Kim Berg is proof positive that you may not always end up where you were headed in college.
A 1990 RU graduate with a major in fashion merchandising, Berg received her first job in fragrance in the marketing department of a fragrance development company. When a fragrance evaluation position became available, she decided to apply. Not knowing if she had an innate talent as an “expert nose,” Berg gave it a try. It was then she discovered she has an olfactive memory.
Twelve years later, now the director of fragrance development for Drom Fragrances in the U.S., with a focus on personal care and fine fragrance, Berg is tasked with the responsibility of translating a client’s scent expectations into a reality. Using something as specific as a group of adjectives (“clean,” “crisp”) or a color (“yellow,” “orange”), or something as general as a single word (“A client may just say they want it to smell fun”), she transforms that information into an olfactory match (“maybe a sparkling citrus with notes of bergamot and grapefruit”).
Using marketplace data, including popular scents and mass retail trends, Berg works closely with perfumers to steer each project olfactively. Once an experimental formula is compounded, Berg collaborates with the company’s perfumers to tweak the fragrance until it matches the client’s requirements. Those clients include Avon and L’Oreal.
“This is absolutely what I am meant to do,” she says. “When you graduate and find out exactly what you are supposed to do, there’s no question.” And it is fortunate for Berg that she is almost euphoric when describing her career, because unlike some employees who may leave their job behind when the clock strikes 5 p.m., Berg is constantly surrounded by her livelihood. “This isn’t something I can turn on and off. Fragrances are everywhere, so if I go to the store and pick up a scent from someone, I’m tempted to tap that person on the shoulder and see if I guessed the perfume correctly.”
Comparing her background in fashion merchandising to her career, Berg explains that the two have similarities. “There is a hard science to both, a sort of methodology. But there is the other, more creative side that allows you to interpret ideas more freely.”
Before working with Drom, a company based in Baierbrunn outside of Munich, Germany, with offices in New Jersey and downtown Tribecca in New York City, Berg worked for International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) in their NYC location, spent two months abroad in France for IFF, and also worked for Bush Boake Allen and Aromatech. Now employed in a small- to mid-sized company, Berg notes the parallels to Radford University. “I loved RU, and I do reflect on the size and personal attention offered there because I have ended up at a company that provides the same personal attention.”