The Rise of Cheekbone Beauty from Basement to Brand Powerhouse

The Rise of Cheekbone Beauty from Basement to Brand Powerhouse

During an event celebrating how small business owners are embracing TikTok, we had the privilege of interviewing Jenn Harper, the visionary Founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics. Jenn’s story beautifully illustrates the transformative influence of TikTok in evolving a personal passion into a successful business. She shed light on how TikTok played a crucial role in growing Cheekbone Beauty from a modest start-up in her basement to a prominent name in the cosmetics industry, emphasizing the importance of authentic partnerships and community involvement in social media entrepreneurship.

Jenn Harper, an award-winning social entrepreneur, is the Founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC, a digitally native direct-to-consumer brand that pioneers a new segment in the beauty industry—Sustainable Socially Conscious Beauty. The brand is dedicated to helping Indigenous youth see themselves in a beauty brand, employing the concept of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) in its ethos and product development. Jenn’s unwavering commitment to Indigenous representation, addressing intergenerational trauma, and promoting self-worth defines Cheekbone Beauty’s mission. Starting as a side-hustle, the company has grown into a full-time endeavor, gaining recognition after Jenn’s appearance on Dragon’s Den in 2019. Known for high-quality, cruelty-free, and environmentally conscious products, Cheekbone Beauty integrates Indigenous storytelling and cultural elements into its creative process. The company’s growth—from Jenn and a family friend in her basement to a team of twelve—reflects its dedication to leaving a positive legacy for future Indigenous generations. Ultimately, Cheekbone Beauty aspires to redefine success for marginalized communities and empower Indigenous youth to recognize their inherent value in the world.

As you know, we’re here to celebrate TikTok’s collaboration with small business owners. This is all about the general transition of hobbies or a personal passion into a thriving business, which is a dream for many. You know, your journey with Cheekbone Beauty is particularly inspiring in this context. How has TikTok helped in transforming your pandemic-inspired hobby into a successful venture? And can you share the challenges you faced during this transition and the strategies that helped you to overcome those challenges?

Wow, our journey began in 2016, just before the pandemic hit, as a direct-to-consumer brand. However, it was during the pandemic when we truly grasped the potential of TikTok. This platform caught our attention because it offered something unique – the chance to reach an audience that had never been tapped into effectively before by traditional product placement methods. It was a game-changer.

Fast forward to today, and our relationship with TikTok Canada has evolved into something beautiful and genuinely authentic. It’s become a tremendous opportunity for us. When I reflect on the support they’ve provided us, it’s truly remarkable. We’ve come a long way from being a small brand operating out of a corner in my basement. Now, we’ve hosted our “Orange Shirt Day” event at TikTok Canada’s headquarters in Toronto, with 36 creators and sponsors. It was an opportunity to share our brand’s story, emphasize the significance of Orange Shirt Day, and discuss what allyship means for the non-Indigenous creator community. This event was an entirely new venture for us, but it turned out to be an incredible experience.

Putting TikTok’s name on the invitation as the venue for the event was a huge draw. It was the reason so many incredibly talented creators attended. They had the chance to build an authentic connection, not just with me as the founder, but with our brand and its deeper mission. As I mentioned on a panel earlier today, our brand extends far beyond just products; it carries a profound message and purpose. Creating these authentic spaces and partnerships was our way of sharing that story, and it has been immensely powerful.

During the pandemic, especially in 2020 following the Black Lives Matter movement, many large corporations reached out to us, inviting us to participate in conversations and panel discussions. However, those opportunities waned after 2020. In contrast, our partnership with TikTok has continued to flourish. TikTok has gone above and beyond, creating spaces where Indigenous creators can teach and nurture others, helping them become better content creators. It’s truly something unique, and it’s a testament to TikTok’s commitment to our mission.

I can say without a doubt that our collaboration with TikTok has propelled our organization in ways I never imagined were possible. They have played a pivotal role in our journey, and I am immensely proud to work with them and deeply grateful for the support they’ve provided us throughout. Overall, it’s been an incredible ride.

There is no doubt that TikTok is known for its ability to make content go viral, offering unprecedented visibility for brands and creators. Can you share an experience where your content went viral? How did this visibility impact your business or brand awareness? And how did you leverage this attention in your subsequent business strategy?

Absolutely. When we launched our video titled “How How Adoquet,” it marked the first time we experienced a video going viral. It was eye-opening to witness the online community’s eagerness to learn more about Indigenous culture, which is a core aspect of our brand. This discovery became a foundational element in the way we plan and create content.

What’s truly valuable for us are the insights we gain from TikTok, particularly through their robust analytics. These analytics provide us with a clear understanding of what content resonates most with our audience. Armed with this knowledge, we make dedicated efforts to incorporate such content into our future strategies, ensuring we deliver what our audience wants to see.

Now, Jenn, building a successful brand isn’t just about external growth. It’s also about internal learning and evolution. What are some of the unexpected lessons you’ve learned about your industry, your audience or yourself while building your presence on TikTok? Additionally, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to use TikTok as a tool for business growth and customer engagement?

It’s truly fascinating to observe what our consumers, audience, and community are genuinely interested in. For us, it consistently revolves around the authentic side of our brand, which includes me as the founder and our team. They genuinely enjoy peeking behind the scenes to witness what’s happening. Reflecting on what we’ve learned along the way, we’ve realized the importance of not getting too caught up in following trends, as tempting as they may be. Instead, our audience tends to connect more with authentic behind-the-scenes moments. For instance, they really respond when we do “get ready with me” sessions or share candid, casual conversations with the audience.

It can be challenging, especially in the business world, to resist the urge to always have a process, system, or plan in place. But TikTok stands out as a platform where organic viral moments and genuine engagement can occur. If you stay true to your brand’s identity and niche, you’ll notice that your audience not only sticks around but keeps coming back for more.

If I could offer advice to anyone embarking on a similar journey, it would undoubtedly be about consistency. Don’t give up, even at first if it feels like no one is watching or caring about what you’re doing. We’ve experienced substantial growth in our audience and engagement over the past few years thanks to our unwavering commitment to consistency. Everything has expanded steadily as a result.

The Rise of Cheekbone Beauty from Basement to Brand Powerhouse

From her humble beginnings to leveraging TikTok’s unparalleled potential, Jenn Harper’s narrative serves as a testament to the power of authenticity and perseverance in the entrepreneurial world. As we wrap up this enlightening conversation, it’s evident that collaboration, consistency, and staying true to one’s brand essence are paramount. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Jenn for sharing her invaluable insights, reminding us all that with passion and tenacity, dreams can truly come to fruition.

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