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Roger Schmid’s Green Thumb

The beauty veteran and consultant knows a thing or two about nurture — both in and outside the board room.

For beauty veteran and consultant Roger Schmid, growing plants and building businesses each require the same combination of nature and nurture.

“With a garden, the most important thing is the soil,” Schmid said. “In a certain way, that’s similar to business. If you don’t have the right base, the right equipment, the right manufacturing facility or the right people, everything becomes more difficult.”

Schmid, a longtime fragrance executive who has consulted with the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Burt’s Bees and works closely with Natura & Co. on Aesop and Fable Investments, on envisioning the future of those businesses, has gained ground when it comes to cultivating a thriving garden at his Summit, New Jersey home. Here, he has spent decades designing a one-acre garden rife with topiaries, phloxes, zucchini, tobacco flowers and more.

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Schmid, who grew up in Italy, discovered his passion for gardening when he moved Stateside and bought his house in 1985. Shortly thereafter, business brought him back to Paris, where he lived for the next 20 years, keeping the house in New Jersey to use as a vacation retreat.

During his time abroad, Schmid went to a seminar held by famed landscape designer John Brookes, held at Kew Gardens in the U.K. “He just went through the history of gardens, and how they started in India and the Middle East, and then it came to Spain, Italy, France and England. It became something much more interesting. Because one could see the large importance of gardening, I began to see it in a different way.

Part of his interest in gardens is the form’s dynamic quality. “You have color, you have shapes, you scent, and, in addition, you really live in four seasons,” he said. “During COVID-19, it was unbelievable to have this garden. Normally I travel, but I was really able to see the little changes that happen every day.”

Inspiration also comes from his international background, given his time in Europe and his busy travel schedule.

“What I’ve done here is the idea of an English garden, although it’s a little different because they don’t have the brutal winters that we can have,” he said, adding that the garden was designed to be in full bloom from May to August.

Among his favorite aspects are the hedges. “I like growing Yew, because it can be shaped,” Schmid said. “My wife is concerned that suddenly, I’m going to design an elephant or something, but I like to give nice, geometric shapes,” he laughed.

Japanese meditation gardens also inspire him for their longevity — some centuries old, he noted — an interest that dovetails with his expertise for building brands that last. “People have a tendency to forget to nurture a brand,” he said. “You take Chanel, they’ve been extremely good at it. One perfume is still number-one in the world.…Gardens in Kyoto, some of them are 800 years old. They are still beautiful, they keep evolving.”

Though Schmid’s own plot has faced challenges with summertime heat waves, Schmid said sticking out weather events like a drought is a skill he learned from the beauty business.

“There are parallels between gardening and business, like the unexpected,” he said. “Sometimes, you just have to accept that some things don’t work anymore, or you have to adjust, maybe you cut a plant. You have to accept there is only so much you can control, but we are trying to plant new things. All of these elements have a parallel with business, and certainly with beauty.”

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