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29 September 2020
Alumni Entrepreneurs

Rawya Catto

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What is your educational background?

I grew up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where I was a student at the Lycée Français Georges Pompidou throughout my whole schooling.

After a Bachelors in Chemistry at Claude Bernard University in Lyon, I followed the EFCM course, first year in Versailles, and then the second year MBM in Padova, Italy.

 

What is your professional background after ISIPCA?

Following my ISIPCA training, after a short stint at Parfums Christian Dior, I joined the Givaudan teams, first in Paris for a maternity leave replacement. I always knew I wanted to be close to the heart of the creative process, so I worked with that goal in mind. An Evaluator’s role arose in Dubai, so I took the opportunity to return home to the Emirates.

I spent almost 10 years in the Givaudan Evaluation team in Dubai, first across categories, then with a focus on Homecare and Laundry care. From Evaluator, I evolved in my career until having a role of Creative Fragrance Manager (management of an evaluation team including 3 seniors), including a strategic role of Category Lead on Household Care and Laundry Care on Africa and the Middle East. I was also the Global Lead on the Reckitt Benckiser account for developing markets, and the Evaluation lead, (with a semi commercial role) on the Unilever account in the Middle East.

After approximately 15 years of corporate perfumery, and for work life balance reasons, I chose to take a hiatus with Givaudan and resigned in May 2019.

In the meantime, I had been working with a group of entrepreneurs to launch a cosmetics brand with a humanitarian social goal supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and therefore got a glimpse of the life of an entrepreneur, the adrenaline and freedom, and the opportunity for a flexible professional life. And now as a 36 years old woman and mother, I strongly feel that this type of career is more suitable to the vision I have for my own life.

 

How did you get the idea for this project and how did you set it up?

Scent Creatives was born out of a series of serendipitous coincidences! Indeed, soon after leaving Givaudan, I was quickly contacted by headhunters looking for creative director roles for Fine Fragrances brands in the Middle East.

These brands were historically built around the 1970s and grew thanks to an uncompetitive market. Today the dynamics have completely changed. The recipes and trade secrets that worked five or even ten years ago are no longer applicable. Consumers are more discerning and know how to recognize a good scent from a half-baked project.

Today we are a team of three professionals and an accounting assistant, and our combined skillset covers all the aspects necessary for a company to succeed in its scent projects, whatever the end-use.

We offer Marketing, Fragrance, Technical and Branding advisory services to Fine Perfumery brands and other scented products within the consumer goods category, including scent marketing and brand signature scents design.

We create the olfactive strategies and launch pipeline for our clients. We then go on to support them throughout the creative project, and then through the product life cycle. We also publish trend reports and identify regionally appropriate innovation opportunities based on identified global trends. Finally, we offer to subcontract our Evaluation services to companies or start-ups that do not have this know-how in-house.

 

What has been the greatest challenge you have overcome in your entrepreneurial adventure? What barriers did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

I incorporated Scent Creatives in October 2019. March 2020, the pandemic is in full swing! We had submitted an offer for a three-year implementation contract on March 15th, which was never signed due to the lockdown and overall slowdown in economic conditions… Instead of recruiting an additional person as initially planned, I found myself wondering how I I was going to be able to keep this business afloat, and get us through this time.

We just went four months with no revenue, and finally, in July, here are the first signs of recovery!

The hardest part is to maintain motivation, and a strong mindset, and not lose track of the end objective. Tell yourself that every day, you are planting a potential seed for the future. Nothing is lost, movement generates movement!

One of the actions we took during the lockdown was to focus on producing article and content related to the response of the fragrance industry to the Covid-19 crisis. These posts (“A New Standard” series) were well received, and in less than three months, we built a community of almost 700 followers on our Linkedin page, and 500 on our Instagram account.

 

What were the key moments that contributed to the success of this project? 8What advice would you give to successfully manage the creation of a business?

The initial impulse for starting a business is crucial. For me, it is better not to overthink at the start, and just go for it! We cannot underestimate the effect of momentum and timing, a sustained pace, especially at early stages.

Thinking, and reflection come anyway with the challenges that will get thrown your way. Every month, we look at the work done over the past 30 days and take out the key learnings and lessons. We readjust based on what worked and what did not. Transparency within the team is crucial, especially since alone, nothing is possible. I believe in teamwork and multiple skills under responsive leadership.

I also think it is important to not say no, especially at first, and to "overdeliver". However, do not compromise on the terms of payment, and the negotiations, as the first contract will serve as a precedent for all the others.

For us “creatives”, doing business and monetizing our knowledge is counter intuitive. It is important not to underestimate the value that we bring to the table, and to surround ourselves with the right partners who will appreciate that savoir-faire, and who will know how to put a fair value on it.

 

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