In the world of business, securing funding can make all the difference. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your company to the next level, having access to financial resources can be invaluable. That's why we're excited to share with you the success story of Cheekbone Beauty, a company that secured funding to accelerate its growth. In this post, we'll hear from the Founder, Jenn Harper, about her experiences with securing funding and how it can help you achieve your business goals.
Meet Jenn Harper, Founder and CEO of a successful cosmetic brand who has taken her company from local to national. In this intimate interview we’ll unpack Jenn's journey and the steps she took to get to where she is today. We’ll find out what motivated her to start her own business, how he was able to secure funding to elevate her brand, and the strategies she used to grow her business and create a successful national company.
What was your initial reaction when learning you were a funding recipient? And how did the funds impact your business?
“This was around two years ago and it was the Founders Fund Legacy Grant. It was a micro grant for $2,000. I remember, feeling excited. There was, some big spending that we had to do in order to put some products out into the world at that time. Receiving this grant was super helpful in the sense that I didn't have to worry about paying people within the business for that week, it was a big relief and at that time, much, much needed. It is amazing how important those things are. I've said to so many people that asked for advice, to sign up and apply for any sort of grant accelerator programs, as a lot of the times they come with a grant which will support the brand in a number of ways.”
Have you received any funding in the past? And if so, what was your experience?
“There are some challenges that have come with receiving or even applying for funding in the past. Restrictions based on being Canadian is frustrating for a lot of the US accelerator programs which often come with funding. For example, Glossier has a program, especially in the beauty space along with a few more and we can't apply for any of those because of our location. I think it is unfair because, this is North America and it was set up in a way that makes trade a lot simpler. In addition, from an Indigenous lens, there's something called the Jay Treaty that was made in and around the 1700s, with the US government and Canada. This agreement is supposed to allow us to trade quite freely across border and without question because of treaties that our ancestors have created for us. It feels like those certainly don't get honored when these restrictions are in place for grants and accelerator programs.
Secondly, I believe the revenue your business is creating in the beginning can be a huge barrier and can impede people from applying for different kinds of programs, grants and funding.
Lastly, the complication of applying for some grants are quite extensive. They want business owners to tell them everything. The details in the application process can feel far to revealing and daunting as a small operator and startup. I just don’t feel as though it should be as invasive.”
What do you feel, are some of the challenges you've experienced in your business recently?
“Being in the e-commerce, direct to consumer space, has not been easy. After 2021, we are seeing huge, stagnant challenges and I don’t have all the answers. In my opinion, it’s the large conglomerates that have billions of dollars to spend on advertising, that we are trying to compete with, more so now than ever and it seems like an impossible competition, because they have the means to always win.
Another challenge I have experienced has been the simple cannibalization that happens when you go into retail. It is good and needs to happen, however I think I could have mentally prepared better managing for that.
Moreover, funding. When you are expecting a certain financial forecast to be met and that doesn’t happen, obviously your cash flow becomes a bit more of a concern. I am finding, as the business scales, cash flow is more challenging but I do think that is every entrepreneurs story!”
What are some major milestones or wins that either you or your business has had recently that you're proud of accomplishing?
“Some great things are coming out of our struggle from growing. Our company is now available in 52 Sephora Canada locations with over 20 products in their stores and online space. In addition, we are launching in the US with a shop called 13 Loon, which is a beauty marketplace now available in 600 JC Penney locations across the United States! These moments are huge for our brand because this is where the ability to build our brand awareness in both countries is going to be much greater.”
How and where do you find inspiration?
“I find inspiration in nature and through travelling. I think it is important to have the ability to get out of the office, away from my desk and computer and just be in new spaces. I feel like when I am in those spaces my creative muscles are working and flowing and I try to do that as often as I can. I make it a priority to be outside every day at some point.”
What values are you committed to? And how have they changed since you started your career and/or your business?
“I have always had a strong set of values and principles, so I don’t believe anything has changed. I think I have been able to recognize how important it is to commit to these values and principles. Integrity, honesty and trust really help us be a transparent brand with the world which is incredibly important when you are a sustainably minded brand. I believe that you can make black and white statements, but if you are true to the journey, you realize that’s not what it is about.”
How did you learn to embrace risk taking?
“Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for the faint of heart but what I love about entrepreneurship Is it tends to be gradual. In the earlier days, the risks I am taking now would have seemed really crazy but they sort of come with the numbers. It really is a numbers game. The bigger you get, the bigger the risks.”
Have you ever been faced with a time where you felt like a failure? And how did you overcome that?
“Oh, my goodness, probably at some point every day! I believe recognizing that failure is apart of every journey is important. We’re human and imperfect and the most important is how we react to that and how we decide to make changes. Staying really humble, setting aside ego and those sorts of negative traits will help to realize that we are going to make mistakes but it’s more about how we learn from them.”
What's the most important leadership lesson that you've learned? And how has it proven invaluable to you?
“I believe that hardest part of my role is dealing with all different kinds of personalities and trying to understand other peoples position. I have been working really hard on that the past few years. Of course the company, Cheekbone, has an agenda but I truly want to be empathetic and compassionate towards people that work with us and for us by understanding what perspectives they come from. In my earlier years I used to think “oh it’s just business, move on” but emotions are always involved, and they need to be respected.”
What advice do you have for individuals who want to start or take their business to the next level?
“I always give the same advice. It's about consistency. If it’s truly what you want to do, you figure out how to do it and you work on it every single day and if you don't give up, then it can't fail. It is how we feel about ourselves, what we're building that really matters, and our belief in it. If you're passionate about it, then you'll consistently work on it.