By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Kareen Mallon
It all started in the kitchen. One day, Heather Reier decided to do some research on beauty products. She browsed the Internet and read a couple of books. The next thing she knew, Reier was mixing ingredients in a large bowl with a hand mixer, trying to create a body lotion that was natural, with a soft texture and pleasant aroma.
Fast forward 10 years, Cake Beauty is now one of Canada’s leading beauty brands that is also in the process of being picked up in the U.S. In this Exclusive, FAJO finds out more about the woman behind the brand and the evolution of her company.
HANNAH YAKOBI: Why did you decide to make your own beauty product 10 years ago?
HEATHER REIER: I used to go to farmers’ markets and buy a mason jar of shea butter. I loved it but it smelt terrible and wasn’t packaged very well. On the other hand, I’d see all these products in the magazines that celebrities loved, but they just weren’t as good in terms of their efficacy and natural feel.
So my business story is very grassroots – I started mixing up products with the intent to create a business. I was baking and the whole idea behind the line was having your cake and eating it too. All the textures really had to be whipped, feel good and smell good.
Do you have some kind of biochemical background then?
I do not, no. I grew up in Kitchener and went to Western University in London, Ont., where I studied political science. It’s really applicable. (laughs)
We’ve evolved since then: we obviously have chemists that formulate everything, so it doesn’t go moldy on the shelf after a week.
But back when I started, I even bought a piston filler to fill the bottles – it was crazy. I was making and selling everything myself but not for very long, because shortly after launching the brand I realized this was not sustainable and I couldn’t grow the business if I was behind a blender all day, mixing.
I think the game has changed a lot today – it’s just too competitive and a different landscape. It’s been an interesting journey, but I’m not sure it would work as effectively if I started that today.
I’m sort of picturing you like a magician, cooking all these incredible things. What was the first product you ever created?
It was called Deserted Island Supreme Body Mousse. It’s still in the line-up today, actually. And it’s whipped; when I was making it myself, they were whipped rather than blended, which allowed me to pack in a lot of nourishing butters and oils, without it making it heavy, thick or greasy.
Do you remember your first-ever Cake Beauty client?
I do. Funnily enough, it was a place out of Chicago. It wasn’t even in Canada! It was called whosthefairest.com. I don’t think they’re around anymore. I contacted them after I had created a huge database of retailers in Canada and abroad.
You personally contacted people?
I was on the phone constantly.
What is your company like today?
We’ve come very far. One of our best retailers is Sephora, we’ve been with them for about six years. We have an office down on Queen St. in Toronto. I also have 12 direct employees.
Do you still sell your products in the U.S.?
We do, absolutely.
That’s exciting and, speaking of the U.S., we heard that Target is now picking up your products as well.
Yes, it’s very exciting. Cake Beauty can now go into a different retail channel. It’s great for the brand.
On a more personal level, what are your interests? Who is Heather Reier?
A bit about me: I’m married to a wonderful, wonderful man. His name is Oliver Rathbun, the kids took his last name and I sometimes go by Rathbun in different situations, but professionally I still use my maiden name.
He’s in commercial real estate and has been doing that for a number of years. His business is very entrepreneurial too, so we really ‘get each other.’
I have the best family, the best kids. My two boys are the three-year-old Hudson and the nine-month-old Graham. They’re very sweet, very great kids.
Do they ever play with Cake products?
Hudson loves them because they smell great. Sometimes, I’ll bring new products I’m working on and ask him, ‘What do you think of this smell?’
A big joke is that when I leave for work, he asks, ‘What are you going to do at work, Mommy?’ And I say: ‘I’m going to sell body lotion!’
Cake makes me think of tea parties and part of our photoshoot today was done in the Tea Room. Do you ever host parties with your girlfriends?
I do! Funnily enough, one of my high school girlfriends had a slumber party recently. I brought all products and we did little manicures on each other and had wine.
Your product is very Canadian and very local. What about you fashion style?
I’m a little bit of a hybrid, because I like to mix clothing. So you may find me in some leggings from Winners with a great pair of boots that I may have found at Neiman Marcus. My style is a bit eclectic.
Who are your favourite Canadian designers?
I love Brose and I like David Dixon a lot. He’s such a nice guy – a couple of years ago we did a line with Barbie, for Barbie’s 50th. He did one too, so we all got together and met each other.
This issue of FAJO is themed as The Green Issue. Could you tell us about the ways in which you and your company try to stay sustainable?
All our products are paraben-free and petrochemical-free. A lot of them are sulphate-free too. We don’t use a lot of secondary packaging, most of it is sourced locally. Most of the ingredients are from Canada too.
We take that to heart – I often say, “We are not just pink, we are green too!”
A photoshoot with Heather Reier
FAJO Magazine would like to thank Windsor Arms Hotel for providing the venue for this photoshoot.
A special thank you to MakeUp By Brittany, who was in charge of Heather Reier’s make-up and hair.