Well Told with Jennifer Harper, founder of Cheekbone Beauty

Jennifer Harper is the founder of Indigenous owned Canadian cosmetics company Cheekbone Beauty. Known for creating high quality, cruelty-free products like liquid lipsticks and contour and highlight palettes, the company’s mission is not only make a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth through donations addressing the educational funding gap, but to create a space in the beauty industry where Indigenous youth feel represented and seen. 

 Keeping in line with her Anishinaabe roots, Jenn’s Cheekbone Beauty recently launched a less-waste line of lipsticks called Sustain, with zero-waste goals for 2023.

 For a limited time, receive a sample of Cheekbone Beauty’s Sustain Lipstick as a gift with any purchase of $50 or more . This promotion has ended.

 Can you talk about the need for inclusive beauty brands and how you decided to create your own?

It came from my personal experience growing up and never relating to the imagery when it came to marketing and branding -- not just for beauty brands but really any brand. I thought it was important to represent Indigenous youth, people and their faces in the brand we were creating from the beginning. [I had] no experience in this industry whatsoever, so it has been a complete learning curve. It was one of those ideas that came in a dream; back in 2015 I jumped out of bed and said, OK I want to make this brand exist, so just go to work. If you don’t see something, you truly can begin to create it if you work hard enough.

 What was the personal importance for you in creating mission-driven company?

There are a ton of businesses around the world, and if I was going to do this I wanted it to be purpose-driven and stay focused on the community that I felt has been ignored. That was deeply layered in every plan that we created from the beginning, and still is. We literally ask ourselves all the time, how will this thing that we’re doing empower Indigenous youth? It influences the business decisions that we’re making to this day.

 Speaking of being mission-driven, you also recently launched a new line called Sustain, can talk about that?

From the early days of building Cheekbone Beauty, I always wanted to create products with the idea of leaving less waste. With this line of lipsticks we changed our packaging from plastic to paper which is biodegradable and compostable, and then went deeper, making sure that the raw ingredients we’re using don’t impact ecosystems or waterways, are sustainable and come from eco certified makers.

We’re focusing now on creating more products using plant or agricultural byproduct as main ingredients, which is really cool because culturally from an Indigenous perspective, we as a people used every part in terms of vegetation or animal. We were very clear in that we don’t waste anything and then give back to the land.

 What are some changes you hope to see in the beauty industry in the coming years?

The idea of less is better. Maybe we don’t need as much stuff as we thought we did. [We’re realizing] multi-use products do work, how can we communicate that? The beauty industry is also in a really great position in terms of profitability. If you’re running a solid business, the margins are fantastic and that’s how we give back to our community.  I’d love to see more of the big players in the beauty industry do what they can in terms of corporate responsibility.

 Can you share one thing that’s been keeping you well lately?

I try to get a good night’s sleep and to stay physically active as much as possible. Those are certainly the two things that I think are really important to keep me sane right now. Stress levels are really high, I have two teenagers, the business and just life in general, so I feel like I’m under a lot of stress. I definitely need my sleep and I need fitness and when I don’t get them, it’s not a pretty scene.