Almira Armstrong: Founder of Lumira

Episode 455

Founder of the Sydney based Lumira, the fragrance and candle company you need to know about, Almira Armstrong still remembers her earliest memories as a little girl playing with her mum’s bottles of perfume. That led to creating candles at home in her teen years and the rest is history. In fact, this passionate Founder has created some of the most luxurious scents and candles made only with super quality ingredients with of course meticulous attention to detail applied in production. Almira shares all about how she got started and her journey growing the inspiring company over the past ten years. We dig in to hear more about how she did it including the many lessons she has learned on her way to success. It is a beautiful, authentic and insightful interview and I know that you will be glad you listened. Now on #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. And welcome back to the Kara Goldin show. And I am so excited to have my next guest we have Almira Armstrong, who is the founder of Lumira. And if you have not had a chance to try the unbelievable scents that she produces the beautiful fragrances and also candles that her company Lumira produces, you absolutely have to try them. The company is actually celebrating its 10 year anniversary, they are an Australian brand. But recently fairly recently went into some of my favorite stores and places like New York and Los Angeles, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf, Goodman, many, many others. So and probably soon, many others, but it’s a little harder to find in the in the US. But soon I think you will recognize that it will be something that you absolutely have to have for yourself and also for your home. So we’re really excited to have Almira here to hear more about her company, her gorgeous company, and definitely want to hear more about what she’s doing, including her new store in Sydney, which I’d need to make a trip there just in order to see this because it looks aesthetically so beautiful. So welcome Almira. Great to have you here.

Almira Armstrong 2:05
Thank you so much Kara, I’m really excited to be here. Very excited. So

Kara Goldin 2:09
before we get into hearing about Lumira, I would love to know the background on the name the brand name.

Almira Armstrong 2:17
Yes, of course. So, obviously, yeah, we were we’ve just turned 10. And roughly 10 years ago now, we came up with the mirror. And everyone that stops us in our tracks always says, you know, what does that name mean? Where did it come from, and it’s actually a combination of my husband’s name and my name. So he is Luke, and I am Lumira Elmyra. And so we created Lumira. We also loved it, because it Lumi in Italian means light. And when we first started the brand, you know, we started with the candles. And it was just such a nice way to bring out like, you know, a brand at that time was with such a beautiful name.

Kara Goldin 3:03
Oh, it’s just absolutely. It’s so beautiful. So you started the brand out of Australia? And did you think that you would become an entrepreneur prior to starting this beautiful company was there, this itching inside of you that you one day were going to become an entrepreneur when you grew up?

Almira Armstrong 3:24
I think I’ve always had it like deep down inside. Every time I’ve ever worked for somebody else that I kind of really dove in. And I did many facets of each business that I worked with. So I felt like I was always wearing a lot of hats for other brands. And you know, I think having that background with marketing, branding sales, it really gave me the ability to utilize those skills and create something for myself. I’ve been I’ve always loved fragrance. It was kind of like my, my very first love, I think as a child growing up, you know, I used to play with my mom’s perfume bottles. And, you know, I was always really captivated by, you know, the different scents. And we were very lucky to be able to travel a lot during our, you know, childhood years. So I think just having those types of experiences throughout not just work but also through childhood. And seeing my parents also work really hard gave me the ability to kind of get that strength to do this on my own.

Kara Goldin 4:33
Definitely. So I told a friend of mine who lives in Australia that I was interviewing you and she was blown away and how have you generated so much awareness and kind of getting the word out? That’s sort of every entrepreneurs challenge, I guess, you know, they have this idea for a product they have to go do it. That’s a big undertaking, and then all of a sudden they have to let everybody know that it’s available. So how did you do that?

Almira Armstrong 5:01
Yeah, look, I’m being mean, it’s it’s not, it’s not as like, easy to, to suddenly be found everywhere. Over the last decade, we really did focus on like word of mouth and lots of seating out to key media and influences. It was a lot of like emails, phone calls, and lots of coffee dates, which I totally recommend for, you know, people going into businesses just reaching out to people, and, you know, taking them for a coffee and really talking about your brand and getting the product in their hands was the biggest thing for us. Slowly, obviously, you know, we we started spending some money on some key social advertising, and working with key retailers internally, to build the brand through their network as well.

