SFU-supported fund helps Indigenous businesses make their mark

Simon Fraser University

Jenn Harper had a vivid dream one night – of Indigenous girls smiling together and wearing lip gloss. Their radiant beauty and happiness left a lasting impression, which inspired her to make that dream a reality.

Harper, an Ojibwe woman, began to pursue the creation of her own cosmetics business,Cheekbone Beauty, while working full-time and raising a family.

Harper is one of several Indigenous entrepreneurs that has received support through the Raven Indigenous Impact Fund (RIIF). Simon Fraser University became the first university to invest in RIIF in 2020, which helps Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island (what some Indigenous communities call North America) to achieve their dreams.

The $350,000 in funding that Harper received from Raven Indigenous Capital Partners helped her launch a sustainable cosmetics collection that is seeing great success. Based in St. Catharines, Ontario, the company will be launching their products in Sephora within the year.

“We craft sustainable colour cosmetics and as Indigenous peoples we realize that we have this completely different view with regards to every living thing in nature,” says Harper. “It’s not a commodity to us, we’re in relationship with things from nature including the planet and all its resources.”

In addition to sustainability, Cheekbone Beauty also gives back to the community. The company donates 10 per cent of their profits to the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society’s Shannen’s Dream, which advocates for a better quality of education for First Nations youth.

“Raven was established to ensure Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island have access to patient, flexible capital needed to scale operations and achieve transformational impact,” says Stephen Nairne, Chief Investment Officer at Raven Capital. “We are thrilled to have supported Jenn Harper’s journey from solopreneur to building a sustainable cosmetics business capable of competing on the world stage.”

All Indigenous businesses that apply to the RIIF are evaluated based on four criteria including: commercial viability, potential for scale, transformational impact benefits for Indigenous peoples, and Indigeneity in management/ownership and governance.

“SFU is proud to invest in Indigenous-owned and founded companies,” says SFU Associate Vice-President Finance, Alison Blair. “SFU has invested $1 million into RIIF, which has supported seven Indigenous enterprises to-date. And our investment with the Raven fund directly benefits both members of Indigenous communities and the SFU endowment fund, which supports current and future research and students.”

SFU is a signatory to the Canadian Investor Statement on Diversity & Inclusion, an initiative coordinated by the Responsible Investment Association (RIA). SFU also signed on to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) in 2014 in a pledge to be accountable, ethical and transparent across investment portfolios and within the organization.

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