“Make Perfume, Not War!“ Interview With Barbara Stegemann, Founder Of The 7 Virtues Perfumes And Rule-Breaker

Guest post by Nath Fedorova of BEAUTYCALYPSE.com

Founding your beauty company on Dragon’s Den show, moving same dragons to tears? Making your audience find a name for your perfume? Letting beauty press redesign your latest creation before launch? Entering the highly competitive perfume business as, well, a newbie?

You maybe already have heard of The 7 Virtues Perfumes and know that all of the above are parts of a true story set in today’s Canada.


First off, her unusual pitch on a popular TV show is now famous. Apart from leveraging the young brand to a whole new level and gaining recognition from an audience of millions, Barb Stegemann’s vision presented with charm and passion won her Canadian businessman and philanthropist W. Brett Wilson as a mentor.

The name of the second fragrance was “crowdsourced” – millions Canadians have mailed their suggestions to honour the mission of the brand, creating successful perfumes that help rebuild. So the name Noble Rose of Afghanistan was born.

Noble Rose of Afghanistan Eau de Parfum Intense yet elegant rose fragrance, elegant and powerful with carnation, clove and peppercorn.

Noble Rose of Afghanistan Eau de Parfum
Intense yet elegant rose fragrance, elegant and powerful with carnation, clove and peppercorn.

And for her third perfume, Barb sought the help of perfume aficionados and media friends to (re)design Vetiver of Haiti.

So what about the decision to make perfume? After her best friend got wounded in Afghanistan, Barb was looking for an effective way to help establish sustainable peace in the war-torn country whose economics are 80 % farming, which in turn consists mostly of illegal crops like poppies.

Barb says that she has always seen a perfume in her future, but it wasn’t until she saw a documentary on a brave farmer from Jalalabad who produced highest quality essential oils, neroli and roses, and had serious trouble establishing legal crops in his community that the things started falling into place.

Breaking the rules to create something gorgeous, something that brings joy to the consumer and helps rebuild nations in strife: that is the stuff that heroes are made of.

Afghanistan Orange Blossom Eau de Parfum A sweet and sunny harmony of neroli, jasmine, and freesia.

Afghanistan Orange Blossom Eau de Parfum
A sweet and sunny harmony of neroli, jasmine, and freesia.

Barb’s company, The 7 Virtues Beauty Inc. (named after her eponymous bestselling book about stoic wisdom, highly worth reading) sources essential oils from farmers of Afghanistan, Haiti, Middle East and next, Rwanda. Establishing stable commercial relations helps rebuild suffering communities in a fair and truly sustainable way. Paying competitive prices is part of the solution; in Afghanistan alone, the young company has invested about 100,000$ since its launch some three years ago.

The 7 Virtues perfumes bring the topic of a better world to the table in a beautiful, positive way. And boy, does that positive way smell good!

Today the collection consists of four fragrances: Middle East Peace, Vetiver of Haiti, Noble Rose of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Orange Blossom. The scents are crafted around the highest quality essential oils sourced in the respective regions. The fragrances are also vegan, phthalate- and paraben-free. All four Eaux de Parfum can be blended to create your own signature fragrance; and apart from single fragrances, a beautifully packaged Custom Blend Box is available.

So let’s get inspired and meet the bestselling author and the celebrated businesswoman who created the fragrances of peace.

Vetiver of Haiti Eau de Parfum Bergamot, amber and lime tree make a contrasting frame to vetiver.

Vetiver of Haiti Eau de Parfum
Bergamot, amber and lime tree make a contrasting frame to vetiver.

Barb, who is le Nez of The 7 Virtues – and how did you find them?

It’s Susanne Lang, and I found her by simply looking for perfumers. I asked Susanne because she’s Canadian and because I liked her philosophy. So I emailed her, she called back right away, I sent her my book after discovering she was part of a project empowering women in India… Susanne is one of the greatest perfumers we have in North America, and we happened to truly talk the same language.

I somewhat taxed her operation with my really small order though, and thought of myself being rather an intrusion. I then had the courage to say that I was sorry, but she was so loving and understanding. In the end, we ordered over 40 000 bottles, so after all, she did very well.

Why have you decided to create scents than can be mixed and matched? And: What is your favourite peace perfume blend if you have one?

Funny thing: I had no idea they blended!

I was in a store in New York when I was asked if I knew how well Vetiver and Middle East Peace go together. I was blown away. I was told customers loved the mix. I then rushed to Susanne to ask if she knew it, and she said, why, yes, that’s how I designed them.

And so the blend box happened at just the right time – because I was just asked to do minis and was thinking about it. I then blended the two ideas into one. I love the story of Charlie Chaplin’s filmmaker approach when he would try different takes and then blend the final scenes to perfection. So what can be done with film, can be done with ideas.
It’s truly great how our customers can make their own signature perfume now.

And what is your signature mix?

My favourite is 3 whiffs Vetiver, 1 whiff Rose!

Mine is Vetiver of Haiti with Middle East Peace – it’s like a citrus garden in the rain: tart green leaves, wet bark of the trees…

I haven’t tried that yet. Hold on… (Barb is in her office as we talk via Skype) Wow, I love it. It’s lovely, that earthiness.

Middle East Peace Eau de Parfum Lime, grapefruit, and basil meet the dry elegance of bamboo and cedar.

Middle East Peace Eau de Parfum
Lime, grapefruit, and basil meet the dry elegance of bamboo and cedar.

The 7 Virtues perfumes are vegan, free from phthalates and parabens. Why have you decided to make a niche perfume safer than your direct competitors’?

