The 7 Virtues Appoints CEO, Opens First Flagship Store

The 7 Virtues is making moves after receiving investment from Unilever Ventures and True Beauty Ventures last year.

The clean fragrance brand has appointed James Park, most recently president of clean skincare brand Herbivore, as CEO and William Chung, VP of strategy at Burberry, as a member of its board. Park and Chung previously crossed paths when Chung held merchandising roles at Sephora from 2012 to 2018 and Park held SVP and VP positions at Lord Jones, Farmacy and Estée Lauder-owned Clinique, all brands that had or have distribution at Sephora.

The 7 Virtues is stocked in 1,514 Sephora stores in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. In total, it’s in 19 countries with the chain. In 2018, The 7 Virtues participated in the Sephora Accelerate program for emerging brands, and Chung became a mentor to it. Barb Stegemann, a journalist before becoming a beauty entrepreneur and author of the self-published book, “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen,” a guide for women to leverage their buying power to combat war and poverty, introduced The 7 Virtues in 2010 and bootstrapped it until the venture capital infusion. The brand marked Unilever Ventures and True Beauty Ventures’ first fragrance investment.

Park will be tasked with building the brand’s Sephora business, e-commerce and marketing strategy. He discloses e-commerce currently contributes under 20% of its sales and the goal is to increase that percentage to roughly 50%. In 2023, The 7 Virtues’ sales across e-commerce and retail rose over 45%, a rate that was achieved with virtually no paid advertising. Going forward, Park suggests a double-digit growth rate remains the objective, although profitability is a key objective, too.

The 7 Virtues, which received investment from Unilever Ventures and True Beauty Ventures last year, has appointed James Park, former president of Herbivore, as CEO. Up until his appointment, founder Barb Stegemann acted as CEO.

“Back in the day, if you somehow got accepted into the Sephora world as an indie brand, there was a lot of patience and coaching to get you to be a formidable brand within that world,” says Park. “Because of the pace of competition now, the runway is a little bit shorter. It really requires you to have things done right. Obviously, there’s the financial piece. Have your margins so you can support the investment you need for Sephora. Sephora is not a cheap date. They will ask you for a lot, and in return, you get a lot back.”

Prior to Park, Stegemann acted as CEO of The 7 Virtues. Taking CEO responsibilities off her plate will free up more time for her to concentrate on product development, education and storytelling. A charismatic road warrior and big reason Park joined the brand, Stegemann has a knack for training associates at Sephora locations and pumping them up about selling The 7 Virtues’ fragrances.

The brand has six fragrances at Sephora, where its prices run from $25 to $88. Its hero fragrances are Vanilla Woods, Cherry Ambition, Coconut Sun and Amber Vanilla. While Stegemann originally thought gen X consumers, a group she’s in, would be The 7 Virtues’ core consumers, the brand’s core consumers are gen Z and millennial.

Gen Z has been especially critical to the fragrance category’s recent traction—fragrance was the fastest-growing prestige beauty category in the first quarter this year, up 13% from last year, according to market research firm Circana—and is interested in long-lasting fragrances. The 7 Virtues emphasizes its fragrances feature 22% fragrance oils and last for 19 to 24 hours.

“It is a long game, and there are going to be twists and turns.”

Today, the brand has 15 employees in Canada and the U.S. Stegemann is based in Halifax, and Park is based in Los Angeles. He plans to expand its team particularly in LA and New York, and influencer marketing capabilities are a focus of the expansion. Park, an immigrant who moved to the U.S. from South Korea at age 8 and is from a family of entrepreneurs (his grandparents had a department store in South Korea, and his father had an auto repair shop in LA), believes it takes a growth mindset to flourish at an entrepreneurial brand like The 7 Virtues.

“It comes down to the hustle, and the ability to persevere through ups and downs,” he says. “You have to have the heart and stomach for that because it is a long game, and there are going to be twists and turns.”

Part of the long game at The 7 Virtues is stores. As early as a decade ago, Stegemann dreamt of the brand opening stores, and she mentions it’s even in the contract it signed with Sephora seven years ago that it would open five ateliers. The 7 Virtues is beginning to realize Stegemann’s dream by opening its inaugural flagship on July 1 in Halifax at the shopping center Queen’s Marque.

She chose the Montreal firm Jean-Pierre Viau Design for the design of the flagship because she’s a fan of the design it executed for the vegan restaurant concept LOV. She describes its 700-square-foot space at the Queen’s Marque as something out of “Alice in Wonderland.” It has a silk flower chandelier, floral archway, neon sign and rotary dial phone allowing patrons to call the government to push for animal rights and an end to period poverty. The 7 Virtues supports Days for Girls, a nonprofit distributing menstrual products to communities that lack access to them.

The 7 Virtues is carried in 1,514 Sephora stores around the world. The brand’s prices from $25 to $88, and its hero fragrances are Vanilla Woods, Cherry Ambition, Coconut Sun and Amber Vanilla.

Stegemann says, “We are an activist brand, so we wanted something for citizens to feel they could connect with and be the change.”

Entrance to the flagship requires an appointment. There can only be 18 to 20 people in the intimate store at once. The brand extends beyond its store walls to the rest of the Queen’s Marque with dishes at the shopping center’s eateries named for its fragrances. Inside the store, fragrance customization is an important theme. Customers visiting the store are handed a branded scarf as they start their customization journey.

“Think arriving in Hawaii and having a lei with frangipani flowers placed around your neck. We do this and invite you to spray your new creation on it to never forget this magical day,” says Stegemann. “Then, when you receive your tray with the components to design your perfume, there are actual notes—caramel, jelly bean, cherry, marshmallow, etc.—to eat to connect you with the flavors and fragrances.”

Events are expected to be important to the store as well. There will be posh afternoon teas, motivational Mondays with giveaways of Stegemann’s book, and Mother’s Day, wedding, birthday and corporate events. Stegemann projects the flagship could reach $2 million in its initial year, and she’s already dreaming of future locations in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto, but cautions The 7 Virtues’ flagship needs to be operational for at least a year and get kinks ironed out in advance of openings elsewhere.