The 7 Virtues (by Nava)

Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be a lecture about how you should love your neighbours, be kind to animals, or stuff like that. This is actually a pretty inspiring story, and it involves perfume. What’s better than that?

Wednesday night, I was typing away on a project, and sort of paying attention to the show Dragons Den on CBC. I believe there’s a US equivalent called “Shark Tank” or something like that. Anyway, it’s like “The Gong Show” for entrepreneurs. People pitch their ideas to 5 very successful Canadian venture capitalists to see if they can entice them into investing in their ideas. Of course, more people get turned away than receive financing. It’s almost like watching Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” without having to invest weeks and weeks watching the assorted soap operas develop. Either the Dragons say, “I’m out”, or they make an offer. It’s up to the individual entrepreneurs whether or not to accept.

One Barb Stegemann from Nova Scotia faced the Dragons with her fragrance. She handed them each a bottle and explained that it was made with organic orange blossom essence grown in Afghanistan by farmers whom she had contracted to grow the flowers for her, instead of growing poppies. She was asking for financing to expand distribution of her scent, explaining that her project was offering an honest living to farmers who once grew poppies for opiates. The Dragons were intrigued, and a few of them had very strong, positive reactions to her fragrance. When asked why she was embarking on this venture, Stegemann replied that she was doing it to fulfill a promise to a friend of hers, a Canadian Forces soldier who was badly wounded while serving in Afghanistan. After she revealed that, the tears started to flow, the wallets flew open, and the purse strings were untied.

I could tell right away that Barb Stegemann meant  business. Her demeanour and her determination were obvious. In other words, the woman really had her shit together. The Dragons were not only impressed by the scent and the story, they were impressed by the packaging and the overall presentation. Good for her. I immediately Googled “The 7 Virtues”, landed on the Web site, and was ready to order up a bottle of the scent, when I saw that Barb got her wish: The 7 Virtues is now available at 13 Bay locations across Canada, and at several independent boutiques. One of the Bay locations is Yorkdale, and I couldn’t get over there fast enough.

The 7 Virtues Afghanistan Orange Blossom Eau de Parfum is heavenly: it is the perfect blend of orange blossom, freesia, with a bit of jasmine lurking in the background. I loved it on the spot. And many of you know I’m a sucker for a good orange blossom. And it is good.

The story gets better: the second scent, The 7 Virtues Noble Rose of Afghanistan, is a spicy rose after my own heart: rose, clove, peppercorn and carnation. I’m not the biggest rose fan; but when it’s spiced up like this one is, I’m in. Each bottle is $70 Canadian for 50 ml. How could you not?

In the grand scheme of things, a couple of bottles of scent are never going to solve the world’s problems. But when someone comes along who wants to do their tiny part to try, you have to admire that. There are plans in the works for a scent that will utilize Vetiver grown in Haiti and other scents that will include ingredients from poverty stricken areas of the world, where people need ways to earn a living. I know this isn’t a new idea – the Body Shop, Lush, Ojon, and countless other beauty companies claim to have Fair Trade ingredients in their products, and are helping people all over the world. I’m all for it. I’m even more impressed when I get to witness the birth of something, and watch it grow. I only hope that Barb and her fragrances continue to help the impoverished people of Afghanistan. It’s inspiring, uplifting, and it doesn’t stink. It actually smells wonderful.

For more about Barb and The 7 Virtues, click here.

Disclosure: Both scents were sampled at The Bay.

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  • tammy says:

    Popping back on to say I am really excited about this.

    Based on a review over at NST last year, I got some Arghand Cooperative soaps from Afghanistan, and have been very impressed with their goals, too. These kinds of projects do seem to have a real impact.

    I think I’ll be buying the perfumes for Christmas gifts this year.

  • taffynfontana says:

    spicy rose and carnation oooooh I really must try it.:)

  • Austenfan says:

    I have watched and occasionally enjoyed the BBC Dragon’s Den. I am assuming that that was the one that started it all. I watched the You tube clip that Dionne so kindly posted. It was a brilliant pitch.
    If the fragrances ever reach Europe I will try them. I love orange blossom and I love rose. Most of all I love the whole initiative. It seems such a brilliant way of restoring some kind of self-esteem and economic growth in such a war ridden country.

    A great post!

  • Flora says:

    What a wonderful idea! This kind of thinking could really expand the possibilities for raising the standard of living in any number of places. Bravo to Ms. Stegemman!

    And of course, I happen to love both roses and orange blossom….

  • Erin T says:

    I’ve heard Barb herself is very nice and persuasive in person, too. Good news about the rose, because, I must admit, I wasn’t wild about the orange blossom, not being much of a fan of OB soliflores, in truth Thanks for the info on the Dragon’s Den episode, too. I enjoy moments of that show, too (and others – not so much!)

  • Beth says:

    Wow, how great! I’d be more than happy to pay for these, even if they were so-so, just knowing that my money is going to help a worthy cause. Then you add on top that they’re terrific to boot, how great is that?

  • Dionne says:

    Thank you so much for this, Nava! What a wonderful confluence: good business sense, a worthy cause AND great-smelling jus!

    I followed the link from her website to the dragon den episode, but I didn’t feel like wading through 45 minutes of online TV to get to her part. Instead, I found her segment on Youtube, and thought I’d share the link here:

    One thing though, you mentioned that 13 locations of The Bay were carrying her fragrances – where did you get that info? On her site, it just says “The Bay.” If there’s a location near me, I’d like to go and smell these right away. (It’s not very often that living in Canada is an advantage, perfume-wise, so this is kind of exciting!)

