Every woman has a dream, but not every woman makes their dream a mission. This is what makes Barbara Stegemann an entrepreneurial Wonder Woman.
cover photo via barbstegemann.com
As the first woman from Atlantic Canada to land a venture-capital deal on the CBC TV show Dragon’s Den, it was all thanks to her pitch for The 7 Virtues Inc. — which also made her the “Top Game Changer” in the history of the popular show.
Stegemann’s humble beginnings started back in rural Nova Scotia, where she was raised on welfare with her older sister by her single mother. This difficult period of suffering also brought gifts however, as it taught Stegemann the importance of resilience, sharing, and empathy for others. After high school, Stegemann went on to study philosophy and journalism at the University of King’s College, where she graduated with two degrees; a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Journalism.
We asked Barbara on how “The 7 Virtues” exactly came to be, where she talked about her inspiration and how it all started.
What led to the creation of “The 7 Virtues?”
“My mentor and best friend, Captain Greene who I met at Kings and rowed with and went to church with, was severely wounded in Afghanistan. We went on a long healing journey together. In the hospital, I promised him I would take on his mission of peace and realized I didn’t have a way,” Stegemann explained. “As a woman in this patriarchy, I didn’t have a way to touch peace. I am not a brave soldier or a world leader. But I realized women own the buying power, we own the voting power,” she stated. “So I created a new way. I wrote a book to empower women to harness our buying and voting power to reverse cycles of war and poverty. Then I brought this thesis to life by purchasing fair trade essential oils from farmers in Afghanistan so they would not be beholden to the Taliban. Then countries began coming to us from Haiti to Rwanda and beyond. We go where we are asked.” Now in it’s 7th edition, Stegemann’s book “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen” became a best-seller and is also the subject of the feature-length, award-winning documentary “Perfume War,” directed by Michael Melski.
Following the success of her book, it soon reached Sephora, and Stegemann shared with us the process on how it eventually led her brand to end up in Sephora stores across North America.
“My girlfriend, who owns a castor oil co-operative employing female farmers, told me about the Sephora Accelerate program where they literally rebuild your company with you recognizing that less than 4% of beauty companies have female leaders. I realized I needed this guidance. When I met with my merchants, I told them I wanted to create a brand new contemporary line for Sephora, helping the same farmers, but brand new perfumes; ones that my Gen Z daughter would wear. I was in Haiti volunteering after Hurricane Matthew teaching women marketing and while I was there, Sephora wrote to me. I blurted out to my girlfriends there that Sephora was interested in my perfumes. I got in the program! And now our new contemporary line is exclusive at Sephora Canada and USA. I feel we are family, they invested so much in our rebranding and new line that it feels like we are one family,” explained Stegemann.
The entrepreneur also talked about how the brand is currently working with Sephora to create a self-care kit, which is set to include her book and new fragrance oils. “Very exciting. I love our collection and that it’s in the Clean at Sephora space where clients know their products are clean and good for the world,” said Stegemann.
The CEO expressed her desire to influence others, and her goals with “The 7 Virtues.”
“I think the saddest thing on earth is a lost dream. I don’t want anyone to give up their dreams,” said Stegemann. “I am a motivational speaker and author and I tour North America giving talks to motivate others to take risks and live authentically. No regrets. And not to ask permission of others to live fully.”
Stegemann’s journey continues to bring success, with Stegemann gaining recognition from media outlets around the world, including Vogue, Elle Canada, The Globe & Mail, Forbes, CNN, and more. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN, the “7 Virtues” founder was also made the first female Honorary Colonel in the history of 14 Wing Greenwood base, Royal Canadian Air Force, completing her term in 2015.
Through her brand, Barbara continues to motivate and inspire others with her entrepreneurial vision, giving audiences the courage to keep moving forward no matter what the odds.
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