Kara Goldin 5:50
So what was the moment when you decided I’m actually going to launch this company? I mean, you mentioned that you always really enjoyed fragrance, and you recognize there were different, beautiful scents that you associated with your travels. But to actually love fragrance and love scent is one thing, it’s another thing to say, I’m going to go and produce this product and make a business out of it. That’s a massive undertaking, but what was it? What was kind of that that little gem that you decided, okay, I’m really gonna go do it.

Almira Armstrong 6:25
So I met my husband in New York. And at the time, I was actually working for a photographic studio in Australia. And when we met, a lot of things happen really fast between us. And eventually, within the year, we were married, had a baby, and things just, you know, brought us back to Australia. And because we met really fast, he knew about my background in marketing and PR, but he didn’t understand all that, those elements of like, fragrance and how I used to actually make candles that during university for friends as gifts. And coming back to Australia was actually really hard because being a woman and you know, I’ve always had that urge, like, I need to be able to do work, and I was looking for a job and I wanted to do something part time. And you know, when you’re a new mother, it’s really hard to say, you know, to leave your baby at home and, and go back into a full time jobs. So it was unfortunate that it was really difficult to find someone who would give me a job part time, even though I knew I could do the job, a full time job in like three days. It was after that, that we went to a friend’s wedding in Italy. And we were just shopping in in like a fragrance store. And my husband saw a candle and he said to me, oh my God, who would spend 200 euro on a candle. And I just started talking to him about how much you know, I knew about fragrance, how much I love, like loved the the the emotive part of it and the transportive part of fragrance and always, like, Throughout my travels, I’ve always ended up buying a fragrance so that I can be reminded of that time. And how I used to make candles and then he was working in finance at the time. So I think he’s finance brain came on and he asked me like, you know, so what is this cost? Like how does this how do you make this and there was all these, you know, questions around that but one thing he told me was that when he saw me speak he just said that my face was so lit up and he said that he could see how passionate I was about you know fragrance and and that was basically how it started. And you know, we went back home I took out a credit card I put you know there was only there was a $10,000 credit card. I started with all the branding myself. I’m a contracted a perfumer I told them about the stories and the feelings that I really wanted to create it through these fragrances. And, and literally that was how it all began.

Kara Goldin 9:02
Wow. And so the fragrance was the first product.

Almira Armstrong 9:06
Yeah, so we started with four. There were four we started with the candles because we knew that was an easy entry level in Australia at the time. Niche fragrance was relatively new in Australia at that time. And because our fragrances were quite sophisticated, and also you know more on that shared masculine side. It was a different time to be able to educate customers about that particular type of smell. A lot of people at the time really loved like sweeter fragrances and we were leaning more to you know that European shared type of scent. And at the time, candles were easy because I knew how to make them so it was something that I could just you know, start in the kitchen and eventually over time we’ve developed it to personal fragrance.

Kara Goldin 10:03
So the candles were first, how many of yours than before you actually launched the fragrances?

Almira Armstrong 10:10
It was only? Probably what was that? So we started in 2013. By 2015, we had

Kara Goldin 10:16
fragrances, and then you just recently launched your store, and Sydney, but how were you? You were just actually going into other stores then?

Almira Armstrong 10:28
Yeah, so over the years look, I mean, it’s taken a lot of time. And, you know, a lot of outreach, a lot of I get phone calls, and also guidance and assistance from other sales agents to be able to really harness what this brand is. And then you know, sell that brand to other retailers around the world. Currently, were stopped in Neiman Marcus Bergdorf Goodman conservatory lucky sent candles Larium Lynn Crawford and Joyce beauty in China. So and obviously in Australia, but we’ve grown to a point where we really understand who we are where we want to be. And it’s continuing that journey with the right retailers across the world. Outside of of course, hopefully growing out our store presence,

Kara Goldin 11:16
what has been the most difficult fragrance to create?

Almira Armstrong 11:21
I don’t think it’s a pinpoint to one particular fragrance. I think it’s fragrance in general. Sometimes, you know, a fragrance can actually has taken me over a year to create because in my mind and in my head with the smell that I’m trying to create or the story that I’m trying to tell when you’re working with a perfumer it’s, it’s sometimes quite difficult to kind of get that across. And it takes a lot of iterations in order to get the fragrance right. And I mean, when we started creating, there were a couple a few, especially with our latest. There’s a new one coming out next year. And that one has also taken quite some time it’s inspired by Japan. And it’s one that I’ve always wanted to work towards. But that one in particular has taken just a lot of time because scent is so particular. And you know, sometimes you do need to put the fragrance away and come back to it in order to really restart that process and think okay, is this the story of this fragrance that I’m really wanting to portray?

