Born in Västerås Sweden, Maya Njie (pronounced ‘Maia En-jai’) moved to London in her late teens. Her background lies in surface design and photography, which she studied at the University of the Arts London. To further communicate her work, she began experimenting with the sense of smell as an added medium. Inspired by an old family photo album from the decades before her birth, Maya set out to capture, by way of scent, these moments in time, these tropes of familial life, set within their frames.
It was these stories that lead her to launch her own company, which initially started out as a company. A creative at heart, Maya has been on the journey of entrepreneurship and has been learning on the job. She now gets to enjoy the sweet smell of success and here, she chats to us more about her brand, plans for the future and more…
Maya, tell us about the journey that lead you to where you are today.
I moved to London from Sweden in the late nineties and spent a fair few years working in retail management. After having my daughter and as a mature student, I decided to study Surface Design at University of the Arts to change my career and it unexpectedly led me down the path of perfumery.
You have a Swedish and West African mix, what was life like growing up for you?
Sweden is where I grew up and spent my childhood so its where I consider home to be. Being of mixed heritage in a fairly small Swedish town during that time did make me stand out somewhat. Sweden is a multi cultural place in some aspects but it wasn’t until I moved to London that I felt like I was blending in more. Here I really got the feel for what other cultures had to offer, I still do and I love that.
Did you always know you would be entrepreneurial?
No, not really. I always knew I was creative rather than academic but I didn’t know to pursue it as a career until my late twenties. I have always felt that London has ample opportunity in that way, there is more scope to test out different paths and ‘find your calling’ if you like. Perfumery very much started as a hobby and I feel like I was pushed into it business wise. Friends (and strangers alike) would not take no for an answer when I didn’t want to share my blends – and here we are!
Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I think it’s fair to say that I am wearing too many hats at the moment, as many entrepreneurs do. When I look ahead I hope to have a strong team of people pushing the business forwards, this will allow me to reach further afield and expand my range. I have also recently teamed up with brands such as Charles Heidsieck and Carhartt WIP for multi sensory experiences and will continue to work collaboratively within the realms of scent. Even thou perfume slots into the world of beauty in terms of industries, it’s important for me to work artistically and cross into other territories too.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently
It would be to not compare myself to the big brands out there on the market and to believe more in my own creative path. I have always told personal stories through my scents but sharing their actual visual starting points in forms of my family photographs took a while. We are all familiar with the classic perfume campaigns and not having access to that made me insecure at first I think. But once I started to visually align my heritage to the perfumes, it felt more natural to me, and to others too.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Since starting my business I have had my heart set on being stocked in Liberty. I have been visiting their perfume hall for the past 15 years at least. To have been asked to come on board as a ‘Liberty Exclusive’ is huge for me and a definitive highlight so far.
Tell us about a recent BossBabe moment
Recently my 11 year old daughter told me how proud she is of my business and at the same time gave me ‘props’ for being a good mother . Out of all the challenges I have come across with my business, that work / life balance is probably the hardest thing to get right. Letting other women know that they are doing a great job and giving them a push in the right direction can help more than you think – always support that.
What does 2020 look like for you
I currently do everything from designing to production and so will be scaling up my team going forward. I’ll be hosting more Bespoke Perfume Workshops and I will continue to explore other products to add to the range when the time is right. Further expansion onto the international market is in motion too.
Where can people find out more
Find out more via:
instagram @maya.njie.perfumes twitter @MayaNjiePerfume