From refugee to CEO: The Fragrance Shop owner reflects on his journey


Sanjay Vadera talks about his life experiences and how they motivated him to build a fragrance empire

The Fragrance Shop is the UK’s largest independent fragrance retailer with 213 stores

The Fragrance Shop is the UK’s largest independent fragrance retailer with 213 stores

Sanjay Vadera

Sanjay Vadera

Not many CEOs can say they’ve experienced the same – or even remotely similar – path to success as Sanjay Vadera.

As CEO and owner of The Fragrance Shop, Vadera lived through the upheaval and uncertainty of being a refugee, escaping the dictatorship of Ugandan President Idi Amin in 1972.

As a child he fled to the UK with his parents and two siblings, when his life took on an entirely different trajectory.

Just last month, Vadera was named Entrepreneur of the Year for The Fragrance Shop at the Asian Business Awards.

Here, he talks to Cosmetics Business about how his past experiences have shaped his outlook towards business, his strategy for The Fragrance Shop and fragrance industry predictions.

How did your childhood and being a refugee shape your attitude to business and life in general?
In Uganda, my father had built a business which allowed us to be comfortable as a family and meant we had a fairly good lifestyle. To suddenly then lose everything, having to move to the UK as a child and seeing my parents struggle to rebuild our lives here in the UK, gave a me a strong perspective to take destiny into my own hands and to look for the right opportunity to build something that would allow my parents to retire! It allowed me to be fearless in my pursuit of success. 

What was your first ever job?
My first job was working on a Saturday at Tie Rack in Manchester when I was 16. 

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