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Marissa Zappas

Marissa Zappas

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

My name is Marissa Zappas and I am a trained perfumer, anthropologist and the founder of Redamance.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I joined Ellevate after a friend (Etta Shon) recommended it. I'm in the beginning stages of launching my own company which is very much centered around the experiences of women and their relationship to their bodies and scent, and I find the support and mentoring from other women invaluable to my own success. Ellevate seemed like the perfect place for me to do this. Since my background is mostly creative, I knew I needed extra support in business matters.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

Have everything and nothing to lose.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

When I received 100% on my final olfactive exam. I woke up at 5am every single day for 2 years to memorize the natural raw materials (there are about 100 of them). I had to blind smell and identify each one. I was so incredibly proud of myself. Either that, or ultimately leaving that company to start my own!

What are some career challenges on your radar?

Fundraising. It's something I'm still very much learning. Also because my background is not in business, I struggle with business-world language. However, I soon realized that even if I don't know the language for business, or finance, or marketing - I can learn. It was really empowering to start using new words even if I was hyper-aware of them in the beginning.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I received my MA in Anthropology from The New School for Social Research in 2015 and my research was on scent, memory and exploring perfume as an object of anthropological inquiry. I also researched the history of cemetery construction specifically towards the end of the French Revolution and how this “project of deodorization” (a term coined by Jeff Corbin), which included the introduction of western perfumery as we know it today, reshaped the way death was/is conceptualized. After completing my MA, I took an apprenticeship at Givaudan and decided to pursue perfumery rather than academia. Afters spending two years training in the lab at Givaudan, I left to start my own project/perfume collection called Redamance, which I have been working on since late 2017 and is set to launch this August.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Perfume is like this hidden weapon. I remember my friend was about to host a huge conference panel and I gave her a spritz of Queen Nzinga just before she went on stage. Afterwards, she came up to me and said it helped her through the event. I think perfume can be whatever one attributes to it - strength, courage, remembrance, comfort, freshness... anything. It's a powerful reminder, if set with intention.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

For me, perfume is a way to connect to myself and my body. I think a lot of women wear it in this way. Perfume is such a nostalgic object, but it's also so much fun! There's such a component of play, whether it's with ideas of who you are, gender, whatever. I would like to honor both aspects and create a space for people to share their experiences with that.

Who are your role models?

The women featured in my upcoming perfume collection - Queen Nzinga (which will launch in 4 months!), Imperia La Divina, Ching Shih and Mary the Alchemist.

And Courtney Love, always!

What is your morning ritual?

Coffee, hot yoga and P50W serum!

What does success look like to you?

Success looks like being able to one day help other ambitious women, specifically financially. And buying a chateau somewhere warm with enough space to for horses.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

In the words of Kris Jenner, if someone says no, which they will, don't listen. Keep searching for that yes. Keep throwing spaghetti at the wall, something will stick.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

My mentor told me I have to smile, which as a feminist, I absolutely hated at the time. He said it apologetically though. Like, I'm sorry, but you just have to do this. I used to grimace a lot but once I started smiling, even if it was fake, I started moving along faster in my career. People respond to perceived kindness and eventually it became genuine.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

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