Interview: Maya Njie, founder of Maya Njie Perfumes
One of our first ever stockists was the beautiful boutique In-Residence, which is located along Camden Passage, just a short walk from Angel underground station in London.
One day when I was visiting the wonderful owner Jacqui, I noticed a beautiful new display of perfume. I was immediately drawn to the elegant packaging (I am a sucker for great packaging) and when I smelt the perfume, I was in love. The perfume was from Maya Njie Perfumes.
As a way of a brief introduction: Maya was born in Sweden and moved to London in her late teens to study at the University of the Arts.
She founded Maya Njie Perfumes in 2016 with a clear focus on high-quality artisanal blends with scents inspired by her Swedish and Gambian heritage.
I cannot even tell you how excited I was to get to know the creator of these magical perfumes and discuss her amazing journey.
1. Hi Maya, it is so lovely to chat with you about your wonderful brand. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up with my mum and sisters in Vasteras, an industrial city an hour from Stockholm, Sweden. When I was 19, me and my best friend moved to London. Here I spent my first few years working for the clothing brand Carhartt. After becoming a mother, I decided to enroll in a Surface Design course at the University of the Arts. This visual path of design and photography led me down the road of perfumery, something I have been interested in since I was a child. Experimenting with combining visual design with my new found olfactory design calling is what set it all off.
2. What is your relationship with failure? Can you share a failure with us and what you learned from it?
For the past 15 years or so I have spent a fair amount of time in darkrooms practicing traditional photography. Becoming a photographer on a professional level is something I wanted to do for a long time but never really sought out due to being scared of failure. However, studying design and implementing photography in my work has made me use it as a medium alongside my perfume formulas in a way I couldn’t have foreseen then.
3. What is your definition of success?
Changing your life for the better, whatever that means to you. In my case, it has been enabling myself to have a much better balance between home and work and the fact that I can choose how, where and with whom I spend my time (most of the time).
4. When you start your own business, you need to wear several hats. How did you manage to make your own perfumes, manage your social media and deliver your workshops?
I have a lot of late nights catching up with all elements to the business. Sometimes to my detriment. But I figure if I put the grafting in now it’ll eventually allow me to get other people on board to wear the hats too.
5. How did your relationship with Liberty come about? Can you talk us through your feelings when you found out your perfumes would be stocked there?
They called me in for a meeting last year out of the blue. I believe that someone from their team smelt Vanilj on a friend of mine who’s a make-up artist. She was wearing it whilst working on one of their campaigns and couldn’t get enough of it. It’s an absolute dream come true to be stocked in there. As a 20-year-old I would save up so I could go to Liberty and purchase a fragrance of some sort. I’d then create a sanctuary in my room with my newly bought Diptyque room fragrance, perfume or candle. As a student, I would go in there to research their textiles and homewares. And as a mother, I would make my daughter little bloomers and collars out of Liberty prints. I was too scared to enter any of their open calls so you can imagine my heartbeat when that first email came in.
6. Building a brand takes a lot of sweat, tears and sleepless nights. Did you know what you were getting yourself into before you started Maya Nije Perfumes?
No idea! And that’s probably a good thing. Having said that, the whole starting point of blending scents purely came from my own curiosity and passion for perfumes. It might sound like a cliché but a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work at all.
7. What would be your advice for entrepreneurs looking to start their own brand?
Make sure that there is a market for what you wish to do, research it and try and do it as well as you can. Snap up as much knowledge as you can and seek out support for what you do along the way. There have been a lot of cuts but there is still a fair bit of government-funded assistance for start-up businesses. I found that surrounding myself with others that also wanted to really get going with their own business or that have already done it helps too.
8. If you had a chance to send your younger self a letter, what would you tell young Maya?
You will find your path too so don’t give up on what you might think is a wasted process as it is equally as important. You don’t have to be an academic to make it or to have your own business, there are plenty of creative routes out there that you don’t know about yet.
Thank you Maya for taking the time to give us some insight into the world Maya Njie Perfumes. I particularly loved her answer to the final question. I am a firm believer that no effort is ever wasted, no matter what the outcome. Everything we do teaches us something, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Please check out Maya's website, where you can find your local stockist or purchase perfume directly. There is a lovely discovery set so you can find your favourite fragrance from the comfort of your own home. You can also keep up to date with the latest news on Maya Njie Perfumes' Instagram @maya.njie.perfumes