Lipstick with a cause: Cheekbone Beauty giving back to Indigenous youth

Eight years ago, Jenn Harper started a new career in sales and marketing. In her first week, a questionnaire asked, ‘What is your dream job?’ to which she replied, ‘to be the CEO of a major cosmetics brand.’
Cheekbone Beauty gives 10 per cent of their profits to Shannen's Dream, a campaign that supports First Nation education. (CBC/Jaydon Flett)

Eight years ago, Jenn Harper started a new career in sales and marketing.

In her first week, a questionnaire asked, "What is your dream job?" to which she replied, "To be the CEO of a major cosmetics brand."

She made that dream come true with Cheekbone Beauty, an online store that sells lip gloss and lipstick, with plans to expand to other products.

The idea of starting Cheekbone Beauty came to Harper in an unusual way.
Jenn Harper was sent this photo from a customer, which reminded her of the dream she had that inspired her to create Cheekbone Beauty. (Cheekbone Beauty Instagram)

"One night I had a dream with little kids and lip gloss, which sounds super strange but that's what it was," said Harper.

"At one point in the dream they had the lip gloss smeared all over themselves, and it just made me happy inside, to see how happy they were making quite the mess of themselves."

After the dream, Harper woke up and went straight to her laptop to create a business plan.

Shortly after launching, Harper received a photograph from a client, which reminded her of her dream.

"One of my customers sent me a picture of her two little girls smothered in the lip gloss and it brought a huge smile to my face because I remembered the dream and why this all started," said Harper.

Overcoming tragedy

Cheekbone Beauty was supposed to launch in September of 2016, but Harper's family was struck with tragedy, when her brother took his own life.

"We were supposed to launch that month, but obviously that didn't happen. It was super painful and there's a lot of grieving still happening with me and my family," said Harper.

But before his death, Harper's brother told her something that inspired her to continue with the business.

"He said, 'Jenn our youth need hope and what you are doing is going to be great,'" said Harper. "Those words run through my mind literally every day."

And Harper is using her business to inspire youth — the company is giving 10 per cent of its profits to Shannen's Dream, a campaign that provides funding to First Nation education.

"I just heard a great quote … from Seth Godin when I was reading something of his, and it said, 'Great companies make change for a living,' and I want that to be what Cheekbone Beauty is all about," said Harper. "It's my time to give back."

Defining success

For Harper, success is not making lots of money, but rather it's achieving happiness and joy. 

"With Cheekbone Beauty, it's not about how many lipsticks I sell, but to me it's about how many wonderful conversations I get to have," said Harper.
Jenn Harper defines success as having a business that makes a change. (Cheekbone Beauty website)

She recalled one conversation she recently had with a young woman at Brock University, after giving a talk about her business.

"She comes up to me and she has tears streaming down her face, and she said, 'I'm Métis and I never told anyone,'" said Harper.

"I grew up ashamed of my culture — of who I am and where I came from — and now if I could help anyone talk about who they are and where they come from, Cheekbone has succeeded."