Feature photo: Athena Bass is a multi talented musician artist and entrepreneur whose spirit of enthusiasm is contagious. Photo courtesy of Marlo Photography.
MAKING A SOUND LIVING – The Sweet Smell Of Success For Athena Bass And Paulina Bertoia Vrozos
An Interior Designer from Toronto and an ex-wife of rock from Los Angles, walk into a bar and walk out business partners.
Reads like a set up for a joke, doesn’t it? It’s no joke; that’s pretty close to how Paulina Bertoia Vrozos (PBV), an Interior Decorator from Toronto and Athena Bass (AB), former “Ex Wives of Rock” cast member and drummer for the all-female-band “Femme Fatale” met. And I had the opportunity to recently conduct a phone interview with these two hard working ladies and below is the transcript.
Biz X: How did you meet?
AB: I met Paulina through a mutual Canadian friend who was helping me sell my candles in Los Angeles and they knew Paulina was looking for candles for her business in Toronto.
Biz X: Paulina, did you feel right away that you clicked business wise with Athena?
PBV: I was doing some interior design and was really sick of the smell of most candles that were being used when decorating homes. I had been given one of Athena’s candles as a gift and thought it was beautiful. I went to Los Angeles to meet her and we just clicked right away. I found we had so many things in common friends, music, clothes, a love of animals and then we started to talk about candles. We both agreed that a scent creates a memory or transforms you in time. We decided there and then to create a whole new line. We just kept talking and talking. That’s how Athenaromas came to be.
Biz X: What kind of balance does your business partnership have?
AB: For me, a scent can change my whole mood. I love them and live by them. As far as business, I was too busy with other things and I was doing it all alone. The time and energy I was putting into it became a fulltime job. I was stuck where I was and ready to stop.
PBV: It was a one-man show and sometimes you can’t wear every hat. The best thing about Athena is she’s open and non-judgmental. We wanted each scent to reflect light and positivity. We have a lot of options right now.
Biz X: How long have you been putting this together, from the time you met to the time you decided to launch a product together?
PBV: It’s taken a year of back and forth. We have totally upped the whole line with researching essential oils and fragrances, their effects and purposes as well as wicks and vessels. We are in production with a totally new concept that we can’t talk about right now, but we are very excited about.
AB: We came across a number of things about candles for instance and we didn’t want to put candles out there just because it smells good. Smelling good doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Today people are super health conscious and the list is endless of what’s healthy and what’s not, like lead free, not tested on animals, those sort of things.
Biz X: What else did you discover?
PBV: When I was doing interior decorating for clients I would notice everyone would burn candles in their homes. I get migraines really easy, especially when I’m around cheap scents. I talked to my clients who said they were getting headaches all the time and the pets weren’t well either. I found they had a different scent in each room — one’s watermelon, another apple, yet another coconut — I thought, no wonder everyone is sick.Biz X: How did you come up with the name?
AB: Paulina came up with the name.
PBV: Athena is obviously Athena’s name. I’m also half Greek so Athens, there was that. Aromas clearly the scent, but I’m half Italian, therefore Roma, so that’s the name Athenaromas.
Biz X: What makes your candles different from any other candles?
PBV: It’s not like anything anyone has ever had before and that’s a tough thing to say. I can say that our product is the highest quality wax, has organic oils, and is environmentally friendly. We didn’t think it would take this long, but we are both perfectionists and we wanted the very best and won’t launch until we are both satisfied. There will be no shortcuts.
AB: I have people constantly asking me, “Come on, where are these candles?” Nothing is coming out until we both feel it’s perfect.
Biz X: Where is your product being made?
PBV: We would like to have it made in Canada, but we are exploring all our options right now.
Biz X: You live in different countries and are both involved in other projects. How do you come together for this business?
PBV: It’s tough because we are not even in the same time zone. We are on the phone emailing and face timing constantly. It’s all being done in Canada. Even when I’m in the lab I face time her.
AB: It’s not unusual for Paulina to face time me at two in the morning, my time, like a mad scientist with her lab coat on asking me about a product.
Biz X: Do you see any pitfalls as two women in business today?
PBV: I think it’s our time. It’s really empowering that you look around and women are running the world. When women put their heart and soul into something they usually end up loving what they’re doing. I think that’s how we are programmed. Even if you get flack from someone as a woman, your passion says you’re not going to stop me.
AB: I see no pitfalls whatsoever. If you love it, it’s not hard and you look forward to working on it. We are having a really good time doing this.
Biz X: What advice would you give people thinking of starting a business?
PBV: If you’re doing it for the money, don’t do it. You have to love what you’re doing. If you’re doing something for the wrong reason, you’re not going to be successful. You have to have an element of love, interest and passion in what you’re approaching. There are ideas all the time. If your heart isn’t in it, you’re going to give up when it gets tough.
AB: Testing of the product to influential clientele has been more than positive. We are so excited about what we are doing. We are already talking about what we can do in the next five years. It’s like there’s no end to ideas. We get so ahead of ourselves at concepts and the limitlessness of it.
The official launch takes place in Los Angeles and Toronto, with plans to launch in Europe. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook, or for updates check their website:Athenaromas.com.
From backstage to the airwaves or leading the organizing committee Lori Baldassi has been in and around the music industry for over 20 years. Lori has sat on a number of boards of directors and focused on charity/non-profit committees for concerts/festivals bringing in name acts. She has also spoken in front of the CRTC. If you have any questions comments for her please post them below.