  • Rappleyea says:

    Oh wow! You certainly got my waterworks going this morning. Great story, and I too have been long searching for a good neroli – off to order! Thanks so much for an inspiring post.

  • Tiara says:

    What a great idea that’s actually being implemented. So glad you shared the story – thanks!

  • jen says:

    This is great, and I love orange blossom; I’m getting my hands on some of this. Who knows what good this may do? Look at Egypt–people started that too.

  • kjanicki says:

    I took a friend from Afghanistan to Noor in Toronto, to smell 7 Virtues. He said it was just like being back there, at the time of year when the orange trees flower.

  • maggiecat says:

    What a wonderful post! Great ideas, good marketing, and I love socially responsible business success stories! Oh, and orange blossom too!

  • Shelley says:

    I had heard of “think talk” going on regarding alternative crops to the poppies, which are so economically attractive to Afghani farmers…but not this particular idea or outcome. What a great story. Made even better by the report that the fragrance is worthy. :)

    Okay, maybe I can start lobbying some local purveyors to get this line south of the 49th parallel…

  • Musette says:


    Yikes! What a cool story! I love when things like this come together – whenever I am feeling less than ‘successful’ I only have to learn about something like this to renew my spirits!

    These are on my list to buy, now. Change doesn’t have to be a big explosion – it can be one pebble dropped into a pool.

    thanks for sharing this with us!

    xoxoxo >-)

  • Bevfred says:

    At last, something from Canada. Sounds delicious. I’ll go to the Bay today.
    Thanks Nava

  • Alice C says:

    Really cool story! I’m far from Canada, but will be on the lookout!

  • Any chance that the rose one smells anything like Ormonde Jayne Ta’if? I loooove this perfume (it’s my sotd in fact) and am eeking out the last of my travel spray, and looking for a cheaper alternative. It’s just so darn good!

  • Ann says:

    Hi Nava, what a cool post today. Thanks for sharing this story. Great scent + great cause and count me in. I’m right behind you in the orange blossom fan club line, so hope to try this one day. Hope you’re doing well. Sending hugs your way …

  • karin says:

    Love this! Thanks for sharing it, Nava.

  • marina says:

    How interesting, you made me very curious. Off to look!

  • Melissa says:

    Great story Nava. I’m not quite ready for florals yet, but come spring, I might order one or both unsniffed. The website does say something about contacting them for shipping costs outside of Canada.

  • Masha says:

    Your story made my day, Nava! Now when will these be sold in the US, I want them both!

  • DJ says:

    what a lovely story. wow.

    I still looking for an orange blossom scent! you just reminded me :)
    I am no where near Canada, but will what a friend of mine can do. Would love to support such a fab business.

  • Wendy says:

    This sounds amazing! Buy perfume and do some good at the same time.. cool! ehm, you guys mention the Bay….and Lindaloo, you mention Vancouver. Obviously i am not Canadian, so i have no idea what this is, but are we in fact talking about The Bay on Granville? Is this a department store or… I will be in Vancouver in May for a conference, so that would be a great excuse to do some shopping…thanks for any tips you may have!

    • Nava says:

      Yes, The Bay is the major Canadian department store.

      I noticed on the site that you can e-mail to inquire about shipping rates to the US, in case you don’t want to wait until May. 🙂

    • Lindaloo says:

      Yes, Wendy. “The Bay on Granville” is a branch of Canada’s major department store as Nava says. The branch in downtown Vancouver BC on Granville Street at Georgia Street has a decent cosmetics and perfume department. If you’re going to be in that neighbourhood, it’s worth going another block or two north on Granville to Holt Renfrew (a more upscale department store). I haven’t checked all the lines at Holt Renfrew but they have, for example, a Jo Malone counter and the Bond No. 9’s.
      I would also definitely head to the Sinclair Centre a couple of blocks further north at Granville and Hastings to The Perfume Shoppe which carries a number of exclusive lines. Check their website (their name plus dot com) for their full list.
      If you’re interested in natural perfumes take a look at local Vancouver perfumer Ayala Moriel (website at her name dot com). If you like jewellery take a look at her solid perfume rings and pendants.
      Hope you enjoy your time in Vancouver.

      • Wendy says:

        thanks so much Nava and Lindaloo! great tips! I was excited to go to Vancouver but with all these perfume leads even more. OK, I will be there for work but that does not mean i cannot have a little fun, too! And of course i will tell anyone who might be remotely interested about the 7 Virtues project…cheers, Wendy

  • Cheryl G. says:

    I’m in!

  • Lindaloo says:

    Oh thanks so much for the heads up about this venture. I haven’t been watching this season of Dragon’s Den. Will be heading to the Bay downtown Vancouver to give these a sniff and passing the info on to a friend who is a fan of orange blossom and social ventures. I’m likely to go for the Rose. Last summer an Iranian acquaintance brought some beautiful dark red roses from her garden into a class we were attending and they were amazing — incredibly spicy smelling. I see on the 7 Virtues website that the perfumer for these is Susanne Lang of Susanne Lang Perfumes.
    Thanks again for the info and reviews.

    • Nava says:

      Barb definitely didn’t mess around with these; which is probably why I’m so impressed.

      As for Drangons’ Den, I have a love/hate relationship with it. Kevin O’Leary annoys me, and some of the “contestants” are cringe-worthy!

  • tammy says:

    This is a wonderful post, and I think you for sharing the story with us! A bottle of the rose will be mine come next payday.