Antica Farmacista
Wellness — Beauty

Antica Farmacista

United States

Mood of Living  /  Nov 18, 2014

Shelley Callaghan and Susanne Pruitt are not only successful business partners, but also long-time friends that share a passion for creating elegant and artisanal products.

Antica Farmacista was founded in 2003 and has blossomed into a much-desired realm of feel-good products for many high-end retailers, renowned hotels and loyal customers. These women have made their dreams come true with combined dedication, immense creativity and an overall desire to do what they love.

Antica Farmacista was the first company to introduce the home ambiance diffuser and the brand now features over twenty fragrances designed for the body and home. The handmade products include perfume, candles, bath salts, bar soap, bubble bath, etc. that are categorized by lifestyle opposed to purely by scent. This technique is a way to deepen meaning and represent individuals through aroma in combination with the ability to experience “a personal journey of fragrance discovery.”

Creative director and co-founder, Shelley, aims to create fragrances that capture a moment and truly connect and resonate with people. Co-founder and director of finances, Susanne, is the perfect complement. Her business-savvy strategies and collective of innovative ideas bring to life the creativity that Shelley imagines. Like they say, “two heads are better than one,” especially when it is two powerful women that understand the importance of a supportive friendship and most of all, “sticking to their knitting.”

Q & A with Shelley Callaghan and Susanne Pruitt

Mood of Living: What is your role at Antica Farmacista?

Shelley Callaghan: Co-founder & Creative Director.

Susanne Pruitt: Co-founder & Finance Director.
MoL: Occupation description?

SC: I spend my time developing new product concepts, producing new fragrances and the marketing behind Antica.

SP: I oversee all the financial decisions of Antica, as well as any legal contracts, employee relations and other operational hurdles in the business.
MoL: Before your current occupation you were...?

SC: I worked for a local advertising company in marketing and then left to have my two sons. After Sid and Greg were born, I worked with the Henry Art Gallery (the contemporary art museum here in Seattle) conceptualizing and producing events. I worked with the installation crew where anything art related was possible and I loved it.

SP: An investment banker for Montgomery Securities.
MoL: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

SC: Working in some capacity with my best friend and business partner, Susanne. She and I have a great working relationship (one of us is the bad cop and one is the good cop… I get to be the good cop!). I also see myself spending a lot more of my time in aquamarine blue windy water, on the beach.

SP: Enjoying more time with family and friends… but continuing to grow intellectually.
MoL: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

SC: I have always been passionate about scent.  When I think back on childhood experiences and recollections of family homes and events, my mind immediately goes to the scent before anything else. However, “scent” seems to be the most overlooked of the senses. The fact that scent is so subjective is what makes it even more appealing to me. Everyone has their own unique “nose” and ability to experience something (food, perfume, books, the rain, flowers or whatever it may be) in their own way. My love of fragrance and the introduction to the Italian brand that inspired Susanne and I to create Antica was a perfect marriage of interests. Susanne and I have a “stick to your knitting” policy- we stick to what we know best and we don’t allow ourselves to get off track with other people’s ideas of what might work for Antica. We both prioritize the balance of our lives, family first, and then friends, work and fun. I believe our creativity is a result of that balance. We make quick decisions and we don’t cry over our spilled milk. We didn’t embark on Antica Farmacista as “entrepreneurs” but I think we both know we have the spirit that embodies the word, and ultimately, we’re not afraid to make mistakes. Life is short. This won’t be our last work together.

SP: My dad was definitely the root of my inspiration… he has been an entrepreneur his whole life, and has constantly inspired me to do what I love.
MoL: What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

SC: I consider myself incredibly fortunate and the challenges I have faced in my life have been minimal. I think that perspective is a result of how I was raised.  Whether we are faced with illness, death or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I was shown and taught that I am capable of handling anything. My father passed away when I was 38 and my mother had a massive stroke, leaving her without speech. However, we live and love and therefore will be faced with devastating loss throughout our lives. And I learned relatively early on that that will be something constant in my future…and therefore I have learned to enjoy each moment as a precious one. I treasure the happiness I find with my kids, my mother, my friends, work and in my efforts to give to others.

