Barb Stegemann is a woman on a mission to change the world, one perfume bottle at a time.
The Halifax native was working in her boutique public-relation firm in Port Moody, BC when she received word that one of her closest friends, a soldier in the Canadian Forces, was injured while fighting in Afghanistan.

In an effort to pursue her friend’s mission for peace, Stegemann eventually brainstormed a business solution that would not only help the struggling economies of war-and-drug-torn countries, but would also work towards the larger mission of seeking peace. And she would do it with perfume.

It was a grand mission: But then this is a woman who takes a can-do attitude towards life.  Overcoming a struggle-filled childhood spent on welfare, this entrepreneur had been running her own independent business and had previously written a book, The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen. That best seller takes ancient stoic wisdom and encourages individuals to apply it in their everyday lives—it’s power we’re all born with, but that most of us aren’t using, Stegemann argues. (The 7 Virtues reference, by the way, was a term defined originally by Plato and Aristotle, and later by Catholic tradition, as faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance.)

So back to perfume.

Stegemann appeared on CBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2011 where she pitched the business plan for a fragrance-manufacturing company, called The 7 Virtues, that was positioned as one with great profit-margin potential. To set itself apart in the crowded scent marketplace, Stegemann planned for paraben-and-pthalate-free formulas made with fair-trade organic essential oils sourced from farmers in countries such as Afghanistan and Haiti, that were rebuilding after devastation brought on by war and natural disasters.

In creating sustainable jobs, instead of handing out charity, Stegemann’s aim was to empower the farmers, which would in turn benefit entire communities. This “teach a man to fish” approach would provide honest livelihoods—legitimate alternatives to growing poppies and fueling the opium trade.

Dragon’s Den’s W. Brett Wilson bought in, resulting in funds, support, mentorship and a formal partnership in the formation of Stegemann’s The 7 Virtues company, which launched in 2010.

To mark the recent International Day of Peace on September 21, the brand  introduced a fourth spritz dubbed Middle East Peace. It mixes Sweetie Fruit (a pomelo-grapefruit hybrid) oils from Israel, lime and basil oils from Iran, with notes of cedar wood and bamboo for a citrusy, out-of-the-box fragrance.

The 7 Virtues collection includes:

Vetiver of Haiti: Launched last year, also to celebrate International Day of Peace, this warm and musky fragrance combines vetiver with notes of lime, bergamot and amber: a classic and elegant spritz.

Afghanistan Orange Blossom: The line’s debut —a sample of which helped Stegemann win over Dragon’s Den’s Wilson—mixes orange blossom essential oils with notes of jasmine and freesia: The result is plush, feel-good flower power.

Noble Rose of Afghanistan: This follow-up fragrance to the Orange Blossom scent defines itself as a spicy floral with rose essential oils and notes of carnation, pepper and clove. A must for rose lovers.

—Ashley Kowalewski

The 7 Virtues Middle East Peace, Afghanistan Orange Blossom, Noble Rose of Afghanistan, and Vetiver of Haiti Eau de Parfum, $70 (50 ml) each,,

Watch Stegemann’s pitch on Dragons’ Den.


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Ash is a writer and editor based in Toronto. She loves testing out all the latest beauty products and is currently working her way through a 27-fragrance rotation and has more pink lipsticks, neon Post-its and daily cups of coffee than the average human. When she’s not wading through the beauty aisles of her local Shoppers, you can catch her at a yoga class or watching endless hours of Netflix.