Margaret Urbanowicz, founder of Sómas Studio, shares her life and business lessons.
Margaret Urbanowicz is the founder of home fragrance business Sómas Studio. The business sells a variety of high quality, beautifully crafted scented home and body products and accessories. All of its candles, diffusers and mists are handcrafted in Co Cork.
Tell us about your background, what journey did you take to arrive at where you are?
My background is in digital marketing and retail so very little to do with running a home fragrance business. I started working with fragrance in 2014, it was a hobby I kept up part-time. Then in 2019, I took the plunge and started Sómas! It was a very organic process, from a kitchen table to a studio, the business grew very naturally.
“I just love the feeling of comfort and joy a fragrance can bring”
What’s your USP?
It’s definitely a passion project turned business! I just love the feeling of comfort and joy a fragrance can bring. If you think about it, it’s probably one of our most powerful senses – it can instantly transport you to a place, or evoke a joyful feeling. Sómas means comfort in Irish and is very much the ethos behind everything I do. I believe it’s our USP too, capturing these moments of bliss and sharing them with our community.
“From the minute I decided to turn this into a business I knew how I wanted it to look and feel, the emotions I wanted to capture in every experience we create”
How did you fund and start the business and what are your growth plans?
The business was initially funded by my personal savings. I probably have too many growth ideas. From talking to our customers we realised when they look for a moment of relaxation they seek a really immersive experience.
That’s why last year we created a beautiful body collection that can help them truly immerse in our fragrances and feel more grounded. The two products – Almond Body Oil and Vitamin E sea salt scrub are both blended with beautiful botanical ingredients for the most magical body and mind experience. The home market is also very creative which is such an exciting industry to be in. We would love to look at including more home products. I definitely have some big international ambitions too.
What are your key skills and qualities that set you apart?
That’s a really hard one! I like to think I have a very strong vision for the products and the brand. From the minute I decided to turn this into a business I knew how I wanted it to look and feel, the emotions I wanted to capture in every experience we create.
“I don’t believe in failure. It’s either an amazing experience or a lesson”
What (or whom) has helped you most along the way? Who was your greatest mentor/inspiration?
My partner Brian has been an integral part of the business. I couldn’t have done it without his support. While I love the creative side of the business, the planning and organising elements aren’t my strong point. It’s fantastic to have someone in your corner who is happy to help out with the structures and systems.
What was the greatest piece of business advice you ever received?
Appreciate the people you get to work with on the daily. The business just couldn’t exist without my amazing team, customers and partners. I treasure every single relationship I’ve built through my work at Sómas.
“It was a big challenge for me to realise that I could no longer do everything on my own and that it was time to let go of some aspects of the business”
What circumstances/qualities/events can mark the difference between success or failure in life or business?
I don’t believe in failure. It’s either an amazing experience or a lesson. We’d never appreciate the good without a few setbacks.
What was the most challenging aspect of either starting or growing the business?
Keeping up with the growth for sure. From a lifestyle business in a small studio to building a team, hiring a big space etc. it felt like such a huge plunge. It was a big challenge for me to realise that I could no longer do everything on my own and that it was time to let go of some aspects of the business.
How did you navigate your business through the pandemic and what lessons did you learn?
I started the business shortly before the pandemic so my timing definitely could have been better. Fragrance is so personal, and the thought of trying to sell home fragrances online was very daunting. I think my background in digital communications really helped me to build the brand concept and successfully communicate the ethos of our products to our customers. I also absolutely adore the community we are building online, so being active and having that personal approach despite being a hundredour locations, I would say was key to getting Sómas out there!
How has digital transformation been a factor in your scaling journey and do you believe Irish firms are utilising digital technologies sufficiently?
My work before Sómas was all in digital so luckily I had a really good understanding of the platforms and tools. Everything I have learned in my previous roles I tried to apply to my own business which I know was a huge advantage when first starting the brand.
“I strongly believe in finding the right work-life balance”
If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I definitely would have asked for help sooner! I was adamant I could do it all by myself for a long time and nearly burned out. I’m definitely very lucky to have great people around me who are always here to support me.
What advice/guidance do you give new hires and how do you nurture talent in your organisation?
I strongly believe in finding the right work-life balance. Regardless of how busy we are, I always strive to create a relaxed and encouraging work environment.
“I’m very much a pen and paper gal. I love my old-fashioned planner, there is no feeling more satisfying than ticking things off your to-do list!”
What social media platforms do you prefer and why?
It would have to be Instagram and Pinterest. I find these platforms, you can be very selective with the content you see. The media we consume has more impact on us than we realise so I love for social media to be a positive and inspiring space.
What are your thoughts on where technology overall is heading and how it will apply to business generally and your business particularly?
We use social media to promote our product range and engage with new audiences. Instagram is a great platform as it gives us the opportunity to reach and engage with our customers and new potential customers etc.
What technologies/tools do you use personally to keep you on track?
I’m very much a pen and paper gal. I love my old-fashioned planner, there is no feeling more satisfying than ticking things off your to-do list!
Finally, if you had advice for your 21-year-old self – knowing what you know now – what would it be?
Go with your gut. A lot of the early advice I received was coming from a good place, but I definitely delayed a lot of things because of outside sources. Now if it really feels right, I just go for it.