NAME: Almira Armstrong
TITLE: Founder and Creative Director
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Hardworking, kind, loyal, passionate, determined.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today?
Once I finished university, a career in marketing kept me in creative circles and, when the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to live, work and travel overseas whilst in that career. After a few years abroad, I returned to Sydney and worked in Marketing and PR for fashion houses MARCS and Diesel, which led me to subsequently open my own boutique PR business. Whilst doing that, I noticed there was this need – that was not being met – for designers to have websites they could control themselves (on a budget), and that is how my next business Picaholic was created. Remember, this is pre-Squarespace, Wix, Behance et al. There was nothing in the market like it at the time, so it was very exciting and a great early education in starting a product-driven business. After some time, I ended up selling my stake in the business, then travelled the world for a stint and finally moved back to Sydney, where I became General Manager at Sun Studios.
Where does fragrance and candles fit into this you might ask? I’ve had a love affair with candles and fragrance for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is playing with mum’s bottles of perfume. As a teen I taught myself how to make candles in the kitchen that I would then gift to my friends and family on special occasions. But when I became a mum, I started to reconsider my path in life. I became really motivated to finally pursue my dream of creating products that let me bring together and indulge my love of scent, design and travel, which led me to creating Lumira in 2013.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is your elevator pitch on what you do?
In a sentence - Lumira; luxury lifestyle essentials by Almira Armstrong. I make fragrance, scented candles and accessories for your home and travel, all of which are hand crafted in Sydney, Australia.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?)
I always knew I was going to have my own business. Throughout my career, I have loved working on brands and seeing them come to life and I think all those experiences led me to understand what is needed to see a brand flourish and survive. I am so proud to be where I am today.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’?
Success for me is happiness and having the ability to do what I love whilst balancing family and friends.
What do you still want to achieve (personally and/or professionally)
I think when you have your own business you are constantly learning new things, from marketing, sales, production and so on. I think this is what keeps it all so exciting and means you are continually evolving! And lastly being present each day with my family is the most important to me as that is pure happiness.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in?
Yes I completed a Masters in Marketing at UNSW and continue to read and educate myself about the digital space and how we evolve in this area.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date?
To me the most rewarding aspect is waking up everyday and knowing that I am going to do something that I love with the constant support from my clients and customers who have been with me from the beginning. And of course working on some amazing collaborations has been a lot of fun!
Tell us about your workspace (Office/café/couch/aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace?
First and foremost, the office/warehouse needs to be functional as our day to day tasks range from fulfilling orders to photoshoots and meetings to name a few. The aesthetic is quite minimal, however I have lots of fragrance bottles, books and magazines on my desk that I draw inspiration from. I also love having my favourite artists work, poetry and my travel photos around me as that also influences fragrance and product development.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey?
As my husband will always say, “Be patient” - Fragrance and product development can take up to 12 months to come to market and sometimes it is hard to wait!
When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work/workload?
I think the key to overcoming this feeling is having the right support team that always has your back no matter what. I don’t like to ever let work get on top of me so much that I feel too overwhelmed.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this increased or decreased as you progress in your career?
Yes. But as time goes on, I have learnt how to control what requires attention and what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s as simple as writing it all down on a piece of paper to bring clarity to your work flow.
If you are a business owner, and you often can’t just check out/ have a week off when you are dealing with personal things, how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough?
Flexibility is key – you need to know when to switch off and while you might not be available 9-5, the work still gets done. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do things a certain way, just get them done. And ensure you have a great team behind you!
Has your career affected your personal life/relationships? If so how?
Not really. I am lucky that I have such a supportive husband (and grandmothers) and two children who understand what I do. Both my husband and I work long hours, however we always find time for each other and the family.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How?
Yes. But I don’t think that is a bad thing. I’ve spent a lot of time on my own building this business and it means I have been able to see out the vision without too much noise around me. In terms of prioritising, other things such as socializing were pushed to the back of the queue for a while but it was all loneliness with purpose.
What causes you anxiety/sleepless nights?
Knowing I still have things to complete whether it be at the office or home. I love daily lists and completing most things prior to the end of the day so I don’t feel like this!
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently?
No. I love the amount of experience I was lucky to receive over the last 10 years. Working in very different roles in different industries has assisted my growth and development in creating my own business. The opportunity to work overseas opened up the chance to learn about exporting and marketing to an international market. I am so grateful for the people I have worked with and met along this journey to date.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
When the answer is no, there is always a better yes around the corner.
Who are some women in business you admire & why?
I take inspiration from other mums like Michele Obama, Mira Duma from Buro24/7, Anine Bing and Taylor Tomasi Hill. I love watching them lead by example when it comes to balancing work with motherhood.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with?
A positive and can do attitude is so attractive and inspiring.
Work life balance; does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it?
It’s definitely not easy. Sometimes, it is hard to maintain a sense of self when you first have kids so when you throw motherhood into the work/life balance it all goes a little heads up for a while. I tend to balance everything by taking a casual approach to it all, a relaxed approach without putting too much pressure on myself. I don’t do it alone. I make sure that I have the help I need to get my work done. I also make sure that I have good quality time with my family. It’s not easy to do in a world where you’re constantly switched on, but I find if I can get through those priority lists during the day, I know I can be present with my family when home.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit?
Not really. When times have been tough, I just keep in mind that you need to improve on the small things and the big things will become easier. In those hard moments, you must be your best. My motto is stay calm when under pressure.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do?
That I just own it ;) Most days I am quite hands on within the business. I wear many different hats; marketer, creative director, web designer, warehouse, sales, business development and so on. I think most small businesses face this, however it’s exciting too as you really understand what your business needs to get things done.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry?
Be prepared to work hard. Know your purpose, know your why. If you believe in it, you can make it happen so don’t give up.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what?
I absolutely love what I do and I think the key to making a business work is growing at an organic pace. Making mistakes is the way you learn and improve.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my children to look back on my career and my business and to be proud of me. I want to build Lumira as a globally recognized name in the luxury fragrance and lifestyle industry and for my children to see that I built a brand name that people know worldwide. I want to be happy and to lead by example and to nurture happy, healthy children who believe that anything is possible.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important/(why did you want to be involved in this interview)?
I have been a long admirer of Samantha Wills and was honored to be involved in this interview. I think it’s so important to support women (or men), whether in business or not. I like to think kindness and being giving always comes back around. By being a part of this community, I hope I can inspire others to follow their passions and act as a support network for anyone who needs it.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
“Dreams are necessary to life.” Anais Nin
“It always seems impossible until it's done.” Nelson Mandela
What woman would you like to nominate to be featured for a profile on the SW Foundation, and why?
There are so many women I admire in both business and motherhood, but I would love to read Anine Bing’s story.