By Chris Olsen
Courtney Stewart is the recipient of a Fueled by Purpose micro grant. Fueled by Purpose is the nonprofit sister company to My Founder Story and is dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders. Since 2018, more than $220,000 in grants and services have been donated to womxn business owners. To learn more and apply, visit our grants page.
Courtney Stewart was getting ready for her high school homecoming dance. She found the perfect sparkly gold mini dress and shoes. Her hair was done and she was experimenting with her makeup. She loved how her look was coming together, and for the first time in her life, she felt beautiful. She knew that her confidence had something to do with her current foster care family. She’d been placed with them when she was 13, right before she started high school. After being adopted at age 3, and enduring years of physical and sexual abuse, Courtney finally felt like she belonged. Her new family made sure Courtney knew she was worthy of love. They encouraged her to be herself, to try new things and to grow. And though she wasn’t sure who that was just yet, Courtney knew she was discovering who she was meant to be. When she swiped on a bold shade of lipstick to finish her look, something inside her came alive. She felt confident. Invincible.
The trauma Courtney faced as a child helped her develop resilience, hope and empathy. As an adult, she wanted to make a difference in the world. She wanted others to feel the sense of empowerment she felt when she first discovered lipstick and each time she wore it after that. But Courtney wasn’t sure how her goal would take shape. She attended Spelman College and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and government. She moved to Washington, DC, got her master’s degree and started working as an auditor in public service. All the while, she was hatching a plan to start her own business combining her passion for social justice and her love of lipstick.
When Courtney made up her mind to launch a lipstick brand that gives back, she had no idea she’d faced so many obstacles. She wasn’t connected with any Black entrepreneurs who could give her advice about running a business. She couldn’t find a manufacturer offering the quality of products she was looking for. She didn’t have the funds to get started, and raising capital proved more difficult than she anticipated.
Courtney spent a lot of time doing research. She refinanced her student debt and put herself on a strict budget to save money to invest in marketing and to find the right products—something she would want to wear herself. She continued working a full-time job. Then, in 2020, something told her it was now or never. In the middle of the global pandemic and civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd, Courtney officially launched LipRevolt. Initially, she second-guessed the timing of the launch. Many in the workforce were losing their jobs—her fiancé had been furloughed. Small businesses everywhere were struggling and closing their doors. Lipstick certainly wasn’t a necessity. But for Courtney, something much bigger was driving her decisions. “At some point you get tired of the oppression, the racism, the injustice, and you realize you have to do something,” she said.
LipRevolt is a bold, high-quality lipstick brand for changemakers. It was created for anyone who loves makeup, whether they identify as female or gender nonconforming. As a Black woman, Courtney also designed it with individuals of color in mind. More specifically, she wants the brand to empower those who are willing to speak up for others and fight for what they believe in. LipRevolt is built on the idea that everyone can influence change—and they can feel confident doing it. Courtney sees LipRevolt as a new type of war paint.
To demonstrate LipRevolt’s commitment to social justice, 10 percent of sales are donated to women’s rights organizations and initiatives supporting racial equality and the LGBTQ+ community. And while Courtney created the brand to promote social activism, she knows lipstick will not solve the world’s problems. She also knows small changes add up, and when a group of people are committed to change and fueled by purpose, it can lead to a revolution.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.