Text: Nur Isyana Isaman
In nine years, Jason Lee has created over 1,000 scents under his award-winning artisan perfumery, Scent by SIX, which explores the “sixth sense”, the connection between smelling fragrances and evoking emotions.
What started as a solo business has grown to a team of 35 managing an online store and four retail stores across Singapore, with expansion plans in Southeast Asia and, possibly, New York.
“We participated in a six-month pop-up organised by Enterprise Singapore at the Showfields department store in New York. It ended in March and was very successful, so we are working with local partners there to extend our endeavour,” the 39-year-old shares excitedly.
At the same time, Jason is working with A*STAR to incorporate scents in virtual reality and extended reality environments. He also aspires to make scents for the metaverse. While he has always envisioned building an enterprise that brings meaning to others, he had no idea he would become Singapore’s perfume man.
The start of making scents
After graduating from NTU with a Master of Science in Technopreneurship and Innovation in 2010, Jason responded to a blind advertisement for a management associate programme in a health and beauty company, which turned out to be the world’s largest fragrance house, Givaudan.
Little did he know that the chance encounter would kickstart his fascinating journey with scents. After six rounds of interviews, Jason was among the two new hires from over 1,000 applicants.
“My role allowed me to access crucial aspects of the multi-faceted fragrance industry. After the two-year programme, I was posted to Manila and Jakarta to manage key accounts in the fine fragrance and consumer products industries,” he says.
When Jason turned 30 in 2014, he decided to resign from Givaudan after almost four years with the company, eager to rekindle his entrepreneurial spirit that had been doused by a previous attempt at starting a business.
“I started my first venture dealing in solar film for cars and buildings with my then-best friend. The business failed in less than a year. I was cheated and lost S$150,000 in personal savings,” he recounts.
Learning from experience, Jason did not start his new business right after leaving Givaudan. Instead, he spent two years of planning and research for Scent by SIX before establishing it in July 2016.
His first scent was extra special. “When my wife and I were dating, we travelled to Hokkaido in Japan. There were hints of Japanese lavender and green tea everywhere, so I created a scent to encapsulate our memories. Then, I proposed to her with the scent, and she said yes!” he reminisces.
Jason regards her as his strongest supporter.
He elaborates: “When we started, I did my own pop-ups at various places. We had our first child then, but I barely spent time with my son. My wife asked where I was going with the business, so I set a goal for my brand to go international, and I thought the most logical way was through Singapore Airlines. In 2021, we launched a scent called Batik Flora for Singapore Airlines. It was a dream come true and the biggest pat on my shoulder for years of perseverance, and I could not have done it without my wife’s conviction and trust.”
In the early days of Scent by SIX in 2016, Jason managed a pop-up booth at Millenia Walk.
Scents of Belonging for NTU
In addition to Singapore’s national carrier, Jason has created unique scents for Traditional Chinese Medicine company Eu Yang Sang and his alma mater, NTU.
Dubbed Scents of Belonging, the NTU scent is based on conversations with NTU alumni, students, faculty, and staff about what the university means to them. Such conversations, according to Jason, are part of the first step in scent-making, which is to understand the brand in terms of its values, vision, messaging, and milestones.
Jason speaking at the launch of Scents of Belonging in NTU.
The result is a nostalgic blend of fragrances.
“Scents of Belonging opens with bergamot, lemon, and sea marine, expressing how the NTU community is poised for the future and open to catalysing partnerships. The unique enclave of green stems, roses, and freesia concurs with NTU’s commitment to sustainability. The scent base features sandalwood, rosewood, and Japanese hinoki to reflect how the NTU community does not lose sight of our roots while setting sights on our own definitions of success,” he explains.
Scents of Belonging is a refreshing scent gift for NTU supporters and aims to evoke a sense of affinity with the University.
Besides scent creation, Jason actively contributes to NTU through other means. He serves as the treasurer of the NTUpreneur Alumni Association and a mentor at the NTU Entrepreneurship Academy.
“I hope to encourage more students and alumni to give back and make the next generation successful. It is my way of showing gratitude to NTU for helping me cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset, learn from successful entrepreneurs, and connect with like-minded individuals. This network is invaluable for sharing ideas, seeking mentorship, accessing resources, and attracting investors or customers,” he says.
Giving back is incorporated into Jason’s business too.
Scent by SIX is collaborating with Caregivers Alliance Limited (CAL) to formulate three fragrances under the Care range. A portion of the sales will be donated to CAL, which provides training and support to caregivers of persons with mental health issues. Similarly, the company has partnered with the Singapore Association for Mental Health on two other fragrances and donated S$20,000 of the sales proceeds to them.
Encapsulating his business, Jason says: “We harness the power of scents to establish deep emotional connections with people. More than a fragrance brand, our mission is to use our scents to heal, soothe, and improve one’s wellbeing.”
This article first appeared in issue 3 of U, the NTU alumni magazine.