Barb Stegemann didn’t set out to make anyone cry when she appeared on CBC TV’s hit show Dragon’s Den.
But her passionate appeal for support for her fragrance, designed to
help Afghans become self-sufficient by growing the blossoms to produce
essential oils for the 7 Virtues Afghanistan Orange Blossom Eau de
Parfum, brought hard-nosed dragons Arlene Dickinson and W. Brett Wilson
Dickinson, Wilson and Jim Treliving agreed to provide the Bedford
entrepreneur with $75,000 in exchange for a 15 per cent share of her
company, the 7 Virtues Beauty Inc., making her the first woman from
Atlantic Canada to secure a deal in the den.
"I didn’t want them to cry, so I shared the thank-yous I’ve gotten
from all over the world with them and I started crying," Stegemann said
the morning after the show’s Wednesday night airing.
"Talking about it, it’s a really human thing."
Wearing a bright pink blouse and black pants that echoed the colours
in the packaging of her perfume deemed beautiful by Dickinson, Stegemann
began her presentation with a giant poster with a photo of an orange
blossom and a smaller one of the fragrance bottle and the words Perfume
not Poppies —a reference to the poppies many Afghan farmers grow for the
"The farmers make money, the supplier makes money, the retailer makes
money and I make money," she told the panel, noting she pays $8,000 for
a litre of the essential oil, above market value, to encourage the
farmers to see the benefit of switching crops.
Dickinson, who has visited Afghanistan, smiled and nodded in
agreement when Stegemann said she believed in empowerment, not charity.
"I should be a partner," she said.
Wilson talked about investing with a social conscience and showing "we can make money while we’re doing it."
After Stegemann walked out of the den with deal in hand, she was
praised by the Dragons for her professionalism and for presenting a real
product with a great cause instead of coming in with a sob story.
The 41-year-old mother of two had been in business for about two
months at the time the episode was filmed on May 22 in Toronto.
She told the Dragons she had sold about $30,000 worth of scent,
priced at $70 for a 50-ml bottle, at Mills in Halifax, Noor in Toronto
and through her website, www.the7virtues.com.
She’s relieved she no longer has to keep the deal a secret.
Also an author and motivational speaker, she used the Dragons’ money
to expand her production from 1,000 bottles to 10,000, the number needed
to approach the Bay.
The department store has agreed to stock the orange blossom scent and
her newest fragrance — the 7 Virtues Noble Rose of Afghanistan,
launched in November — in major centres from Dartmouth’s Mic Mac Mall to
Vancouver in time for the debut of the Dragon’s Den episode.
Stegemann was in Toronto for meetings about launching the perfume
into suburban stores when the episode aired and watched it in a pub
along with people from the Bay and Noor, and old friends from her days
as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax.
Watching herself on TV was hard.
"I felt like I was so intense, but I was really pleased I was able to
communicate what I felt so passionate about. I’m so excited about
working with the brightest lights in the country. My dream came true and
I got my money."
Since the episode aired she’s been flooded with "beautiful emails and
calls from friends and strangers all over the world" and has been
interviewed by CBC Radio Maritime Noon host Norma Lee MacLeod and
stations including Q104 in Halifax and X-FM in her hometown of
Antigonish, among others.
And she’s been fielding orders on the website – including five that came in during our 10-minute phone interview.
Meanwhile, she and Toronto-based perfumer Susanne Lang, who
collaborated on the other scents, are working on a third unisex
fragrance using the vetiver oil of Haiti; she hopes to launch it in time
for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.