Funding Ideas from Barb Stegemann of 7 Virtues

In an exclusive interview, Barb Stegemann shares personal stories and ideas on getting over financial hurdles and successfully making that initial investment.

BARB STEGEMANN, CEO, The 7 Virtues

On Financing Her Company

What or who was the inspiration for The 7 Virtues?


My best friend, Captain Trevor Greene, is the inspiration for The 7 Virtues. He was wounded while serving in the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, and I wanted to carry on his mission of peace through economic empowerment while he healed in the hospital. So I began doing trade with nations such as Afghanistan, who were building. I wanted to help farmers get off the illegal crops by purchasing their legal orange blossom and rose oils for The 7 Virtues fragrance collection.

How did you raise enough money to make that first investment in oils from Afghanistan?


The first small run of fragrance was on my Visa Card. Then I went on the Venture
Capital Show Dragons’ Den and was the first woman from our region (Nova Scotia) to land a deal on the highest-rated reality show in Canada. I found my mentor and investor on that show, W. Brett Wilson, and that’s when things really took off. He provided the funding for me to produce enough bottles to approach department stores.

What were some hurdles you faced, in terms of financial speed bumps, along the way?


Landing major department stores with no big budget (in fact no budget) for advertising when you are up against major, established fragrance brands was (is) no easy feat. I had to be super creative and work like a team of ten people. I did not draw a salary and still do not in these early days, preferring to pump all profit back into production so we remain competitive. I live off of the sales of my book that I wrote before the perfume company and my speaking engagements, and it keeps me humble and working really hard.

Barb Stegemann, CEO, The 7 Virtues

How important have your advisors and investors been to this process?


My mentor, philanthropist, W. Brett Wilson who I met on CBC’s Dragons’ Den is crucial to our growth. He has HUGE expectations of me, and I work hard to rise up to meet those. I don’t take his advice for granted, ever. When I landed Air Canada On Board Duty Free, I didn’t think we could be ready until the Spring of this year. He said, you are ready to go in October. I trusted his counsel and did what he said, and as a result, we are now the #2 top-selling fragrance on Air Canada! It’s instances like that where his counsel and faith in me and our company drives me to get these incredible results. My 13-year-old daughter does, too. When I shared the news with her that we were the #2 top-selling fragrance, she said, "Yeah but what’s the #1 selling fragrance?" Everyone around me has big expectations of me. Having that kind of faith in me at home and professionally is key.

Today, you’re in a period of growth. What have you learned about funding along the way?


I have learned that you must be resourceful. There are always ways to generate revenue when you need it. Old models of retail are shifting. So although we heavily rely upon our department stores for sales, we do a lot of pop-up stores, and they are so exciting. We bring The Bay stores to my talks, and we sell in one afternoon what 90 stores sell in a week. So we are able to generate revenue fast by working with our retail partners in ways the department stores have not done before. I have had many moments where I wanted to take on new investment, and that may be something we do down the road. But I have learned that, for now, I can generate revenue off season by working with our retailers in new ways. The pop-up store is truly a remarkable thing.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who need money but don’t have anywhere to turn?


Start small. Just start. I put 1,000 bottles of fragrance on my Visa card and broke even in the first four weeks. If you are not willing to risk your own resources, your own money, then no one else will. The fact that I was willing to take all the risk and proved I could be successful is a big part of why my investor Brett jumped on board this vision.

What do you think about the trend of crowd-funding, on sites such as KickStarter? How do you think this will change the entrepreneurial landscape?


I think it’s exciting! To be able to communicate your idea with your friends/network and get everyone to jump on board your vision is necessary. Crowd-funding is a brilliant concept. Anything that motivates people in new ways is going to open up new opportunity for start ups.

[Coin Stack and Key: APPOLLOMAN via Shutterstock]

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