Kara Goldin 12:28
I saw that on your website you had that you won an award for from Travel and Leisure. I think it was for what was the award for?

Almira Armstrong 12:38
Oh, I think it was the best Puffin Discovery set.

Kara Goldin 12:42
Congratulations. That’s amazing. And the set looks like unbelievable, what is the top scent that you have? Yeah, so

Almira Armstrong 12:52
top fragrances, either. It’s it goes between Cuban tobacco and Arabian wood. And I think a lot of people love those fragrances again, because they are quite, they’re shared fragrances. They are very sophisticated, not your norm. Wood has, you know, a smoky rose. Whereas the tobacco is, you know, quite a little bit spicy, a spicy tobacco, but it’s got a sweet undertone of vanilla. So I think people love it, because it’s not your typical scent of we I mean, we have Tahitian coconut, for example. But those particular fragrances are very unique to our brand. And I think that’s why people really love them because they’re a little bit more heavy and a shared experience. Because, you know, I can wear it my husband can wear, you know, friends, anyone can wear anyone can wear these fragrances,

Kara Goldin 13:48
what do consumers not know about the fragrance industry? And then also, what do they not know about the candle industry that you think is kind of a dirty little secret that you tell your girlfriends when they’re like, Oh, I’d love that candle and you’re like now don’t you know, because it’s, it’s it really is hidden a lot of these things about and I know, your focus is so on, you know, natural, clean sustainability, and I really appreciate that. So do you want to share a little bit about what maybe most consumers don’t know? Sure.

Almira Armstrong 14:26
I mean, look, I think the biggest thing that has come out over the last few years is is sustainability and health how materials and ingredients are sourced. I think most of the fragrance houses today have really come a long way from when they first started, you know, synthetics were looked as were looked upon as really being bad for you. Essential oils were you know really, you know as this thing that it was they were the best thing for you but when you know when Have, you actually looked down at how things are actually sourced and where they come from. Most of these things are a bit of a myth. And you know, synthetic fragrances aren’t bad for you. Essential oils are bad or good for you either. It’s just, it’s working out which ones work well together. And that is what these experts do. And the one thing that I do love about working with some of these perfumers is that they understand how to source and where things are sourced from so like, caring for our environment. And really paying attention to those elements that are shown into a broad into a fragrance. And the other thing is, you know, wax has come a long way, since we’ve, since forever, you know, a long time ago, paraffin was seen as the best wax of choice. And now there are so many different varieties, which are much cleaner for you, such as you know, we use the soy coconut blend. So, again, this gives you a really clean, beautiful burn. And, you know, if you trim the wick, right, then you’re gonna have that smokeless candle burning experience.

Kara Goldin 16:16
Yeah, definitely. So you recently launched the Lumira light, the way forward initiative, which is really amazing and wonderful, can you share a bit more about that,

Almira Armstrong 16:28
our desire has always been to create, you know, considered uninspiring environment for our customers, our staff and our suppliers. And the reason we launched this was, you know, it was to continue our commitment to becoming an industry leader in the way we conduct our business. One of our you know, overarching goals was to create sustainable growth through the respect for not just our people, but our environment. And it was always something that, you know, as I said, I think we’ve spoken touched on it briefly. You know, now we don’t produce a product unless it has these elements of sustainability, and everything that we do has to follow these guidelines and these goals that the UN Sustainable Development has, has produced. So we like to be able to say that we are, you know, really trying to hit these goals as a, as a brand and as a business. And, you know, they stand out for us moving forward in, in every product that we release,

Kara Goldin 17:31
do you feel like the retailers that you’re working with to that that’s like a, they’re asking for that as well, that they want to make sure that the products that they’re bringing into their stores? I mean, it’s not just an initiative for your brand, but it’s kind of the gateway, right, in order to get into some of these other retailers?

Almira Armstrong 17:50
I think so I truly believe that. As, as a customer myself, I truly believe that we’re looking forward to these initiatives. I’m a mother of two as well. And I always wonder, you know, what will we leave behind for our children? So, you know, we have to make the changes, and we’re all becoming a lot more aware of, you know, how what the world will be, and how we will? How will we leave it behind for the next generation and the generation after them? And definitely, I definitely think that not only retailers, but, you know, a lot of brands are taking initiatives to to really make this a big part of their business.

