Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty
Tell us about your company and what inspired you to start it
Cheekbone Beauty is an Indigenous-owned and founded, digitally native, Canadian cosmetics company established in 2016. Based out of St Catharines, Ontario, Cheekbone Beauty is known for creating high-quality, vegan, sustainable, and cruelty-free beauty products, all designed for low environmental impact and maximum wearability. Our mission is to ensure that every Indigenous youth on the planet sees and feels their enormous value in the world, as we wholeheartedly believe that representation saves lives.
I was never a makeup expert but always loved makeup. It’s my favourite form of self-care and got me through tough times. In 2015, I was still working in sales and marketing in the food industry; I had this life changing dream that planted a seed – not a metaphorical dream, a real dream. In this dream, I saw little Native girls dancing, giggling, and exuding such genuine joy - and they were covered in lip gloss. I woke up and instantly wrote down what became my business plan.
I always say this, but the world didn’t need another lipstick brand. What the world did need, however, was more representation. I really wanted to create a brand that highlighted Indigenous faces and gave back to community. Since then, I’ve spent months researching manufacturers and learning about the business before we launched in 2016. Fast forward and it is clear that we are driven by passion.
How specifically does the business relate to sustainable design, production and/or consumption?
As I often say, Indigenous people are the OG’s of sustainability.
While sustainability, protecting the environment and social responsibility are big drivers in business, these are things we would have done regardless. At Cheekbone Beauty, we began our sustainable journey after our first year in business when we started to see the negative impact of packaging and mass production. We have spent the last 3 years committing ourselves to research and have started to create products with the idea of using less.
To ensure our cosmetics have minimal environmental impact, we offer products that are safe, containing raw ingredients with ethical sourcing. As for our packaging, we use a lot of recyclable and biodegradable components, the packaging for our new Mattifying Moon Dust setting powder is a tin that can be reused. However, our sustainability journey is never over, and we will continue to innovate and find new ways to make our products and packaging as sustainable and clean as possible.
We have incorporated Indigenous wisdom with Western science in the creation of our cosmetics, which in turn prioritizes people and planet. This practice reinforces the Biinad Beauty Standards, which makes our products safe for both people and planet.
What community or customer behaviours are you hoping to create or reinforce?
We are trying to encourage our community and customers to recognize the importance of mindfulness, sustainability, and environmental impacts in their everyday practices of consumerism.
This is part of the reason we became B. Corp certified – it was a lengthy process, but we found it worthwhile because it would show our community and customers our commitment to the environment and build additional trust between the brand and consumer.
We previously mentioned the Biinad Beauty Standards, but Cheekbone Beauty also honours the 7th Generation Principle, which comes from the Iroquois People. This principle is incredibly important because it shows our commitment to sustainability practices to not only leave enough for the next generation, but for the next seven generations.
What is one of the most helpful or enlightening lessons you’ve learned along the way?
One of the most helpful things I’ve learned along the way is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. As entrepreneurs we have a million things coming at us, all day, and every day, and I’ve learned (the hard way) that taking care of myself makes me a better leader, a better boss, and a better business owner. Making the time to do things that help me feel my best gives me the opportunity to be my best.
What’s the biggest problem you’re currently trying to solve?
We have two big problems we’re trying to solve:
- We want to see more representation across beauty brands and platforms, especially of indigenous peoples, but also the LGBTQ2IA+ community, BIPOC people in generally, and all non-westernized beauty.
- We want to keep plastic out of landfills and chemicals out of our environment. Our products are clean and sustainable not only in packaging, but also from the development stage. We take care to not include ingredients that are harmful to plant and aquatic life, as well as utilizing innovative packaging that is refillable, recyclable, or post-consumer-recycled.
Keep in touch with Jenn and Cheekbone Beauty!