SP: About 12 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While it was certainly challenging, it gave me the chance to set new priorities and basically live my life again. This challenging wake-up call gave me the strength to live a much more authentic life.
MoL: Where did you learn your craft?

SC: The creative part of developing fragrance is more innate. It’s something that comes to me as a result of personal experiences with people and places. I’ve learned to take risks when producing my fragrances and that has been guided technically through a perfumer I hold very near and dear. Krishna is my technical perfumer, whom I consider my “partner.” She has helped me understand the intricacies of perfumery and the chemistry of it all.

SP: It was definitely a result of my financial background in the stock brokerage world; the difference is that I now have a hand on understanding of the intricacies of the manufacturing process, distribution of products and the true cost of goods.
MoL: Where do you look for inspiration?

SC: I believe there is a close connection between memory and scent. I think back on vacations spent with my grandparents and the incredibly powerful olfactory experiences I had then and can recall clearly today. The smell of the heat on the stone surrounding the swimming pool and the chlorine drenched towels that permeated the towel closet. The grapefruit blossoms that permeated the air, and the bitter grapefruit rind that I loved to rip open with my hands every morning.   My awareness of scent as a child didn’t occur to me until my own son started to explain his experiences by how they smell. As a culture, we place so much emphasis on how things look and sound and yet our sense of smell is the first sense our brain recognizes. So when I think about a memory or a desire to do something, I imagine the scent associated with that experience. Nature is an obvious source of inspiration, as we are creating scents that oftentimes replicate olfactory experiences we enjoy in nature (evergreen trees, fresh rain on concrete, first Daphne blooms in spring, the perfect rose stumbled upon while on a walk). Experiences I’ve had with people and the emotion that goes along with those experiences influences and inspires fragrance development. Cozy moments spent with my dad, playing cribbage on his old hand made wooden board and talking while he sipped his icy scotch, the perfect worn leather chair that was unquestionably Papa’s chair. An amazing day spent on the water, kiting, surfing, and taking in the beauty and warmth of the sun on the sand.  The joy and love felt from those experiences then make me take in the olfactory sensation, thus inspiring those creations. These childhood memories-as well as current memories with my own kids and friends are ones I hold dear and constantly fuel new fragrance creation.

SP: I love to cook, travel and discover wines.  In all aspects of these passions, there is inspiration for fragrance and brand development.
A wall on the home of Antica Farmacista.
A wall on the home of Antica Farmacista.
MoL: What was the moment you realized you could really do this?

SC: When Susanne and I flew to LA to meet with a sales rep group that had said “NO” to taking on our brand repeatedly…and we finally told our story and they said YES… we celebrated and knew that was a pivotal moment.

SP: When Shelley and I originally started the business, I do not think we genuinely knew where the business was headed.  We were both bringing completely different talents to Antica and embraced the fact that fragrances made people feel good every day. By the second year in business, after Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom launched Antica, we realized that not only was our formulation the most effective on the market, but our customers were falling in love with our fragrances!
MoL: Do you have a hobby?

SC: I love to be active outdoors. I especially enjoy the water and the snow.  I love to kite surf and the north shore of Maui is my favorite spot. Spending time with my two teenage sons and enjoying the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest, skiing local mountains is a highlight. We love to be on the boat, kiting, paddle-boarding, surfing and general nonsense in the water.

SP: Yes, my hobbies include cycling, golfing and skiing. And hanging out with my two teenage boys and friends!
MoL: What is your favorite quote?

SC: “Every obstacle is a new opportunity.”

SP: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life?

SC: My father passed away 8 years ago, but continues to be a big influence in my life. He was the person I talked to about all of the emotional, meaningful stuff.  I still find myself talking to him, looking for his comforting words.

SP: Quite frankly, it is my dearest friend and business partner, Shelley. She is an inspiration to anyone that knows her. Shelley has found the ability to balance her work, kids, family, friends and herself, better than anyone I have ever known. She has constant words of wisdom and insight. Her infectious laugh and creativity is infectious in our office and she has had an enormous impact on who I am.
MoL: Do you have a style icon?

SC: A few I would say… Kate Moss for sexy, Lauren Hutton for Classic and Elle Macpherson for cool.

SP: Diane von Furstenberg… she is the epitome of a woman that is timeless and certainly ahead of her time about both fashion and relationships.
MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

SC: “There is no penalty for being overly prepared.” My dad “Leave Something to the Imagination, Darling.” Eileen Ford “Stick to your knitting” Susanne’s mom “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will  never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

SP: “Let go of the past or you will certainly miss the present.”  Dalai Lama
MoL: What is something you know now that you wish you knew before?

SC: How big the personal reward is when you show compassion to others. How important travel is to expanding your mind.

SP: I would tell my twenty-year old self, “try your best to stay in the moment, and don’t worry about the things you can’t change.” After worrying about things out of my control for too many years, I would love to have digested this years ago.
Antica Farmacista's signature diffusers.
Antica Farmacista's signature diffusers.
MoL: Any words of wisdom?

SC: Life is not a dress rehearsal. In order to get over a man, you need to get under one! (just kidding!)

SP: I receive a daily email called the Daily Buddha and every day there are wonderful words of wisdom to live by. One that I loved is, the best way to engage and energize your day is to honor the ordinary and unexceptional moments. This is where extraordinary insight comes from.
MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind and spirit?

SC: The north shore of Maui, my living room with all of my books and my kitchen surrounded by food about to be prepped.

SP: Carneros Inn in Napa Valley is where I escape for a peaceful and energizing experience. Once I arrive to the cottage, I never leave.
MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. Do you spend much time creating a beautiful home?

SC: When I think back on all these scent filled memories and the joy I have in recalling countless meals, parties and intimate gatherings with friends through scent… I am reminded of how important it is to not only acknowledge fragrance around us, but also the importance of intentionally placing it. I follow this mantra in my own home, bringing in special pieces that evoke an emotion.

SP: My home is definitely a direct reflection of who I am.  Anyone that walks into my home says that it looks and smells like my house should. It has a clean, contemporary look but with furniture, art, and fixtures that I have accumulated over the years thru travel or unique experiences.  My home is comfortable, informal and open. There are multiple scents layered throughout the home, which allows me to create my own home fragrance.
MoL: Do you entertain?

SC: Yes…I feel like I have a constant flow of family, friends and teenagers in my home. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

SP: Yes, and living in the Northwest, people love to gather by boat on Lake Washington or cozy up for dinners at each other’s homes in the winter.
MoL: Do you cook?

SC: Yes, I find preparing food for others is my happiest place.

SP: Yes, I love to cook and we are fortunate enough to have amazing ingredients and fish in Seattle.  Our office is one block from the Pike Place Market, which has some of the finest produce, meat and fish markets in the country.”Papa Bob’s Ribs”, which my Dad has made for years and I try to duplicate as often as I can. The key to these is to soak the bite size, cut ribs in fresh squeezed lime juice for four days!
MoL: What advice can you give anyone interested in starting his or her own business?

SC: Figure out WHAT you’re selling, WHERE you’re selling it and WHO is the buyer.  SPECIFICALLY.  It sounds SO simple, but I can’t tell you how many people have ideas that are half explored. And then, once all the initial concepts are in place, STICK TO YOUR KNITTING.

SP: Come up with your concept or product and do not be persuaded by others to deviate from what works.  As my Mom has always said, “stick to your knitting”.
FIND Antica Farmacista ONLINE
Photography courtesy of Antica Farmacista

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