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The 7 Virtues: Branding a meaningful story

Monday, October 15, 2018

In today’s digital-first world of social media and online marketing, the key to standing out is having a meaningful story to tell. This is especially true in competitive industries like the global beauty business, where a Nova Scotia-based company, The 7 Virtues, is making a name for itself. 

The perfume and cosmetics producer launched in 2011 as a social enterprise, focused on helping war-torn nations rebuild their communities through job creation and economic empowerment. As a perfume manufacturer, The 7 Virtues buys their essential oils from farmers in struggling nations like Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Haiti, and pays them a fair market rate much higher than alternative farm crops. The company’s compelling story landed them a venture capital deal on CBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2011, and a spot on the shelves at every location of The Bay.  

After finding success so quickly, founder and CEO Barb Stegemann saw the potential for the company to grow even further and compete in larger markets.

“The world is changing, and we saw the need to embrace that or be left behind. We knew we had to get our story out there and brand the product in a way that stays ahead of the curve. We also wanted to develop a new line that resonated with millennials and appeals to that group of buyers.”  

After being one of ten companies chosen to partake in the Sephora accelerator program in California, it became clear how competitive the market was and that updating the company’s branding, packaging and online presence was a crucial first step. Using NSBI's Small Business Development Program (SBDP), The 7 Virtues hired a branding agency to design new packaging for their latest line of perfumes, creating something that stands out on the retail shelves. Next step? A new website and photography to share the 7 Virtues story with the world. Using the Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program (PIVP), the 7 Virtues enlisted the help of Nova Scotia’s premier creative talent — the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD).  

“One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to show people our new line and how to brand it alongside the original one. We knew it would be a challenge — even the experts at Sephora knew it would be a challenge — but the creative thinking and skills at NSCAD helped us solve it. Everyone was blown away by the results. They took our photography and our website to a whole new level. We couldn’t have done it without the faculty and students.” 

Through PIVP, companies receive up to $25,000 to work with post-secondary institutions and access their talent and expertise. “The voucher program was very collaborative, allowing us to not only get amazing results and save on costs but giving the students to chance to build real working skills. The collaboration really blossomed into something so much bigger for us.” 

As they prepare to launch into Sephora USA, The 7 Virtues plans to continue using the PIVP program with other academic partners, like the Nova Scotia Community College. “The voucher program is wonderful, but you need to make sure you’re ready to get involved with the students and faculty. You need to know your business and be able to map out clear expectations for the team. You also need to make sure you understand your own needs, so you know what skills you’re looking for and where to find them.”  

With sales in Sephora Canada already exceeding targets after just a few months, the company is excited for what’s to come with their international expansion and credits the support and talent available in Nova Scotia as a key factor for success. 

“It doesn’t matter how great your product is if you can’t tell your story and take it to market, and NSCAD really helped us tell our story. These programs gave us the confidence to try new things. I’ve never hired a branding agency or big PR firm before, but having such a strong level of support made us feel like this is something we can do.”   

Is your business ready to take on new markets? Reach out to a Regional Business Development Advisor and learn how the Small Business Development Program can help grow your business.