Jennifer Harper, the founder of an Indie Beauty Brand, Cheekbone Beauty, has been making a name for herself in the beauty industry for a number of years but has quickly gained popularity after being on the hit CBC show, Dragons Den. 

Cheekbone Beauty is an Indigenous-owned and founded, digitally-native, Canadian cosmetics company established in 2016 by Jennifer Harper. Based out of St. Catharines, Ontario, Cheekbone Beauty is known for creating high quality, cruelty-free beauty products such as liquid lipsticks and complexion products including contour and highlight palettes.

Cheekbone’s aim is to not only make a difference in the lives of Indigenous youth through donations addressing the educational funding gap but mostly 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 is launching a less-waste line of lipsticks later in 2020, with zero-waste goals for 2023.

Fascinated by her smartness, purpose and a thoughtful brand story, I decided to publish our Q&A with her as our first featured Indie Beauty Founder! 

Q1. Your personal story is very moving and unique as compared to almost any other Indie Beauty brand, but even then, you had to extend the personal story into a coherent brand story, Cheekbone Beauty( be it choosing the brand name, extending the personal story into a purpose for the bigger indigenous community, Pink Feather Campaign, Be Good, Do Good and Look Good or the Warrior Women liquid lipstick collection, naming products after strong indigenous women).

How did you go about the whole process from the initial discovery/decision moment into a full-blown brand story, as it stands today, a super compelling one at that?

Jennifer: From inception, I have worked with really creative minds. Understanding and being laser-focused on our Brand/Company WHY, ” Helping Indigenous Youth see their enormous value in the world,” has made all the other decisions pretty simple.

This is all about them, empowering them to create a bigger and brighter future for themselves.  Emboldened with role models, our Warrior Women Collection, and empowered by a brand where they see themselves that was created by an Indigenous woman, like them. They have the fuel they will need to succeed. 

Q2. How important is the website look and feel (uniqueness of experience) for a direct to consumer brand like yourself and what level of customization should an Indie Beauty brand indulge in on their e-commerce design and functionality? What should be the balance of focus for an Indie Beauty Founder, who is just starting out on the uniqueness of design vs. optimizing the site for conversions?

Jennifer: UX is very important to us because, without the customer, we have no market. 

We are definitely a psychographic marketer, our goal is that our community feels the power in their purchase. One with an excellent experience while shopping online, the whole journey is about surprise and delight.

That evokes nothing but good warm fuzzy feelings throughout the entire journey. A journey in the indigenous culture has so much meaning, we incorporate Indigenous value system with our entire experience, through a modern lens.

Q3. Why haven’t you decided to venture out in the wholesale channel? Was this a conscious decision? 

Jennifer: Yes, completely conscious, we are not ready to give up all that margin, yet. 

Our new line of Sustainable products is being created to eventually hit wholesale.

Q4. What is your secret to acquiring over 50K Instagram followers in a little over 4 years? How many of these followers were acquired via sponsored posts and what % would be purely organic?

Jennifer: Pure hustle, daily engagement by me, the founder. I needed to be here, read the comments across all beauty pages. 

Talking to our community, the new line is legit created for the community by community, it is what they have asked for. 

And scrolling Glossiers feed, everybody wants less waste and sustainable ingredients, vegan and ‘real’ clean, not greenwashed.  So we are making just that!

Q5. Did you try to extend your reach on Instagram/Social media with influencers or is the social media growth fuelled by the company posts only? Do you have a certain process of collaborating with influencers?

Jennifer: We do both, but very micro, we can’t afford the big players. Really, we want real people raving about us and they do! 

Q6. Where do you go from here with Cheekbone Beauty?

Jennifer: This new line is what is going to blow us up!  Sustainability is the focus, first, we exist to make the biggest impact on Indigenous youth and now we want to make the least impact on the planet.

We are using agricultural waste as 65% of the main ingredient in some of our new line, this is bananas!

Q7. What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would like to give to fellow Indie Beauty founders and marketers, who are struggling to differentiate their brands and to those who are struggling to increase the number of followers on social media channels like Instagram in spite of posting regularly?

Jennifer: a. Know your why b. Make something that doesn’t exist yet, no one cares about another indie beauty brand unless it is bananas good! c. Find your community, your world and be the best in that arena and post real stuff that your world cares about.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Jennifer Harper has created a brand, Cheekbone Beauty, which is at the cusp of purpose and intelligence.

She has extended the emotional core purpose of “helping indigenous youth see their value” into a “cohesive brand story” with perfectly aligned brand touchpoints be it the brand name and logo, product or collections nomenclature, or partnerships to further the purpose, and all the while keeping her target consumer, Indigenous Youth, at the center of everything as the hero!: Who make her brand tribe!

With a new line launch that aims to reduce waste and use agriculture waste as 65% of all ingredients along with a zero-waste goal by 2023, Cheekbone Beauty Story keeps getting better!

Indie Beauty Founder Jennifer Harper

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ROHIT BANOTA, FOUNDER of STORYSAVES, has created, transformed and grown dozens of health and beauty brands across North America using Brand Story, Tribe, and Innovation.

He has over 15 years of marketing and business experience growing consumer packaged brands including startups and MNCs like P&G Beauty and Grooming and AB InBev.

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