Jenn Harper, the founder of sustainable-cosmetics brand Cheekbone Beauty, never stops searching for inspiration. Founded in 2016, Cheekbone Beauty sells vegan makeup that not only pay homage to Harper’s Indigenous roots, but also gives back to the community. The company supports Indigenous youth and women’s organizations and has donated over $150,000 to initiatives like the Navajo Water Project, which brings clean drinking water to Navajo communities in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.
Harper’s commitment to philanthropy earned her the 2017 “Social Enterprise Award” at the Annual Women in Business Awards and a spot on Canadian Business’ first New Innovators List. What started as a scrappy cosmetics company built out of her basement, Cheekbone Beauty is now carried in 15 Sephora stores in Canada and will be stocked in 35 more by early next year. Here, some of the founder’s go-to sources of inspiration.
How I Built This with Guy Raz
Harper finds it encouraging to hear the trials and tribulations that entrepreneurs have faced so she knows she’s not alone in her struggles of building a business. To that end, she listens to NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz podcast. “It’s these large companies that you would look at externally and never realize the things they had to go through to get where they are today.”
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Working on herself—mentally, physically and spiritually—proved to be an important feature of building a company. Harper devotes time to activities like meditation and regular exercise. “It’s the whole idea of being my best self so that I can do the best job.” Harper says she’s read Covey’s book multiple times over the past decade.
Italy had long been Harper’s top travel destination, but visiting Provence in southeastern France this past summer changed her mind. “Whether it’s the perfumes or skincare or the French routine, I just love the culture there.”
A concoction of veggies is a two-in-one: It’s chock-full of nutrients and helps Harper clear out her fridge. “People laugh because I literally just put whatever is green in my fridge in a blender and chug it.”
Harper has a deep appreciation for the Métis artist’s attention to the fine details in her acrylic paintings, whether it’s colourful flowers or birds. “You have to pay attention to the details when building a business—like thinking of the little ways that you can surprise or delight your customers,” Harper says. “I feel like that’s what she does with her art.”
Midnights by Taylor Swift
Calling herself a Swiftie might be a bit extreme, but Harper does know the meaning behind every song on the singer’s Midnights album. “My daughter and I were in a car together for the weekend; she explained the entire album to me.” Harper’s top track is “Anti-Hero.”
The entrepreneur finds herself going on the ‘gram to seek inspiration from other beauty companies and how they’re marketing their products. “I’m scrolling to see what’s trending and what other brands are putting out there.”
Google Pixel 6 Pro
Snapping pictures on her smartphone helps Harper document images of inspiration. “I have this vision of being a person that can draw the things that I’m seeing, but I can’t, so I take pictures,” says Harper. “I also just cracked my phone, so that’s an excuse to go get a new one, right?”
Set of Cahier Journals from Moleskine
Rain or shine, abroad or at home, Harper spends at least two hours a day outside for inspiration. She’s owned nearly every colour of the mini Moleskine notebooks and uses them to jot down whatever is on her mind. “They are just the right size and have lines—I can’t write without lines.”
Manitobah Mukluks moccasins
The Cheekbone Beauty HQ has a rule once that once the temperature drops, everyone brings a pair of indoor shoes or slippers so the floors don’t get muddy with wet shoes. Her go-to is a pair of moccasins from Manitobah Mukluks. “They’re like slippers but better because the soles are solid rubber,” she says. “And because they’re suede, they stretch to your feet.”