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Canadian Entrepreneur Draws Inspiration from Forum

Barb Stegemann, CEO of the Canadian company The 7 Virtues Inc, has launched a new product line of fragrances made from essential oils developed by local farmers in Afghanistan and Haiti. She drew inspiration for the idea while participating in the Halifax International Security Forum. Her philosophy is simple: Business is the missing piece to reversing situations of war and poverty. The 7 Virtues Inc works directly with local suppliers like Abdullah Arsala who provides seasonal employment for 2,500 farmers in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Instead of growing illegal poppy crops, these farmers are cultivating orange blossom and rose crops. One liter of rose oil can garner $10,000 USD, a lucrative alternative for the farmers. During a 2009 Halifax Forum session on Afghanistan, Michael Semple, a leading expert on Afghanistan and the Taliban, argued that the focus should be on fathers who, out of a desire to provide for their sons, give their sons over to Taliban recruiters who offer false hopes of an education. This is where business comes in. Abdullah Arsala is on a mission to get more farmers off of the illegal poppy crop to pull the power away from the Taliban and give his tribe and ultimately farmers throughout Afghanistan legal alternatives. His buyer, The 7 Virtues Inc, shares his vision of one day creating half the world’s rose oil. In less than two years, the company has grown from a single garage to all 91 Bay Stores (Bay is the oldest department store in North America), with plans to expand into the United States, Europe and beyond. In 2011, The 7 Virtues Inc will be able to buy all the oils from Abdullah Arsala. Barb Stegemann will share their story at the 2011 Halifax International Security Forum. Stegemann was recently awarded the “Women Innovators”award for her work by the U.S. Secretary of State at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit. Watch her successful pitch on the concept of trade with Afghanistan on the Canadian show Dragons’ Den.

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