DIBS Beauty Co-founder & Social Media Icon Courtney Shields on Taking The Guesswork Out of Beauty

Amanda Kahn
Amanda Kahn
Apr 9, 2024

Have you ever walked into a makeup store and been completely overwhelmed by the options? Lost on what blush to pair with your bronzer? Searching for the perfect product to make you glow? Well, let me assure you that DIBS Beauty has your back. 

In Ep. 124 of Earned, Conor sits down with Courtney Shields, social media icon (with over 1M Instagram followers) and Co-founder of DIBS Beauty—your destination for elevated, makeup essentials deserving of Desert Island Beauty Status. With over $30M in EMV last year—and  a 161% YoY growth—the DIBS Beauty team is clearly doing all the right things. 

To start, we dive into the ups and the downs of product creation, and learn the story behind two of DIBS Beauty’s most successful product launches. Courtney shares why she needs to feel 100% confident in a product before putting it out in the world, and how that only enhances the excitement of seeing DIBS “in the wild.” With over 10 years of experience in social media and a passion for beauty, Courtney explains how the idea for DIBS Beauty came out of understanding her community’s needs and wanting to create a solution for them. We unpack how Courtney built a loyal fanbase for DIBS Beauty in its early stages by finding people who truly love and use the brand organically, before hearing why the DIBS Beauty team focuses on the entire experience of the product to take the guesswork out of beauty. Next, Courtney reveals the secret to her success co-founding a brand as a creator, and how her personal experiences as a creator have helped inform DIBS Beauty’s influencer marketing strategy. We then dive into Courtney’s life as a creator and hear where her “line” is when it comes to sharing her personal life online. Courtney reveals her “evolve or die” mindset when it comes to ever-changing social media platforms, and how she approaches Instagram versus TikTok. To close the show, Courtney reminds us that what you see on social media is a packaged polished version of people, and that if you don’t like following someone—unfollow them!  

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“I didn't want it to be about me. I wanted it to be about the products”: Why Courtney Shields Created DIBS Beauty

Conor Begley: You're not the only influencer brand that's been created. There's a lot of these brands that have been launched, but you're at the top of the list. Why do you think it is that some of these other celebrity or influencer-driven brands have not been as successful? 

Courtney Shields: I attribute a lot of that to having amazing co-founders and an amazing team. [Jeff Lee] and I always joke that we don't pay people to tell us what we want to hear. I was very mindful about not wanting it to be about me. As much as I am the face of the brand and the Chief Creative Officer and co-founder, I feel this great ownership over and pride for the brand, but I didn't want it to be about me. I didn't want it to be “Courtney Shields Beauty.” My goal was for DIBS Beauty to always supersede me. That was always the dream for me. I didn't want the personal credit of it being about me. I wanted it to be about the products.

I used to love Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen back in the day, and then they came out with their Mary Kate and Ashley brand at Walmart. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is my time to shine. I got this.” Even as a kid, I felt so cheesy shopping the Mary Kate and Ashley collection at Walmart because I knew it wasn't what they were wearing. I was hyper-aware of wanting to create DIBS and not 'Courtney something' because this is really what I’m wearing every day. It’s not this thing that I've created for other people who can't have the things that I have. It always felt like that was the case with celebrity brands: “you can't afford the things I'm using so here's this thing we've made for you.” I always hated that and I really wanted to create products that I was actually using. 

“I’m very proud of our culture and the atmosphere we’ve created”: DIBS Co-Founder Courtney Shields on Nurturing a Positive Company Culture and Innovative Product Development

Conor Begley: Despite having a million different things that you want to work on at one time, you also like to write things down, you like goals. What are some of your personal goals coming up this year, and maybe some of the goals for DIBS Beauty? What do you want to do with it?

Courtney Shields: We have a really great company culture. I think for a startup and for beauty, I'm very proud of our culture and the atmosphere that we've created. I love that. I want to continue to nurture that and feel like it's a good space where people can share ideas and everyone feels respected. While we are all working our asses off, it still feels good. People are enjoying what they do. If there's a problem, come to me, come to Jeff, and talk to us about it.

I would like to continue to create innovative products. Jeff and I have been talking about this a lot lately because we've been ripped off by brands and I see other brands ripping off each other constantly. To me, it's a depressing creative slump that doesn't fill me up at all. I want to create things that aren't already out there and it's hard because sometimes you’re reinventing the wheel and it is what it is. You make your own twist, your own version, but I do think there's a way to still add innovation. We want to continue to create products we're really proud of and excited about, that feel like they have a purpose, instead of chasing our tail. We don't chase trends.

I would also like to get more in-person time with the team this year. I see people at events and those sorts of things and that's always great. Since I'm being pulled in a bunch of directions when I'm there, I would love to have a couple times when I’m going out and I’m working, but I'm working with everybody there presently for a week or so at a time. 

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or by subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.