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Escents Aromatherapy, The Georgia Strait, 2006

The story of Escents owner Jacqui McNeill sounds like prime material for a can't-put-it-down paperback: Woman rejects promising media career, develops small enterprise into international company, goes through life-threatening health crisis right before having twins… But this morning, in her sweet-smelling West Broadway store, the aromatherapy expert is more concerned with meeting a new staff member and fine-tuning the lighting.

The plot unfolds over a decaf latte at a coffee shop down the street. McNeill, in black cords, T-shirt, and brown leather jacket, looks like she could be one of her own customers rather than someone who's just returned from an Asian business trip. The 39-year-old Vancouverite (SFU business class of '92) launches into the drama. Chapter 1: She beats 700 others for a Thomson newspaper job. There she is, in Courtenay, set to embark on management training when, she recalls, “I said, ‘I can't do this.' I couldn't see myself 10 years from then,” not when her aim was to run her own business. But what would she do instead? “It had to be nurturing to the human race,” she says. “It had to have an educational component. It had to make money.” And it had to be retail because she likes dealing with people.

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