By Katrina Simyab | Photography by Hillary Schave
Courtney Ellington knows how to pivot. As a mother of four, Ellington sought a fresh start when she moved from Appleton back home to Madison in 2020.
She enrolled in the state program FSET (FoodShare Employment and Training), to help her plan her next step. Traditionally, this program helps participants find a nine-to- five job, but after years of working as a janitor, Ellington was determined to start her own small business that would better accommodate her disabilities.
“I knew I always had something more in me,” says Ellington.
Her caseworker, Georgia Mitchell, was instrumental in providing support by counting Ellington’s efforts to start a business as requirements towards completing the FSET program.
Mitchell also suggested Ellington take a Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) class on how to start a business.
“They teach you how to build a business plan for [your business idea],” says Ellington.
Ellington’s original idea was a custom goodie bag business — but something wasn’t quite right. She wanted to put something handmade and personalized in her bags, which led to a new idea: homemade face and body products.
“It was right then and there I realized I created a business plan for the wrong business,” Ellington says.
Ellington adjusted her plan and launched Luscious Beauty by Courtney in 2022. She started formulating customized skin and body products that she sells online and at local pop-ups.
“When I started my business, I just jumped in head first,” she says. “I’m still learning and formulating as I go.”
Recently, she won $2,500 at Hy-Vee’s first OpportUNITY Inclusive Business Summit pitch competition. She invested her prize into more education, enrolling in a program to learn more about organic skincare formulation.
“I want to be extremely confident in what I do,” she says.
Ellington also has future philanthropic plans for Luscious Beauty by Courtney. She’s a domestic abuse survivor and has experienced homelessness and wants to help others. She plans on transitioning her business into a nonprofit to make body care products for local domestic abuse agencies and shelters, indicating she’d love to work with the Salvation Army or Porchlight Inc.
“No matter your economic status … you are still worth it. You still deserve to feel beautiful inside and out, and treated with respect and dignity,” says Ellington.