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Growing beauty brand started with a dream

Representation is an important part of Cheekbone Beauty, the founder was in Timmins to share her story for International Women's Day
Cheekbone Beauty founder Jenn Harper talks at the Timmins Chamber's Internation Women's Day event.

Jennifer Harper is following her dreams. Literally. 

The founder of Cheekbone Beauty started her business journey after dreaming about young Indigenous girls covered in lipgloss. The idea in the dream was to create a project and use a portion of the profit to give back to her community. 

"That was the beginning. So it’s 2 a.m., I wake up and that is what I wrote on my laptop — that has been the foundation of our brand to this day. This idea of representation became so powerful and so important to this journey,” she told a Timmins audience today. 

Harper was in town to talk at an International Women's Day event hosted by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce. A diverse group of women filled the Porcupine Dante Club to hear her story.

“It all started with this concept or idea about representation. As a young girl I don’t remember ever seeing myself represented by the beauty industry or any industry for that matter or in any mainstream media except likely negative news stories,” she shared. 

Harper's home community is Northwest Angle #33, near the border of Manitoba in Lake of the Woods Ontario.

Today, her Anishinaabe roots guide the company. 

The seven grandfather teachings are intertwined into the three pillars that are the core values of Cheekbone Beauty.

The two-eyed seeing principle is used to make and create all of the products.

“And that’s when you marry Western science with Indigenous wisdom. And our whole purpose is really about creating products that are better for people and the planet,” she said.

Building a brand

The dream that was the primer for Cheekbone Beauty happened in 2015.

She was 38 at the time and working in the food industry selling fish. It was a year after she got sober and around the time she was learning about Canada's legacy of residential schools and her grandparents' experience at the institutions. 

Through that reading, she learned about generational trauma passed on through families. It was an "aha moment" in her healing journey and fuelled her desire to create a business where her community can see themselves.

Two years into the market research and building her brand, Harper's brother died by suicide. It made her question what the point of continuing the work was.

“And then of course realizing this is the point. This is the point, this is the reason why I had to keep working so hard on building this brand so that my brother did not die in vain and that we could show that we could build something that would help our communities,” she said.

With entrepreneurship being a roller coaster, on the days the ride's on the bottom end, it's her brother's words reminding her that the kids need hope and help that drive her forward.

With no education in business or entrepreneurial experience, Harper read about how to build a business and attended events across the province, hoping to meet people who could push her business forward.

She got the opportunity to audition for the Dragon's Den and after three tries made it onto the first episode of Season 14.

Not giving up and pushing through the rough times are important to her story.

“I truly believe, honest to goodness, that if we do not give up as a society, as individuals, as communities, that we cannot fail. The only way something fails is when you absolutely give up on it. So I encourage everyone to go out there and tell anybody and anyone that will listen to you the thing that you want to make and create because you never know who you’re going to meet,” she said.

In 2019, she finally quit her job to focus fulltime on Cheekbone Beauty. 

Today, she runs a certified B Corp business. 

It means that they meet high standards of performance, accountability and transparency on a number of factors ranging from employee benefits to charitable giving.

The brand is, says Harper, clean, green and sustainable. 

She wants to make sure that the raw ingredients people are putting on their faces will biodegrade at some point when it goes into the water system.