How Serial Entrepreneur Courtnei Lee Transformed Her Fear Into Fuel

The founder of OYT Cosmetics hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams.

(Courtnei Lee)

Presented by Jon Stojan

While Courtnei Lee was working in the hospitality industry, she knew deep in her heart that she was destined for something more. One global cosmetics brand, merchandise line and bouje cleaning company later, she’s here to inspire other folks to follow their dreams. 

“I think every single person should have to work in a restaurant for at least a year,” Lee says. “Hospitality teaches you so much about customer service, teamwork, how to contribute, hold yourself accountable, and the list just goes on and on.”

She continues, “But the stuff that people put hospitality employees through is so brutal sometimes, and they really don’t get the respect that they deserve.” After almost 20 years in the industry, Lee launched her cosmetics company, OYT Cosmetics, in 2019.

Dubbed “more than just a brand” by LA Weekly, Lee is breaking barriers, and showing the world what it means to lead a business with integrity, respect, and inclusivity at its forefront. 

“I think the terrible days, which all of us have had in the industry, are what actually led me to launching my own brand because I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got to just do something for myself.'”

But there’s always fear in starting a business—taking a risk and trying something new. The fear is that you’re going to fail, and failure is an extremely terrifying thing. It stops the majority of people from following a passion.

But the hard part about giving into fear is that nothing changes, Lee explains. Nothing challenges you, and the challenges that you then have are given to you by somebody else. You’re not really focused on a challenge that is improving your future, per se, or progressing your dreams or your passions.

“When you give into the fear, you allow yourself to stay in a stagnant place. Whereas when you lean into it, especially if it’s for your own business, it’s scary, but the fear is completely different. It’s exciting, exhilarating and powerful. It’s something that you can use as a tool to motivate you.”

Those using fear as their motivator are also overcoming a boundary, she explains. “You’re not just looking at something and saying, ‘I’m using this as my inspiration,’ you’re actually overcoming something within you, which is extremely self rewarding. When you look back and see that you’ve overcome that first hurdle, it’s motivation for you to continue to do more things that are out of your comfort zone, and closer to your goal.”

“Leaning into my fear and turning it into my fuel has really shaped my life, my businesses, and even my relationship with myself and my ability to be present with my friends and family,” she continues. 

Of course doing so is easier said than done, especially if you are a female entrepreneur, a group who Lee believes are given the short end of the stick when it comes to business. 

“Female entrepreneurs are being pigeonholed everywhere,” she says, alluding to the challenges faced by women in business. From a lack of support to limited funding, female entrepreneurs have a lot on their plate. 

“In a world where straight white businessmen have say over what’s appropriate for women to do or behave like as a businesswoman, I think it’s important that we take our power back and stop being told what to do with our bodies, our businesses, and even our thought processes,” Lee continues.

When asked what advice she has for people who are struggling with overcoming their individual fear, she says that everyone deserves to give themselves the opportunity to take a minute and put themselves back on track, or even just adjust the track that they’re on. 

“No matter who you are, you should always have time to self reflect and look at where you are in your life and see if there’s something that isn’t bringing you joy, that maybe you can maneuver to be in a happier place,” she says.

Lee herself went through quite a few challenges in her personal life, in business, but says that it’s all a part of her journey and it’s what’s allowed her to step into her power today. 

“I’ve had quite a few ups and downs. At a certain point, I lost my sense of spirituality, my sexuality and the things that just complement my divine feminine. I really had to do a bit of soul searching and focus on what brings me joy, what makes me feel beautiful, and what makes me thrive.”

With that being said, Lee asks, “What is something that makes you thrive?” Is it starting your own cooking channel? Writing a book, or perhaps running your own business? Whatever it may be, Lee and this writer agree that you owe it to yourself to follow your dreams.

Today, Lee is more than just a successful business owner, but a leader who encourages her teams and the people around her to do something with their lives that will truly ignite their soul. In the wise words of French electronics brand M83, “If we believe it, it will happen.”

For more fun and inspiring content, be sure to follow entrepreneur, activist, and barrier-breaker Lee on Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, Twitter, or Twitch.