Grace Management Group’s Emily Arce

Often when people envision the gift product industry, they picture creative people designing products on paper, or computer, and then making or manufacturing those items by hand or through the use of some type of equipment. Certainly candle and fragrance manufacturers have some of these processes, but we thought it might be interesting for our readers to connect with someone whose job it is to actually create the fragrances used in such products, so we reached out Emily Arce, whose title is “Perfurmer” with Grace Management Group. Following is our Q&A session.

Q: Let’s tell readers about your professional background. What is your exact title with the company, what work do you perform, how many years have you been with Grace, what is your educational background/training?
A: My journey to becoming a perfumer began with a letter to a European fragrance house inquiring about future careers for children with an excellent sense of smell. I was eleven, and my family would tell incredible stories of olfactory curiosity: identifying restaurant smells from my car seat, catching Nana sneaking chocolates by the notes in the air, and blending crushed leaves and berries in the treehouse. I also learned the names and fragrances of indigenous South Carolina plants while hiking and gardening with my parents. After the European fragrance director encouraged a bias towards the sciences and the importance of summer internships, I studied chemistry at Wofford College and interned in the R&D lab at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF).

I believe that God orchestrated the next door that would open for me at Grace Management Group, when my chemistry advisor approached me about a local home fragrance manufacturing company in need of a part-time lab technician. I went on to apprentice under the perfumer, Mike Licciardello, for five years before officially assuming the role of perfumer. I can truly say I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience every aspect of fragrance creation from the compounding and dishwashing to ingredient sourcing. My current responsibilities include fragrance development for Bridgewater Candle Company, Greenleaf, Votivo, Willowbrook and Aroma Creations.

Q: Tell us about your department – # of personnel, how a typical day is spent:

A: The fragrance team consists of a total of five members. Tronda Gordon has been with the company for almost twenty years and brings a wealth of company history, knowledge, and perspective to the team from having worked in almost every department. Her primary role is compounding formulas and samples. Andrea Cromartie has over ten years of production and product development experience. Most recently, Andrea, has teamed up with the regulatory department to formulate safe and globally compliant fragrances for our customers. Stacey Petty coordinates all lab supplies, processes, and employee development. For over five years, Stacey has worked to develop and refine a fragrance paneling program that provides end-consumer feedback to maximize fragrance launch potential.

The newest member of the fragrance team is perfumer, Macaul Neenan, who successfully turned his chemistry background and garage hobby into a career. He has been with Grace Management Group for almost two years.

Q: Tell us about the creative process. How does an aroma/idea go move from concept to final product? How long does that take, where does the inspiration come from?

A: Each member of the fragrance team works closely together to bring a concept to life in a finished product. The process typically begins with trend research on fine fragrance, home decor, food, and flavors approximately 24-36 months before target launch date. Inspiration concepts are presented on a mood board or brief and then interpreted by perfumers into the fragrance families/categories, ingredients, and ratios that will eventually become a tangible expression of concept. In between creation and launch, fragrances are paneled twice: once for determining winning fragrance and again for packaging and artwork. Fragrances are also tested by the product development team for long-term stability in each of their final products. Meanwhile creative artists, project managers, and marketing prepare the final product packaging, catalogs, photoshoots, and content. There are many moving parts and details to the process that add complexity to launching successful home fragrance products. Endless possibilities for fragrance creation combined with the challenges of creating functional products, continue to excite me to create in this industry.