Beauty routines are a daily part of many people's lives. After recognizing that Indigenous peoples were underrepresented in the cosmetics industry, Jenn Harper created Cheekbone Beauty, a company designed to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Cheekbone Beauty has achieved success by creating a solid brand that gives back to the Indigenous community, while leveraging intellectual property (IP).
The Mission: Hope and representation
"Indigenous wisdom cannot be bought or sold…we own this Indigenous beauty space, and we will not allow non-Indigenous brands to tell our stories for us; we're here to do that work."
In 2016, Jenn Harper founded Cheekbone Beauty, the first Indigenous cosmetics company in Canada. Jenn was inspired to start the company after she reconnected with her Indigenous family and began exploring her family's history and culture. The online business has created unique, high-quality, and cruelty-free beauty products that celebrate Canada's Indigenous populations.
The brand is designed to be a mechanism to share stories and educate people from all walks of life on Indigenous culture and history. Cheekbone Beauty has served as a healing journey by allowing Jenn to connect with and educate the Indigenous community. Jenn also recognizes the benefits of sharing stories with the non-Indigenous community because she feels that "when you know someone's story, you can then empathize with them." The company also commits 10% of its profits to various educational initiatives to support and give back to Indigenous youth. Cheekbone Beauty embodies hope, inclusiveness, and sustainability. Its mission is to help every Indigenous youth see and feel their value in the world while creating sustainable colour cosmetics.
After receiving grants and funding from the Indigenous Innovation Initiative and the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program, Cheekbone is currently developing more initiatives to support sustainability. Growth for the business will happen in the lab through the creation of new products. As the company grows, IP will be crucial to protect these innovations.
Building a brand through trademarks
Recognizing the importance of securing protection for the company name and logo, Jenn has registered trademarks in Canada and the United States. The IP protection provides Cheekbone with exclusive rights to use the trademarks associated with its goods in these markets. The company also protects its formulas and ingredients through trade secrets.
Having studied marketing and social media, Jenn knew that having a brand protected by IP would set Cheekbone apart from its competitors and protect its unique look and feel. When asked about the importance of filing for IP rights, Jenn says, "I really understood, from a marketing perspective, the need to have an established brand and logo really early on, and I have always been drawn to brand stories."
Jenn put in a lot of thought into selecting a name that encompassed her vision. "I knew with the name that it had to be something that represented us as an [Indigenous community] but wasn't a word that no one could say or pronounce." The word 'cheekbone' came to mind because "Anishinaabe people and many Indigenous groups and communities are known for having high, prominent cheekbones." Jenn also learned that those with prominent cheekbones are considered to be more trustworthy. "As a new brand, trust is very important, so I felt a connection with that side of the word as well."
Jenn commissioned a friend to design the logo that has a double meaning. The 'C' is both a feather, and it represents the c-shape made by eyelashes as they curl up and rest on the cheekbone.
Cheekbone intends to grow globally and apply for more IP protection as it expands its operations. The company is focusing on research and development to create new sustainable products. For example, in 2020, Cheekbone Beauty launched SUSTAIN, an initiative comprised of a line of lipsticks that result in less waste. Jenn's passion for the environment comes from her Indigenous roots. "When we look at Indigenous people around the globe, we make up 5% of the population. However, it is Indigenous groups of people that are protecting 80% of the world's biodiversity." As the company creates new initiatives that support environmentally friendly practices, it will expand its IP portfolio by obtaining trademark and trade secrets to protect its taglines and cosmetic formulas.
Jenn's tips for business success using IP
- Do it!If you've felt traction and you've seen revenue growth, pursue IP protection. As a Canadian Indigenous company, having IP rights is critical because "anyone can come and steal your ideas." Jenn acknowledges that it can be daunting to apply for IP rights early on as a new entrepreneur, but the benefits can outweigh the risks.
- Invest in your logo.Jenn recommends spending time and money on creating a logo. She urges entrepreneurs to be open to hiring a creative team of designers to get a high-quality logo to ensure they achieve the right look and feel for their brand, right from the start.
- Continually invest in your IP portfolio.As entrepreneurs see revenue growth, they should invest a portion of that money on strengthening their IP portfolio to build and protect a strong brand.