Chasing Dopamine, The Most Important Chemical in ThereThen’s Success
ThereThen has been a laboratory for how to optimize my brain.
Before I received my ADHD diagnosis, I didn't understand how my brain worked best, and I tried to force myself to operate like a neurotypical person. After my diagnosis, I became committed to building a creative enterprise that harnessed my gifts and allowed me to succeed on my terms.
My creative process goes something like this:
First, a movie reel runs in my mind: Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, surfers like golden gladiators riding in on the waves. My memories begin to knit together, bonded by scent: alchemy that brings the story to life in perfume. I'm off on a quest to develop a brief (the perfume story) from the elixirs on my shelf.
Then the calm comes. I have bottled the lightning of the memory, but the discipline of perfumery calls for a systematic approach. In building a scent, layer by layer, I must honor the chemical properties of each element. It's constantly assessing how to bring out the best of each scent's personality. Sometimes, the process is painfully slow; other times, it's effortless. Sometimes, the correct elements are there, but they need time to macerate and develop. And a lot of times, it's a complete flop, and I have to start all over again.
As I go through multiple drafts, I share my olfactory concoctions with friends whose noses I trust. Holding the vial beneath our noses, I search their faces for emotion, memories evoked, and approval.
When I'm satisfied, I circle back to that original movie in my brain to see if I successfully captured the experience in scent. Designing labels and bottles for the aroma anthologizes each vignette into the ThereThen brand story: devotion to the California coast and its flora, insistence on transparency, clean ingredients, and authenticity.
I love ThereThen because this creative process perfectly harnesses my neurodivergent mind. Not every part of the job is fun, and I have done all I can to outsource the tedious tasks. Bookkeeping, anyone? However, much to my pride and delight, I've discovered that I have the attributes of a successful entrepreneur and the thrill and novelty of learning. I have motivated me to tackle subjects I never saw as relevant before. Math, chemistry, sales, graphic design–I have learned more in my last two years than I did in a lifetime of formal education. Now I genuinely want to be a student for the rest of my life because learning is what keeps ThereThen fresh.
I spent years of my life spinning my wheels and feeling like I lacked the perseverance to do hard work. Now I am excited every day to do hard work because I am solving my problems and challenges and fulfilling a vision that's all mine.
There may not be any actual dopamine in ThereThen's scents, but it is the lifeblood of my business.