Member Profile

The Power of Scent

Elma Pena, Co-founder and Scent Designer at the House of Pure Essence, or Hope, moved to Hong Kong 11 years ago. Her husband and Co-founder Richard Klitsie, originally from Holland, has been here even longer, for around 30 years.

But they are now very much a Hong Kong family, with a family business to boot. “Hong Kong is really home to us and our daughter was born here,” said Klitsie.

The couple launched Hope around two years ago, which sells 100% natural and organic oils. But this is not their first foray into the scent industry. In fact they both have extensive experience in this field, and also run et-Projekt Hong Kong, which focuses on scent marketing for brands.

Klitsie and Pena were encouraged to start Hope by their own interest in aromatherapy and particularly in the area of natural and organic oils, which they noticed were not widely available. 

“There is demand, but very low supply, when it comes to 100% organic ingredients,” explained Klitsie.

Pena agreed, adding that she had tried many brands on the market but could not find exactly what she wanted. The available oils tend to be cheaper, but generally do not have completely natural ingredients and are not organic, she explained. At the same time, they noticed a growing interest among consumers in essential oils, and in organic products generally.

Essential oils can be used in a range of ways for lifestyle and wellness benefits – in diffusers which spread the scent, added to a carrier oil for using as moisturizer or for massage, or in a bath.

“I use essential oils personally,” Klitsie said. “I would not say that they treat minor illness, but I believe they can help prevent minor illness from happening.”

Pena explained how different blends of essential oils can be used in different ways to influence mood and well-being. 

“If I feel drowsy, I will diffuse some oil in the air, such as a mixture of orange, peppermint and lemon,” she said. “When I am working, I will diffuse some oils like rosemary, lemon and peppermint. These help me focus, enhance creativity and help me retain a lot of things in my memory. These are important aspects of my job.”

Hope’s most popular oils are lavender, rosehip and argan. Lavender is well known for its soporific qualities, and is also seen as being good for bronchial infections, wounds and cuts.

“Rosehip is rich in vitamin A, which can help with faster skin production, making the skin look younger,” Pena explained. Argan comes from Morocco, and is known as “liquid gold” as it is rich in vitamins C and E and essential fatty acids.

The couple’s interest in organic farming and natural products was one of the key drivers behind setting up Hope. Being 100% organic is a focal selling point of their products.

“We often receive questions from consumers on why we are different from other brands,” Pena said. She explained that there are subtle differences in labelling and certification, and customers who want totally organic products should read labels carefully. Hope’s organic credentials are certified by the Soil Association, a global organization that promotes organic farming and other sustainable agriculture practices.

Another reason why reading the labels is important is that, in their raw state, essential oils are highly concentrated and can be corrosive if not used properly.

“We always remind our consumers to read labels,” Pena added. “These explain to them how to use the oils, and what the ingredients are.”

The couple’s other business interest, et-Projekt operates in a different area of the scent sector. Because smells are such potent triggers of memories, scent marketing can be a powerful tool, Klitsie explained. While some companies – such as retailers aimed at young people – use strong scents, many other businesses use scent marketing at a much more subtle level. 

Experiments in the retail sector have shown that the use of subliminal scent encourages customers to stay longer in shops, and improves their product recall, Klitsie explained. The Shangri La hotel chain is one of the global brands that uses scent marketing – all of its hotels all over the world have a uniform scent.

Pena explained that she tested 4,000 scents in her training, and has designed scents for brands including Times Square, Ocean Park and Swire Properties. She previously worked in research and development in Singapore for 10 years, including developing scents for products, before moving to Hong Kong.

So even if you are not a user of essential oils and perfumes personally, you have almost certainly experienced the power of scent while going about your daily life.


Company: House of Pure Essence Ltd

HKGCC Membership No.: HKH0864

Established: 2016