Yukon Soaps Company and Cheekbone Beauty secure grant funding from the Indigenous Innovation Initiative

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (jkrajsek)
© Getty Images \ (jkrajsek)

Related tags Indigenous peoples Canada funding

In its inaugural Indigenous Gender Equality initiative, Grand Challenges Canada has awarded $2.5m CAD to 10 projects, two of which are the work of Indigenous cosmetics and personal care brand leaders.

“It's clear that the Indigenous Innovation Initiative is filling a funding and support gap for innovators,”​ Jocelyn Mackie, Co-CEO of Grand Challenges Canada says in this month’s media release announcing a first cohort of grantees.

“The response to the Round 1 call for applications was impressive; 238 eligible applications were received from every province and territory—a first at Grand Challenges Canada,” ​she says, adding, “We are humbled and proud to host the Indigenous Innovation Initiative. We look forward to welcoming new funding partners to more meaningfully support innovation by and for First Nation, Inuit and Metis Peoples for generations to come.”

Indigenous-owned beauty brands win grant monies to advance gender equality

Joella Hogan owns the Yukon Soaps Company, a personal care brand based in Mayo, Yukon, Canada. The brand specializes in hand-made bar soaps, personal care and grooming products, and body care formulated with regional ingredients.

“When I moved to Mayo, to live on my traditional territory I envisioned reconnecting with my community, elders, land, and language,” ​writes Hogan on the about page of YukonSoaps.com​.

“Happily,” ​she says, “I’ve been able to do all of that through the Yukon Soaps Company, by using local plants in my formulations, employing local youth, using Na-cho Nyak Dun beadwork and plant knowledge, and by sprinkling in Northern Tutchone language wherever I can.”

And the project for which Hogan secured an Indigenous Innovation Initiative grant in the amount $250,000 CAD for is very much in line with that same vision. Her project is called Dan K'ehte Natsedan, or Learning Our People's Way. Her work is very much about keeping the land, the people, the culture connected.

Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc.​, is a brand readers of Cosmetics Design may be more familiar with. Based in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, and led by Founder Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty has made headlines here on the site for prior funding achievements​ and for Harper’s overall approach to conscious beauty​.

Harper secured the $250,000 CAD Grand Challenges Canada grant to fund a packaging upgrade for the brand, what she’s calling (for the purposes of the grant challenge) the Indigenous Sustainable Packaging Solutions from the Natural World project.

Government and organizations in Canada are actively investing to rebuild generational wealth

Theses grants promise to help better Yukon Soaps Company and Cheekbone Beauty. But big picture, they are so much more valuable.  

As Sara Wolfe, Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative (a platform hosted by Grand Challenges Canada) explains: “Investments to seed and scale Indigenous innovation are essential in order to address the systemic and discriminatory barriers faced by Indigenous entrepreneurs to access the resources they need to start their businesses and begin to build sustainable intergenerational wealth for our communities.”

“But supporting Indigenous innovation is about more than just increasing access to capital,” ​Wolfe tells the press. “Culturally rooted wrap-around supports, including specialized coaching and venture advisors, will help to unlock their fullest potential. Indigenous innovation must be part of a federal Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic recovery strategy.”

“Innovation,”​ she says, “isn't just about creating new things. Innovation sometimes involves looking back to our traditional ways and re-conceptualizing them within a modern context. Our vision is to improve all life through Indigenous innovation—for people and the Land. Supporting Indigenous innovation is possibly one of the strongest models we have for how to leave something useful for the next generation.”


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