Coffee with Tonya of Stories Parfums

Lockdown has given me the opportunity to discover some wonderful brands and connect with some amazing entrepreneurs. I have always loved perfume and really did miss my stroll through various perfume halls. Connecting to Tonya has been wonderful as she has launched an extremely versatile brand with a beautiful story behind it and I have truly enjoyed experiencing the perfumes.

This was a virtual coffee but nonetheless very exciting!

What inspired you to start your own brand?

I have been full-time mum of four. 5 years ago I really had a desire to learn a new skill but also a desire to start working again in some capacity.  Over the years I studied in different areas, one being a counseling practitioner but I am very creative and fragrance was always something connected me to who I really am and what matters to me.  It all began with my grandmother who I sadly never had a chance to meet, she died before I was born.  She was an extraordinary businesswoman and broke a lot of glass ceilings for women in Northern Ireland in her time.  I was told of her favourite fragrance by my mother and I used to feel connected to her even though I had never met her. So wanting to learn how to create perfume led me to Grasse. I began working with a perfumer in Grasse who agreed to teach me but also allowed me to be creative and create perfumes completely from my own nose.  I am not a perfumer and I need the expertise of my own perfumer to balance my creation at the end.  She does not guide me what goes with what she allows me to blindly test until I have narrowed down all the notes I want to use.  When I spent time in the perfumery what gave me the inspiration to start my own brand was the powerful experience I had with fragrances while being taught.  At the age of 12 I had suffered a traumatic experience that overshadowed my childhood prior.  My life spiraled out of control after this trauma. Even though the trauma had no effect in my life anymore I had a very misconstrued memory of my childhood before the trauma.  Working with fragrances connected me to my wonderful childhood once forgotten and lost.

How does fragrance help you cope with the past?

This is down to our wonderful olfactory system connected to our sense of smell, the strongest of all the senses working within our memory bank.  I knew then I needed to create luxury parfums with the ability to connect people to their own story past, present and future, we all have a story to tell and I think we all should tell it and be heard.  I see creating fragrances as art to tell my story in the hope that people would connect to their own.

What is your first memory of scent?

As a young child when I used to play with my grandmother’s jewels and furs, she was a very glamorous woman. My mum kept her mothers favourite fragrance also and I used to feel I had a met and had known my grandmother through this.

 

How would you describe Stories to a first-time buyer?

A luxury niche fragrance range that weaves a narrative from mislaid memories, childhood dreams, and long-forgotten hope; STORIES Parfums is a pilgrimage for the senses they are based on stories that have shaped my own life.  STORIES Parfums is more than a range of luxurious beauty products, it is a journey of transformation.  The Eau de Parfums were created in such a way that each note is discernible as it develops on the skin. The Hand & Body was developed to transform the body and not just be a lovely scented moisturizer.  The body washes are gentle cleansers full of moisturising properties including aloe vera, coconut oil, and the deeply nourishing pro-vitamin B5.  The perfumes are created with highly sourced ingredients from around the world and are created to last on the skin and the lotions were created with layering in mind to prepare your skin for your fragrance and also fragrant enough to wear as a scent. The entire range is Cruelty Free, SLS & Paraben Free. We have a sustainability promise in our packaging and we do not use plastic on our labels or boxes of our parfums.  We are right in the middle of creating more fragrance and within this product development we are addressing a better sustainability practice.  We promise to do the best we can in every new development.  Sustainable packaging can be expensive for an independent brand but we promise to continue to look at it.

 

What are your favorite travel destinations and hotels?

With being a family of 6, 4 kids, and the youngest being twins, short distance travel was never easy let alone long distance.  For over 20 years we have spent our summers in the Algarve as we have a family home there, it is a place where our extended family gathers,  in a beautiful place called Vale do Lobo but my other favourite place is the South of France, you cannot beat it.  The most beautiful hotel I have experienced is https://www.chevredor.com in Eze, South of France, it is spectacular.  I tend to travel more now with work but then I travel on my own a lot also.  I recently spent time working on my new fragrances in Paris. I am getting to see a lot of beautiful cities and countries.

 

Who has personally inspired you the most in your career and how? 

My grandmother, who I never met and inspired the brand.  As I said she was a well-respected hotelier and businesswoman and really pathed the way for me, she broke glass ceilings for women in her time and I hope to do the same for my daughters. I really feel that I have tapped into the entrepreneurial gift she carried.  The other being my husband, who has an outrageous entrepreneurial skill, he has wisdom far beyond his years and in whom I trust impeccably when I need guidance.  We both work completely different fields though, which isn’t a bad thing, we find it hard to understand each other’s industries, which again isn’t a bad thing.

 

What is your advice to someone starting their own brand?

Believe in your vision and believe in yourself.. be courageous, be passionate and most of all be authentic!  Keep these attributes close and you will see the right doors open naturally and the wrong ones close, timing is key.. there is always a reason, sometimes your biggest’ no’ opens the door to your biggest ‘yes’, so shrug off any thoughts of rejection and keep moving forward.

 

What does a day in your life look like?

All of my kids are at home, the eldest two do not need much mothering these days but my twin daughters are only in 2nd-year school so getting them ready for schooling is a first.  I also have two dogs and a husband.  Once everyone is off to school and work I go to my office, I have an office separate to the house which has pro’s and con’s because I am often there too late in the evening but also it is great as I am nearby if my kids need me.  My work colleagues work from my office also.  Before lockdown I traveled a lot, I tend to want to be home as much still for my kids so a lot of red-eye flights and late nights.  Lockdown has given us all the gift of recalibrating what is important.  I spend a lot of time in London also, which I adore and have such a great network of women who have also founded their own brands, I have found them invaluable.  Because the brand is so young I do everything behind in front of the brand and behind the brand, there is nothing I do not do, I have built the brand from scratch on my own and love every element of it.  The only thing is we are now so busy and I have had to expand my team as it was becoming unhealthy to try and juggle it all.  I once read this quote and it stuck.. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.

I also work out 3-4 times per week.  I had two back surgeries and have metal in my back and joint so it is imperative I keep this up, hard when I  travel so much but I try to join in classes wherever I go.  I love pilates, barre, and TRX, with a little weight training, you can do all from your hotel room!

 

What is the best piece of advice you ever got?

Build your boardroom that you are the least smartest..

More information on Stories on their website: https://storiesparfums.com/

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