Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in essential oils, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Robert Seidel founder and president of The Essential Oil Company, established in 1977 based in Portland, Oregon, USA.

What's your business and who are your customers?

We import, distill and distribute pure high-quality essential oil. We supply other entrepreneurs both small and large with raw materials for their products.

Tell us about yourself. What motivates you each day to do what you do?

My education is in Forestry and Resources Management. I studied at The New York State Ranger School, Paul Smiths College, SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, and Syracuse University. My interest was inspired when I was first exposed to the beautiful resin of the Balsam Fir tree.

There are small blisters on the bark of the Balsam Fir tree (Abies balsamea). The blisters are easily "popped". Once this is done a beautiful aromatic resin will ooze from the bark. Aside from the bark resin, the needles of the Balsam Fir can also be distilled for a lovely essential oil. That is where I began my quest for extracting aromatic compounds from trees and plants. I built my distillation equipment for extraction, and have been a distiller of essential oils ever since. I've been doing this since the mid-1970s and established my business in 1977.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

During the 1970s "essential oils" could be found in record stores and "head shops". They were not truly essential oils, but rather fragrances labeled as essential oils. A bottle of "Rose Oil" costs about $1. The truth is that true Rose essential oil cost about $9500 per kg back then. "Jasmine Oil" was the same when in reality there is no Jasmine essential oil; it is only extracted as an absolute.

My first accomplishment was offering true essential oils and absolutes to the consumer. My next accomplishment was offering distillation equipment to the curious, and the entrepreneur, as well as offering training in distillation. I am self-taught in distillation through trial and error and have always been interested in sharing my expertise.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Initially, the most difficult aspect was funding my venture. There were times when I worked two jobs and even drove a taxi to bring in cash. The next thing was hiring employees. For years, I was a one-man show. With growth, I needed help. Hiring employees and training them in my esoteric field was quite a challenge. There are many difficulties in employing people.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect was, and still is marketing. Back in the day, I went door to door visiting retail shops and makers of candles and soaps finding people who could use my products. This is many years before the advent of "Aromatherapy". The consumer had no idea how to use essential oils. Education also became an important component of my business. This is before the internet. Advertising meant placing ads in various magazines and journals targeting a small market of herbalists.

Another difficulty was labeling, printing, and developing a catalog of products. A potential consumer might see my advertisement and request a catalog. It would take at least a week for the consumer to receive my catalog, and then place an order by mail. The turnaround was a very long period.

What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance?

It's fortunate to do something that you enjoy. Travel has always been one of my interests. Because of the nature of my business, I have been able to travel far and wide meeting farmers and distillers worldwide. For me, this has been much better than merely being a tourist. It has opened my eyes to the lives of people living in other cultures. I always learn something new, which is both good for my business and my life experience.

Where can people find you online?


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