Well it emerged out of both of our philosophy; you’d say it was kindred spirits aligned. Susanne and I wanted the perfume to be good for the world and good for your skin. Essential oils are actually healing. I love hearing the stories of our consumers, for example there are women who use Afghanistan Orange Blossom as pillow spray for a relaxing sleep. Perfumes should make our lives better.

Tell us a bit about how you both work on creating a new fragrance…

Susanne is genius; I adore her creativity! For example, I wanted something that was light and “pure sunshine” for the Noble Rose of Afghanistan, and she presented six versions of which one is now the fragrance you know. But when we were creating Vetiver of Haiti, I was lost to choose just one of her wonderful creations. So we gathered our media friends and beauty writers and asked their opinion. And they were so wonderful, so gorgeous!

Rather than picking their favourite, they redesigned the perfume and it was so fascinating to watch. It proves once again that listening to people and letting them shape a fragrance is fantastic – Vetiver of Haiti is an award winner.

So now we are designing our 2014 Rwanda perfume and preparing to meet again with our perfume mavens and friends from the press.

Thank you so much, Barb, and the best of luck for the fragrances that help rebuild!

close up Make Perfume Not War pic

Find out more:
The 7 Virtues Perfumes – the ethical perfumes
Barb Stegemann – Barb’s personal site as bestselling author and inspirational speaker

Coming next:
After the launch at The Selfridges, London, in September 2013, The 7 Virtues will come to Germany around New Year and start on board distribution with American Airlines and a major European airline.
The next fragrance sources essential oils from independent farmers in Rwanda and supports HIV-infected women.

Editor’s Note and Disclaimer: Many thanks to Nath, who approached me with the idea to this lovely talk with Barb Stegemann. As always, OT is not being compensated in any way for this post, opinions are solely those of the author.

Image source: Head shot – photo by James Ingram; bottles – photos by Peter Schafrik; all rights reserved

About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in / Virtues Perfumes, Interview and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to “Make Perfume, Not War!“ Interview With Barbara Stegemann, Founder Of The 7 Virtues Perfumes And Rule-Breaker

  1. Jordan River says:

    Yah! Go Barb. This is a perfumed mission of peace. The masculine rose which you can blend from the blend box needs no numbers as a suffix.

  2. Sandra says:

    Now this is a company I admire. I need to try them – now…

  3. beautycalyptique says:

    Dear Olfactoria, thank you for having me as your guest author! 🙂 Very happy to have contributed to your journey through the world of fragrance by sharing a story that’s inspiring on so many levels I lost count! ❤ ❤ ❤

  4. ‘Breaking the rules to create something gorgeous’ – love it – heading over to her book link to find out more!

    • beautycalyptique says:

      definitely check out barb’s dragon’s den vid on youtube! (am dying to see the selfridges corner; but from all I know, T7V will hit the shelves in germany soon as well)

  5. ringthing says:

    What an inspiration! Thanks for this.

  6. FeralJasmine says:

    This is one of my favorite companies, and we can feel good buying the products. My next FB will probably be the vetiver, to try with Noble Rose.

  7. Alexandra says:

    Just watched the Dragon’s Den episode in my lunch break and got a little tearful – wow. Huge congratulations to Barb and everything she has achieved and continues to achieve, can’t wait to head to Selfridges for a sniff!

  8. Suzanne says:

    An empowering, healing, and compassionate idea made real. I very much enjoyed reading about Ms. Stegemann and her company, Nath.

    Birgit, this article fits in well with your “focus on beauty” posts!

  9. Tara says:

    This was a fascinating tale. Many thanks to Nath for the interview and to B for posting.

    I’m glad the perfumes have come to Selfridges, I will definitely try to check them out. The Blending Box is a lovely idea and I’m sure it will prove very popular.

    I love it when kindred spirits find each other and definitely seems the case with Barb and Susanne.

  10. Olfactoria says:

    I cannot wait to smell these perfumes, because it has been a while that a company has really touched me. I watched the Dragon’s Den episode with Barb on Youtube too and I must say this is a woman I admire and a business I want to buy from.
    Thank you very much for this post, Nath!

    • beautycalyptique says:

      You’re very welcome. I just love how Barb brings seriousness, a chance of real peace into the world by ways of something as volatile and otherworldly and beautiful as perfume. Which is beautiful in itself.
      I was moved by her way of doing business and am now beyond happy that her story resonated with your lovely readers! ❤

  11. Vanessa says:

    I cannot imagine a more worthy scented cause and I also liked the way of describing one blend as ‘3 whiffs’ this and ‘1 whiff’ that. 😉

  12. Ines says:

    Thank you for bringing my attention to Barb, I never heard of her before (nor of the line).
    I wonder what I’m doing these days that everything seems to pass me by…

  13. Dionne says:

    I’m thrilled to see this line getting more attention, and the expansion beyond Canada. (Although, dagnabit all, it was nice to include samples of Afghanistan Orange Blossom into my packages and feel all exclusive about it. 😉 )

  14. Pingback: My Guest Post – The 7 Virtues Founder Interview – is Live | BEAUTYCALYPSE >>> Beauty 2.0

  15. Pingback: The Perfume of a Philosopher Queen | BEAUTYCALYPSE >>> This is not a drill

  16. teamgloria says:

    we adore Nath.

    and this was a lovely interview.

    just bought the book. will approach the fragrance next….

    what a lovely introduction!


  17. Pingback: People In Perfumeland – Nathalie Fedorova From Beautycalypse | Olfactoria's Travels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s