Patti Upton: Founder and Chief of Aromatique Continues to Inspire

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

Patti Upton was a latecomer to the business scene when she wandered onto the stage without realizing it in 1982. Her decorative fragrance creation opened the curtain on an entrepreneurial adventure that has inspired many.

Along the way, Upton became an unofficial ambassador for Arkansas, representing her home state well nationally and abroad.

"My career was never meant to be one of influence," Upton said. "I never had to work a day in my life. I had my own money from inheritance. I modeled in Memphis, but that was just a fun thing. I never dreamed of this. Aromatique just happened, by accident. It's crazy."

The crazy accident nearly 28 years ago was the "Smell of Christmas," the seed for what became a multimillion-dollar enterprise called Aromatique Inc., which Upton leads as president and CEO. Based in Heber Springs, the company today employs 200 making elegant, smell-good products.

It all started with Upton agreeing to make something special for a friend's gift shop during a Christmas season open house. She had forgotten about the project until reminded two weeks before the event.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," Upton said.

She ended up snatching handfuls of pine cones, acorns, berries, sweet-gum balls and leaves and scenting the mixture with a home-brewed recipe of pharmacy oils.

Shoppers were so smitten with her effort, the first in a line of products was born, "Smell of Christmas," and Upton found herself as the creative force behind a corporate venture. Her marketing approach: high quality at an affordable price.

"I've never looked at it as a business," she said. "I've been told that's why it's so successful. It's never been about the money."

But profits did come, and the company's cottage industry success story combined with Upton's sparkling personality attracted a media buzz both domestic and international.

And who could resist a former beauty queen concocting aromatic potions in her kitchen like a fun-loving, glamorous "little witch?"

Upton laughs at her self-confessed image from those early days. She recalls how people in New York just couldn't believe her upscale retailing hit came from down-home Arkansas.

Aided by her fashion sense and eye for style, the Aromatique packaging completed a tasteful presentation that wowed Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue denizens.

 

 

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