Desert Island Beauty Status, better known as DIBS Beauty, came about from a question that DIBS Beauty brand owner Courtney Shields has been asked countless times, “What beauty product would you take to a deserted island?” As the name implies, DIBS Beauty looks to be approachable and versatile so that anyone, given the chance, could easily pack it on their way to paradise. Beauty News talked with brand co-founder Courtney, who serves as Chief Creative Officer, and co-founder Jeff Lee, who serves as Chief Executive Officer, about how the two met, their unique entrepreneurial backgrounds, and their long-term goals for the beauty brand.
At first glance, DIBS Beauty co-founders Jeff Lee and Courtney Shields seem an unlikely business duo. Courtney is a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle influencer and content creator with nearly 1 million Instagram followers. Jeff is the former Chief Operating Officer of A-Rod Corp, and a lawyer at several distinguished New York law firms. However, after just a few minutes of talking with the entrepreneurial pair, one can see how they work well together and how they built a multi-million-dollar company within a year of launching. Within the first nine months of operation, DIBS Beauty generated more than $3 million in sales.
Jeff, who serves as DIBS’ CEO, entered the beauty industry in an untraditional way. After working as a lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rose & Katz, Jeff quit his job to return to Stanford University to earn an MBA. During his time in business school, Jeff was drawn to the world of Miss Universe and high-end beauty pageants. He eventually became a highly successful beauty pageant coach, nicknamed Mr. Miss Universe, and he went on to coach Miss Albania, several Miss China’s, and Miss Indonesia to the semifinals. Several years later, Jeff was working at A-Rod Corp when the former baseball pro launched his men’s beauty brand Hims & Hers. Inspired by working on the beauty brand, along with his work in pageants, Jeff knew he wanted his next move to be within the world of beauty.
Jeff was encouraged to connect with Courtney via Tula Skincare co-founders Dan Reich and Ken Landis. The influencer collaborated with Tula in 2020 on a best-selling product Glow Hour, a brightening eye balm. Jeff and Courtney connected via Zoom and immediately clicked. He compared the experience to speed-dating and joked that the two were work spouses on top of being business partners. When the two were brainstorming what type of products their brand could launch with, they knew it had to be multi-functional beauty and portable.
“Even in the packaging and how we chose to design the products, it doesn’t matter your personal or professional background, everyone is busy these days and has been bombarded and needs more space. We’re past the age where people could have one product that does only one thing and takes up a lot of space. I don’t think people need heavy, gilded components for their beauty products, they [the consumer] want items that can travel with them easily. Courtney always says we want to give people their time and space back. That’s what this is all about, if you’re packing for a desert island and you can only bring so many things, we hope it’s one of our products,” Jeff said.
DIBS Beauty is backed by Dan and Ken from Tula, as well as L Catterton’s partners Michael Farello and Jonathan Owsley, which invested $2.6 million dollars. The brand officially launched a year ago with two products, a highlighter Status Stick ($32) and a blush-bronzer combo Desert Island Duo ($32). Prior to the brand’s launch, DIBS Beauty had a 20,000-person waitlist.
The secret to DIBS Beauty’s success lies strongly with Jeff and Courtney’s dedication to customer service and their entrepreneurial drives. If Jeff or Courtney see a customer question or complaint, they respond immediately and work to have the DIBS Beauty team resolve the issue right away.
“For lack of a more eloquent way to say this, this sh-t keeps us up at night. If we need to make something right, we do it. If we need to respond to something because there are 1,500 comments about it, Jeff and I are responding at midnight, 1 a.m. There is no work hour time frame on our communication, in a good way,” Courtney said.
Between Courtney’s in-depth understanding of influencer marketing and Jeff’s varied business background and skillset, the two make for a very driven, dedicated beauty brand duo. According to Jeff, the brand has grown over 4,825 percent in year-over-year (YOY) searches since launching, and order rates from repeat customers exceeds 60 percent.
DIBS Beauty currently carries 15 SKUs, ranging from $16 to $88. Products can be purchased via the brand’s website and Revolve.
Regarding future product launches, Courtney said the brand will take its time and wants to avoid the fast-fashion effect of too much too soon. Jeff explained that one of the ultimate goals of the beauty brand is for all the products to work harmoniously with one another.
To stand out in a market as saturated and ever-changing as cosmetics is difficult, to say the least. But Courtney and Jeff have taken the concept of desert island beauty and turned it into a business.