One Halifax entrepreneur is combining sweet scents from the countries of bitter enemies in an attempt to bring those nations together, if not literally, at least in a perfume bottle.
Barb Stegemann buys her perfume supplies, like orange blossom oil from Afghanistan, to create jobs for the growers.
Now, she's added lime and basil oil from Iran and grapefruit oil from Israel hoping to prove that regular citizens in those countries don't want to go to war.
"We're communicating a message loud and clear on behalf of the citizens. And it's very important in an age where destruction tends to get the headlines, I find destruction very unimaginative, very boring. Rebuilding, now that's exciting," said Stegemann.
This is the fourth perfume Stegemann and her business partner, Brett Wilson, have launched.
"If we help one person, it's been worthwhile. It measures probably in the hundreds. Remember, if we buy $10,000 worth of oil from one bottle, if you will, in Afghanistan, $10,000 worth of oil comes from people who are earning between two and three dollars a day," said Wilson.Stegemann credits some of her success to local support, her perfumes sell better in Nova Scotia stores, but she's partnering with Air Canada's duty free store on Oct. 1.
Marilyn Burford, whose son has done three tours in Afghanistan, was the first in line to buy the new scent.
"Take some of the power away from the Taliban, the country could maybe settle into a really good economic state, and then they wouldn't need any of our troops, combat role or non-combat role," she said.
That desire to prompt change through consumerism is fuelling growth among businesses with a social conscience.
Margaret McKee, a professor at the Sobey School of Business, said that's a hard thing to measure, but Stegemann's model seems to be doing well.
"Many consumers are looking to buy a product that meets a need that they have, but also does some good as well with the purchase. So she seems to be tapping into those quite nicely," said McKee.
The perfume collection isn't complete yet.
Stegemann said she'll continue to source essential oils from countries in conflict and the next fragrance should be an effort from North Korea and South Korea.