Kara Goldin 18:35
Definitely. So your company started 10 years ago, you touched on that, when do you know that a business is successful? Right, it’s, it’s tough, it is

Almira Armstrong 18:49
tough. I think it’s not about when it’s successful, I actually think about the little things, the little achievements that you achieve along the way that make that that that time successful. So, you know, working with a new retailer, really, making sure that that product was is the best product like that you can put on the market, getting recognition with key media and and, you know, certain influencers around the world. I think those little successes turning 10 Opening a flagship store. I think celebrating the little things along the way of the business journey is really, really important, because then that leads to, you know, an overall, I guess, successful business.

Kara Goldin 19:47
Definitely. Do you think launching a business in the US is tougher than it is in Australia. I think it’s always so challenging a to, to answer big because you’re a bigger brand, now, right, and you’ve learned a ton, as well,

Almira Armstrong 20:05
I think if you’re not known in the market, definitely it is tough to launch into a new market. I think if you have the right representation and key people helping you behind the scenes can really supercharge. You know what you do in the US. I believe that, you know, the customers in the US do look to Australia for Australian brands, I think being Australian made, has really guided us and helped us around the world. And you know, we do pay a lot of attention to quality. And those things are really important for many brands just coming out of Australia, not just mine. And I think a lot of Americans love that. Yeah, definitely.

Kara Goldin 20:50
What have you enjoyed most about being a founder and an entrepreneur? And, you know, obviously, you’re, you’re creating things and, and you’re operating a real business, but is there something that you that you would share with other people who have never lived in your shoes, right? That, that you really love about being an entrepreneur?

Almira Armstrong 21:15
I think for me, like, I love the flexibility. I love being able to, you know, just being able to create and be able to really express my vision, and express that vision, not just through the brand, look and feel but also through the fragrance. And really, you know, tell that story and hope that each fragrance that gets, you know, created by Lumira is actually going to make you feel a certain way, and transport you to somewhere that you know, you might be having a really bad day, but you know when to try one of our scents, it, it really changes your outlook on your day. And to be honest, when when I hear that positive feedback of someone saying to me, you know, that is my new fragrance, that is the thing that actually makes me keep going and doing what I really love.

Kara Goldin 22:07
Definitely, when when you close your eyes and you think about the brand that you’ve built, we often don’t get a chance to sort of share with people. What we’re most proud of that we’ve done. Right? And what do you think that is?

Almira Armstrong 22:24
So me, I think, you know, I’m very proud of where I like where I am today. It is a very long journey. It’s a lonely journey, you know, you really have to stick through when you’re building your own brand. And for me, I think you just have to keep going no matter what. There are really hard times. But once you know when you get to those points where, you know, turning 10 was was a big achievement for us getting to that milestone, and then opening up our flagship store in Sydney. Those are the things that I think that continue to really stand out to me as a founder.

Kara Goldin 23:10
Definitely, well, you’ve built such an incredible business and and brand, you should be very, very proud. And aesthetically, like I said, it’s it’s it’s beautiful. And I appreciate I didn’t know that you had been in photography, that totally makes sense. Because everything about your brand is just you just want to hang out with it. And, and smell it and everything. But it’s just it’s really, really wonderful. So best advice is the last question. So best advice that you’ve ever received that maybe gets you up on those tough days where you get knocked down a little bit?

Almira Armstrong 23:52
Yeah, I don’t I don’t think I don’t know if this was someone gave me this advice. But it was something that I just It stuck to me from from very early on. Is that when you hear the answer, no. There’s always a better yes, around the corner. And I truly believe what is meant for you will be and you just have to commit and continue to work really hard for what you believe in.

Kara Goldin 24:17
Definitely. Well, Amira, thank you so much for joining us. So Elmyra Armstrong, founder of Lumira. And everyone absolutely needs to go out and purchase Lumira fragrances and candles. And we’re so honored that you came on to share the story with us too. So thank you again, very, very inspiring.

Almira Armstrong 24:42
Thank you Kara. I really appreciate our time together.

Kara Goldin 24:46
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode. of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen. Or pick up a copy of my book undaunted, which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening