Marilyn Jones, a West Side native and entrepreneur, is the 11th of 12 children. When she was 5, Jones’ mother died of breast cancer. Her father died shortly afterward. The death of her parents prompted Jones to lean on her older siblings, who created an environment of comfort, stability and possibility.
Jones said she grew up surrounded by love, cooking and laughter. What was missing, though, was her mother’s presence. Since her mother was gone, Jones filled the absence with memories of her mother that were most pungent in scents that recalled her mother’s presence.
Jones spent years collecting hundreds of perfumes and scented items in an effort to recreate her mother’s unique scent. Now, the entrepreneur, who has a career background in trade finance, sells the fragrance line that she created in Walmart. Jones talked about the journey to capture her mother’s fragrance.
On her family and her West Side roots
Growing up without parents was hard, but I was blessed to have older siblings and grandparents who gave us the best life on the West Side. My father had a good job at Western Electric and the house we lived in was one that he bought. I did not grow up [in want].
While I may have been surrounded by drugs and gangs and plenty of cracks to fall through, I’m proud to say that I’m from the West Side, but not of it. I graduated and went to college and pursued a career and now have my own business.
The West Side, however, is really rooted in who I am today, in terms of things that I know. Yes I am book smart, but I am also street smart. I have that bit of grit, that survival instinct.
Growing up, the one thing I was addicted to was scents. It didn’t come into focus for me until later in life that my love for scents was rooted in this longing to find the scent that reminds me of my mother.
I was always teased about how many perfumes and body sprays and scented deodorants I had. I chalked it up to being “girly,” but later in my 20s I realized I was trying to find the scent that brought back flooding memories of my mother. She had a very distinctive scent to her and I was always trying to chase that. I couldn’t find it. Things would smell close, but nothing would open the floodgates.
A hunger to learn
I decided to try to blend scents myself and so I started taking classes on blending. I went to conferences and workshops and perfume industry events to learn from scientists on the best way to blend. I had no knowledge, but a hunger to learn.
My degree was in finance and accounting. I got some help, but I will say I heard a lot of “no’s” before I was able to team up with a chief perfumer in 2012. We finally found one company out on the East Coast to manufacture [the product].
It was a process to get to that “yes”. There’s a lot of risk when working with someone so new to the industry like I was, but I’m blessed they saw my vision and were willing to help me go from mixing oils in my kitchen to making a shelf stable product to bring to life.
On her signature scent and her sense of purpose
Our signature scent is our Embellish fragrance. It’s romantic and glamorous with notes of apple, peach, jasmine, amber and honeysuckle. Funny enough, it’s the signature scent, but it’s not the one of my mother.
Honestly, at this point I’ve come to accept that I may never be able to pinpoint my mother’s scent. Through all of these even I couldn’t recreate her. I think it’s metaphoric in a way, but I’ve also found the point of this journey and my line as being a way to help others create their own memories with my fragrances.
When someone looks back on good times or people they loved and they smell like B Fragarenced, that’s my legacy. I’m creating moments and memories in a bottle for other people.
I want people to keep the faith. I’m a woman of God and I believe I’ve gotten to where I am today, because I’ve trusted in Him. If I can go from no industry knowledge to now being on the shelves of Walmart and other retailers, anybody can do it. Especially people from Chicago and especially people who have gone through obstacles or have been surrounded by darkness. You can come into the light if you have faith.