The Dignity of Scent
Updated: Oct 16, 2018
In the mid-1990’s, we were producing a number of different skin care products, including lotions, shampoos, and soaps. Most of our formulations were private labeled for niche markets within the healthcare industry. We were at a point, however, where we wanted to come out with our own branded line of skin care offerings, specifically targeted towards long-term care.
We were simultaneously facing a family difficulty. Our mother had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. As those within healthcare know, this illness is insidious and (among other things) strips its victims of dignity. As is often inevitable, our mother was eventually placed in a specialty facility. We were fortunate in that this facility was especially committed to helping residents retain their self-respect and inherent value as people. Still, it was an extremely difficult time for my mom as well as for my entire family.
During one of my visits, I noticed a lotion container next to her bed. I then did what most people do. I picked it up and smelled it. It wasn’t an unpleasant odor. It just smelled … well … “institutional,” which was unsettling in that my mom loved aromatherapy fragrances.
So, while we couldn’t control Alzheimer’s Disease, my brothers and I decided we could control the skin care products used on our mother. Shortly thereafter, we visited a bath and body store, purchased samples of their most popular lotion fragrances, took them to our chief formulating chemist, and asked him to create some lotion samples with similar fragrances – yet to make sure they were still appropriate for elderly skin (pH balanced, safe for sensitive skin, etc.). A brilliant chemist and craftsman, he responded quickly with several bottles that we donated to our mother’s caregivers. Their response was overwhelmingly positive.
It was soon thereafter that my brothers and I realized that we had something unique. There were no aromatherapy-style skin care products in the long-term care market. And therein was an opportunity. By developing a retail-style aromatherapy line specifically for the elderly, we could send a message of dignity to the resident, of reassurance to their families, and of value to the care providers. So, we did! And to this day, it seems that we’re still the only company who does so.
What I’ve found out through this experience is that bad things sometimes happen to good people, and that’s part of life. Yet here’s the ultimate life lesson that we learned from our mother’s illness: sometimes good things can also come out of bad situations. It doesn’t make what happened all better. It does, however, provide an opportunity to create something honorable out of a painful loss. In this case, our customer wins, our company wins, and our mother’s memory wins. And my family will take that any day of the week.
This interview with Paul Nobrega was originally published in Issue 2, 2014 of DISH! For more information please visit https://www.martinbros.com/.