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Business scents; Perseverance a key to Sunny Window's success.

Byline: Amanda Gauvin

Think soft, comforting scents of lavender and lemongrass. Imagine the feel of your skin pampered with fine lotions. That's what you get when you indulge yourself in what Sunny Window has to offer. Sunny Window - purveyor of soaps, sprays, herbal baths and more - thrives on one philosophy: Everything remains organic.

The Southboro-based company is owned by Nancy Engel, who started the business more than 20 years ago with $30 from a welfare check. Sunny Window sells a variety of beauty and wellness products, some imported, others made on site. Lavender sachets and dryer bags are among the herbal items made by a small staff of friends and relatives in Engel's white antique barn.

Engel often travels abroad to collect the raw materials she uses to create the luxurious scents. The world is her stomping ground, whether she's importing soaps from Costa Rica or gathering lavender from the south of France. In May, she headed off to Turkey.

"We will be distilling pure rose oil in the Valley of the Roses, shopping for products in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and visiting the villages along the Aegean Sea," she said before leaving on the trip.

Engel has always been an avid traveler. When she was in her 20s, she "bummed around the world with friends," hitching a ride on a private plane to South America, hopping freight trains in Canada and traveling from Brazil to Paraguay in a truck. She learned a lot about people and cultures.

In the early 1980s, she was teaching in Costa Rica when her daughter, Nicole, was born. They returned to the U.S. when Nicole was just 2 months old.

"I went on welfare for a little while so I could regroup and refocus," she said.

Herbs and spices were always an interest of hers, so in her kitchen she made herbal baths and potpourri, packaging the products to sell at a flea market in Quincy. From there, she started doing craft shows, continuing to grow her line to include other natural products.

"I did not have the money to make big mistakes, so keeping very focused and working very hard was the answer to building from nothing," she said. "I have never been afraid of hard work and also taught my daughter that. I also like working with customers, and that came naturally ... I tend to attract customers who are looking for something you can't find in a mall - really unusual things of quality. I have a niche business with a great following."

Sunny Window customers can visit the barn by appointment to buy products; products are also available online at

Special classes are run right out of the barn. Skin-care workshops are quite popular.

"What you make you get to take home with you," Engel said. "People love it."

While lavender is Sunny Window's specialty, other products have become big sellers. Lemon verbena and linden are in demand. Engel explained that sometimes people will be more attracted to a specific scent depending on the particular season. Tangerine and grapefruit seem to be most popular for the winter months.

Aside from beauty products, Sunny Window has teas to soothe the mind and body, and Cold and Flu Synergies made from essential oils of niaouli, sea pine and cajeput. The products can be used in a warm bath or can be diffused into the air.

Over the years, Engel has received several business awards. Most recently she and her daughter received the Center for Women and Enterprise's Rising Star Award (see related story). Engel takes pride in her work, and in helping others. She has become a mentor to low-income women who want to start their own businesses.

Perseverance has been a key to her success. She refers to a sign in her house time and time again. It says, "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it."


PHOTOG: Photography by Tom Rettig

CUTLINE: Nancy Engel started Sunny Window more than 20 years ago.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 25, 2008
Previous Article:Best of Worcester Living.
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