is why I became a direct practice social worker. I worked on the west side of Chicago with struggling families and individuals, and soon realised I could have a greater impact if I focused on helping these groups on an institutional level by enabling them to access jobs, education and financial opportunity.

I grew up travelling with my grandmother and she sort of tucked me in her suitcase wherever she went, so I grew up with the heady scents of North Africa and the Middle East, and ones that are more mainstream like Orange Blossom, Jasmine and Amber. Despite this passion for scents I was struggling to find the perfect product that was representative of the smells from my travels.

 Additionally, I sit on the board of an organisation in New York called Nest, which is working to make supply chains more ethical and transparent. I saw the movement towards more honest fashion supply chain, and I felt like if we could do this in fashion, then why not in beauty? Why not do it in perfume?

With this in mind, it felt right that my training and my passion could marry, and Sana Jardin was born.

 

  1. What does being sustainable mean to you?

Often times people will talk about provenance and how the ingredients are sourced in a way that does not harm the environment. The next layer to that conversation is the carbon footprint – sometimes a responsibly sourced ingredient might have an outrageous carbon footprint, which can’t be sustainable?! At Sana Jardin we aim to be sensible and conscious in our ingredient sourcing, but also aim to take that conversation a bit further and economically empower the indigenous women who harvest by hand the flowers for perfume.

 

  1. Can you elaborate on your thoughts around using commerce for social good?

The woman we work with are rural, low-income women with limited employment skills and opportunities. We believe that perfume can be a vehicle for social change and have developed a Beyond Sustainability™ business model that is based on “flower recycling” and a circular economy. We take the waste product from perfume production and upcycle it into a line of products that the female flower harvesters in Morocco sell locally, becoming their own micro-entrepreneurs. We have developed a co-operative for the women and up-skilled them so they can now earn revenues year-round.

Our Beyond Sustainability™ Movement is the overarching ethos that houses our first social impact project in Morocco, and we hope to scale the model globally to create more social impact projects around the world with female flower harvesters. We are proud to contribute three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: to empower women (goal 5), promote sustainable economic growth with full, productive employment (goal 8), and ensure sustainable production practices (goal 12).

 

  1. What differences have you seen since starting the Beyond Sustainability Movement?

Yes, it was created by us, but we worked with Nest, a non-profit organization bringing transparency and business development to the global artisan community, and Les Aromes du Maroc as implementation partners.

Since 2016, we have worked hand in hand with the indigenous Amazigh women in the historic flower-growing region in Morocco to economically empower the female flower harvesters who hand-pick the flowers for Sana Jardin perfume. Traditionally, the orange blossom, jasmine, and rose harvest provided only seasonal employment for these women.

In addition, the harvest yields around 900 tons of orange blossom waste by-product annually that has previously gone to landfills. Together with Nest, we created two micro-enterprises with female farmers in rural Morocco that help the women to up-cycle the waste by-product from the floral harvest and create their own line of products, including orange blossom water and scented candles. Participating female farmers received training in key business skills and receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their products.

 

  1. Why is it important for fragrances to be sustainable? How can consumers be more mindful?

It is in that I feel very strongly that we all play a role and no matter how small the steps we take are, if we take them together, we will see change. I’ve chosen to focus on fragrance, but every industry has a role to play. Both our brand and products are honest, pure and empowering. Through Sana Jardin, we are being true to something we believe very strongly in. Our focus at the moment is on two villages in Morocco - we can see we’re making a difference in those villages and are proud of that. We hope in time to scale and see our business helping empower women in communities around the world. As consumers I would encourage people to think more often about the journey the item they’re considering buying has been on. It feels good to know that you’re buying into a movement that empowers others in the way the product might empower you.

 

  1. Which is your favourite scent?

When we launched, I constantly wore Berber Blonde and Tiger by her Side, but now I drench myself in our most recent fragrance, Jaipur Chant.

 

  1. Your grandmother plays a role in the story of Sana Jardin. Can you tell us about her?

My grandmother, Mary Pomeroy, was an intrepid trailblazer who worked to empower women economically through the foundation she co-founded in the 1960’s called the Delegation for Friendship Among Women, She tucked me in her suitcase and took me around the world, transferring her blueprint for a life into my DNA. My eyes were as big as saucers as I stood next to her – meeting important women ranging from the Egyptian First lady to African women working to improve their lives.

In 1979, she started wearing the iconic fragrance Opium. She smelled so exotic and powerful to me. When I hugged her the spicy perfume was a source of comfort for me but equally if I smelled her walking into a room I knew I had to sit up straighter and focus. She glittered with tales of adventurous travel, plane crashes, optimism, international allure and authority. Her fragrance and her aura let all who were in her scent trail know she was different and a woman to be admired.

She still wears Opium and I feel secretly special that the scent I associate my grandmother with is the transporting and strong Opium fragrance and not a more mainstream scent like the smell of baking cookies.  

She was not a traditional grandmother and her scent signifies all that she was to me – the inspiration for my life’s work.

 

  1. What’s been the highlight of starting a business like Sana Jardin?

Sana Jardin has literally been built on the goodwill of people who have generously opened up their rolodexes to help me create social change for low income women and build this company. So many people in different countries have been extraordinarily helpful to me and it is humbling to witness peoples natural desire to be benevolent and create human bridges through their connections.  

 

  1. What’s the worst part of your job?

Feeling overwhelmed. Launching a start up is relentless and frightening. But one always has to evolve, refine and have faith!

 

  1. What makes you excited every day?

I LOVE the era we are living in. I am super excited to be part of a massive paradigm shift that is occurring where people are laser focused on humanitarian and environmental issues. It is exhilarating for me to see so many individuals uniting to be instruments for social change through their voices, their wallets and their creativity. I feel we are on the brink of a new era in humanity that is softer, more collaborative and more humane and that is thrilling! Let there be light!

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