Careers Reimagined: Entrepreneur Amy Tulip Leaves Pharma for Fragrance at FINN & CO. by Belinda Lichty Clarke
Armed with two engineering degrees out of Vanderbilt University, Amy Tulip went to work in the pharmaceutical/medical device field straight out of college. For more than 30 years, she worked in sales, marketing, operations and leadership development for a variety of firms. Then in 2019, she walked away and acquired a fragrance company. Here’s her story...
Q. What inspired you to switch careers?
"For the last few years of my corporate career I felt frustrated with the politics and often crazy challenges in implementing new ideas (took so many levels to get approved, etc.). Also, I saw that hard work, smarts and creativity were often not recognized and rewarded. I lost my early enthusiasm for improving corporate structure; this structure became what I ended up disliking the most. So, I dreamed of and started thinking about changing to a more creative field. I began to reach out to companies in different markets thinking I could transfer my talent development skills to a role there and then branch out. While on hiatus after leaving my last company, I sent an email to the founder/owner of FINN & CO., asking to meet her as I LOVED and wore her fragrances. Plus, she had started her own company ... and was nearby.
"The owner replied and was so appreciate of my email and also mentioned she was looking to sell as she has chronic Lyme disease and two small children. About three months later she reached out to ask if I was still interested in buying her company and my new career began."
Q. What was that like to pivot like that?
"Looking back I was overwhelmed and freaked out about it but so excited too. I also was very ready, too, to break out from my previous career and it just felt right. I clicked with the founder/owner and we became close friends. This was something I was passionate about but did not have to build from scratch. I could take what she had built and take it from there. Many times I questioned what I was doing – especially with the financial and legal aspects. But, my husband was able to help me on those two fronts and I had resources given to me by friends – accountants, bookkeeper, attorney, etc. But of course it turned out to be much more than I expected. It was more intense, hard and frustrating than what was initially described. Several times a month I thought to myself ‘what have I done' but just took it one day at a time."
Q. What strategy did you employ to get things going?
"My initial strategy was to build upon her sales to retailers around the county as we had a robust B2B business. With the shutdowns in March due to COVID, I switched to building the direct-to-consumer market and allocated our resources, time and budget to this segment, which was our longer-term strategy.
"Being small has its advantages as you can pivot quickly so able to work on all the systems needed to be in the direct-to-consumer market. Resources are challenging though, both in budget and people. Because of the pandemic, I was not comfortable having someone in the house doing packing/shipping so doing it all which is exhausting, but when you are small you have to make decision on how to spend a limited budget. Advertising and marketing were critical, so hiring consultants for that made the most sense. Also, I missed interacting with customers as this part is so fulfilling to meet people who love your product, too."
Q. What do you love about the job?
"Fragrance just makes you feel good and takes you right back to the memory it brings. Our brand and design is appreciated and unique. We are soon launching a body scrub and are doing a collaboration with an artist ceramicist I love so the 'building' is very rewarding to me. I want to go faster but learning to take pride in the accomplishments made in such a short time."
Q. What advice would you give future entrepreneurs?
"My advice would be to reach out to people in the field you are looking to go into. Interview them and learn from them, and if they are willing ask them to make introductions to other people. Most people are willing to help and you just have to go do it. It’s easy to make excuses for things that are hard or seem insurmountable, but each small step builds to what you are thinking or something you maybe were not thinking but excites you, too. It’s also important to find a team that will support your 'change' and have them help you stay focused and motivated, whether it’s friends or family.
"I remember having nothing prepared to buy a company – truly nothing – no lawyer, accountant or experience in beauty, but just jumped in. But, my corporate experience and skills did transfer – product management, sales, operations, managing teams, project management, hiring and managing a budget. Additionally, I reached out to friends and family to ask if they had professionals to recommend. You are only one person and we all need a support team. Most importantly, I LOVE what I am doing but it is not easy, but I am in charge and now I get to make the decisions!"
FINN & CO. is a Boston-based beach-inspired fragrance company whose fragrances are inspired by the coastal life, from Malibu to Maine. The two signature scents – Black Sand and White Sand – are sexy and sophisticated, and loved by both women and men.
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