Victor Stegemann (19)
Hometown: Halifax, N.S.
Executive summary: University student in a self-designed apprenticeship program, combining hands-on with online learning. The online learning is via Henson College at Dalhousie; the hands-on component is as the head of the E.U. office of The 7 Virtues. Founded by Victor’s mother (Barb Stegemann), The 7 Virtues is a Canadian perfume manufacturer that buys essential oils from rebuilding nations like Afghanistan and Haiti.
ABM: How and why did you attend the Ashridge program in England?
Victor Stegemann: The Ashridge program was created for the children of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winners. It’s a part of the succession plan. My mom won Emerging Entrepreneur for Atlantic Canada (she was the only woman on the stage, her splash of pink against the black tuxes made me proud to be her son.) At Ashridge, there were kids from Brazil, Spain, the USA and around the world. It was a lot of fun. It was intense. Incredible networking. We will have that network for the rest of our lives. We had to solve business challenges, work as a team and get around London in a wheelchair on our own because the client company we were supporting created a marathon to support those who not able to walk. It was eye opening. That experience gave me the confidence to stay on in London and set up our EU office.
ABM: Given your academic credentials (could go anywhere, do anything), how and why did you decide to become involved with the 7 Virtues?
VS: I saw an opportunity to shortcut my way into a high position at a younger age, and I jumped on it. Plus, I agree with everything the company does for people around the world. For me personally, it was a shortcut into the business world, but I do actually love what the company does. I would have become involved anyway, had the EU office opportunity not come up.
ABM: Please describe your unique approach to post-secondary education (customised apprenticeship program). How and why did you choose this type of learning experience?
VS: I’m a hands-on learner by nature. Classroom settings don’t really work for me. In public school, getting a good teacher is hit or miss most of the time. I visited a couple of universities and looked into their business programs while I was in grade 12. None of them offered anything that I couldn’t get from my mother. In fact, some of these schools were asking her if students could do co-op work with her. Why would I pay a school to work with my mother when I could work with her and get paid?
ABM: Describe what it is that you do for the 7 Virtues. You’re very young to be the company’s primary representative in Europe.
VS: During the summer in Nova Scotia, I headed up our manufacturing facility with my team of eight people. We made 40,000 bottles in total over the course of two months. Factor in boxes, hand labelling each bottle, packaging materials, and an extremely thorough QC, we did a lot. In London, I head up European Distribution, so when any of our stores places an order, I handle it from start to finish. Support materials, testers, media packages, photos, anything that’s required I personally take care of it. I go on trade missions and pitched and landed stores for our company in Berlin and Vienna. The Vienna store sold out and reordered the first week. I also improve things. We had a shipping company that was taxing on our organization. I did the research and met with many shipping companies until I could find the right one for us to give us peace of mind there would be no delays or issues.
ABM: What is the most challenging part of your role?
VS: Cold selling on the floor in our stores. Stopping strangers is hard. We all have to do it. Everyone in our company has to sell on the floor and get to know the customer. Our CEO is on the floor long days in new markets and visits as many stores as possible. It keeps us informed, excited and approachable.
ABM: What is the most rewarding part of your job? What is your biggest professional achievement to date?
VS: Landing a large department store in Berlin and another store in Vienna. We sold out at our Vienna Location on the first weekend. Making the deal with that store was all me. I met the owners on the ground in Vienna.
ABM: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned so far in your career? Any advice for other business people hoping to expand into Europe?
VS: Planning is crucial. I didn’t do a whole lot of planning in Citadel High so learning to plan and realizing the magnitude of how important it is to plan was important.
ABM: Do you think your youth is a help or a hindrance? (e.g. novelty of being so young and in such an important role is an automatic attention getter vs. difficulty of being taken seriously)
VS: My age helps. People lower their expectations when they meet me, and then they get to know me and find out I’m actually quite a capable 19 year old. I’ve been doing this since I was 18. Only just turned 19 in March. A lot of the time, people who first meet me will just assume I’m older. It’s always fun to watch the shock on their faces when they find out my actual age.
ABM: Who inspires you? Why?
VS: My mother. She is a role model to me and so many of my friends.
ABM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
VS: Los Angeles, still with The 7 Virtues.
ABM: How would you describe yourself? Do you think you’re a typical teenager?
VS: Yes and no. I am typical in that I enjoy driving around in my car with my friends, listening to music at a good volume. We do typical teenage things, without causing any damage of course. I also enjoy the odd video game here and there. However, I can turn all of that off the second I’m in a work environment and become a not-so-typical teenager very easily.
ABM: What are your best and worst qualities?
VS: Best: I’m a good friend and I am comfortable around people I’ve never met. Worst: I am still a 19 year old, I like to talk to my friends late at night with the time zone difference, I don’t always get to bed early.
ABM: What do you do to have fun/relax? Do you have a favourite band/song?
VS: I’ll skype friends back home, pop on a video game, explore London. There’s so much to see and do, it would take years to see everything. John Legend is my favourite artist. All of his songs are great, couldn’t pick one.
ABM: You have a full academic schedule and consideration professional responsibilities. What’s the secret to your time management?
VS: I am apprenticing with my mother so she helps me to keep my schedule organized. We are a different team. She will ask me if I’ve met my deadline and in the same breath will ask me if I ate my breakfast.