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Artisan perfume-maker turns hobby into viable business venture with a little help from her friends

By Grace Robinson-Seim, Washington Women’s Business Center

SEATTLE -- Business is going well for Karyn Gold-Reineke, founder of Pirouette, an artisan perfume and natural spa luxuries company based in Seattle.

You’ll find her exquisite line of handcrafted perfumes, soaps and lotions in a number of stores around the area, including Town and Country Markets and Whole Foods.

However, when Gold-Reineke was laid off from her comfortable, full-time job at an art museum at the height of the financial collapse in early 2009, her future was anything but certain.

Encouraged by friends and family members to expand on her soap making hobby, Gold-Reineke initially decided to make ends meet by selling the artisan soaps she had previously enjoyed giving out as Christmas gifts.

She started out with a simple Etsy shop, which she managed while working out of her 325 square-foot cottage home in the woods. When she introduced her perfume line, however, her orders began to pick up.

Gold-Reineke found herself working 12 hour days, seven days a week. While the progress was exciting, the work load was daunting. Her creative background did little to prepare her for the complexities of running a business on this scale. “I’m so much more of the artist in this,” Gold-Reineke said. “I think of myself as more of a perfumer and a scent creator. I haven’t really ever been a very business-minded person, even though I’m very entrepreneurial.”

A friend introduced her to Community Capital Development, where she got the support she needed to keep up with the demands of her rapidly expanding business.

She benefited from free counseling through the Washington Women’s Business Center on topics ranging from building a business plan to basic accounting.

The Washington Women's Business Center (WBC) offers business counseling, technical assistance, and training on a wide variety of topics. Trainings are offered as individual workshops or multi-session classes. The WBC partly receives funding thanks to a grant by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

“I wanted to have a long term plan for my business,” Gold-Reineke said. “I have been working a lot with (CCD staff), looking at my sales and profit margins for each item and doing cash flow projections. It was really enlightening for me to be able to project where I would be and plan ahead. You can see so much more clearly, and it was so simple! Even though it was kind of crazy getting all the numbers together, it was so empowering being able to understand. It was like getting a crystal ball!”

Now in her own studio space in a vintage brick building in Pioneer Square, Gold-Reineke is eager to continue on her upward trajectory.

“It has been really good for me to get some of those skills and understand what people do,” she said. “I’ve told so many people about Community Capital Development, too. It’s so great, and it’s free!”

For more information about Pirouette, visit http://www.pirouetteessentials.com.
For more information about the Washington Women’s Business Center, visit http://www.wbc.seattleccd.com.
For more information about the U.S. Small Business Administration, visit http://www.sba.gov/wa or call (206) 553-7310.