Scenting success: MBA student opens The Aroma Labs in Kalamazoo

Tanya Thompson at The Aroma LabsTanya Thompson, B.B.A.’15

Scent. It can affect our mood and unlock our deepest emotions.

The power of fragrance is the premise behind a new business, The Aroma Labs, owned by current MBA student, WMU employee and undergraduate alumna Tanya Thompson, B.B.A.’15. The Aroma Labs is located in downtown Kalamazoo and allows clients to create custom perfumes and scented products. Though the business has only been open since summer 2019, it is already hosting private parties and corporate events.

After taking Dr. Derrick McIver’s Strategy for Small Business course, which focused on small business acquisition, Thompson looked into purchasing an existing business. When the available options did not have the market that Thompson knew to look for from the course, she decided to apply its concepts to opening her own company.

“I have always enjoyed creating things that bring joy to people, and this concept was an extension of that part of my personality.” Thompson found that her 15-year tenure as a mixologist across the U.S. was a great starting point for a career that focuses on the right proportion of high-quality ingredients. She recently studied the art of fragrance mixing with Tedd Neenan in Chicago, Illinois, and has plans to continue her fragrance education through coursework and an upcoming trip to Paris.

bottles of custom perfumeThompson had seen custom perfumes available in large metropolitan areas, but her research and the resources of the Southwest Michigan Region Small Business Development Center indicated that there was nothing similar in the area and that a market existed for this type of handcrafted, personal experience when it came to perfume and scented products.

Initially, Thompson started her business through a series of pop-up shop events, but quickly noticed limitations she wanted to address.

“I was able to apply what I learned in Dr. McIver’s class about research and analysis, constructing a business plan and finding an investor for this venture,” says Thompson. She also credits her undergraduate degree in sales and business marketing, coursework in food and consumer package goods marketing, and organizational behavior coursework with helping to launch her company. The investor in her business enabled her to sign the lease on her current space. And she still plans to do pop-up events to extend her geographic footprint outside the Kalamazoo area.

In addition to perfumes, The Aroma Labs allows clients to create body scrubs, lotions and other scented items. The business keeps a file of information on scents created, formulas used, and products ordered for seamless re-orders.

Thompson sampling scents

“Making your own fragrance puts you at the center of the process,” says Thompson. “We encourage our clients to name each fragrance they create, which honors the creative process.”

The Aroma Labs is committed to developing a philanthropic arm as well. The company is currently working with Trauma Recovery Associates on items where a portion of proceeds will support the organization’s efforts, which span continuing education for mental health professionals, programs for those who have experienced childhood abuse and neglect, and presentations in the community.

The business is scaling up rapidly, and Thompson feels like she has found her calling. “I couldn’t have started my company without the skills that the Haworth College of Business helped me develop. I am grateful to faculty and my fellow students. I am excited about all the possibilities that lie ahead. ”