Back in 2018, Kate McLeod founded her company, Kate McLeod, completely by accident. McLeod wanted to create a product that could help her get out of a rough patch—and has since helped others do the same.
Kate McLeod’s extensive line of solid moisturizers has evolved into something much more than just another body care product, it gives consumers a moment of relief and reflection. Kate McLeod prides itself on making food for skin from scratch and doing more with a whole lot less.
If you want to hear more about the woman behind the brand, keep on reading.
You began working as a pastry chef, how did this role inspire you to start your own body company?
I didn’t think they were going to be related—it was a complete surprise. I have a long history of working with chocolate. One day, I had a sunburn and was putting on lotion and my sister-in-law was like “What are you putting on your body?” The truth is, I never thought of that before.
She went into her cabinet and pulled out a little tub of raw cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is like a rock. When I got it in my hands, I was like how am I going to put this on? My sister-in-law said “It’s going to take a while. You need to spend some time with yourself.” I was going through a lot.
She was like “Just slowly work it into your skin,” and I did. The results overnight were amazing. I started thinking about chocolate. If you think about a truffle, you have a hard exterior shell and then you have a ganache filling. I thought to myself I could do that to cocoa butter.
So, I brought the cocoa butter home and tempered it on my stove. I wanted to see if I could incorporate oils into the cocoa butter so it would melt on contact. So, I added my favorite base oils.
My pastry background has enabled me to come to this from a very different viewpoint. The ingredients are treated like food.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own company? Why?
Everything. I think the challenges keep coming and they roll with you like everything else in life. In the very beginning, it was the fear of putting something out into the world. Then, it was “How do we do this? How do we scale?”
There were challenges that came with motherhood and balancing that. What’s really incredible about a business is that the challenges can be an incredible pathway for growth.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own company? Why?
There are so many rewarding parts. It’s kind of a three-way tie. First, I would have to say my relationship with my co-founder. It is one of the deepest, most rewarding relationships in my life. The second is seeing what the body stone can do for other people. When my sister-in-law said I needed some time for myself, I really did.
Using the stone allows for a moment of connection with the body, which I think is really powerful. When I hear reviews that say “This was more, it made me feel really good” or “This made my grandmother feel really good” or “My son has autism and he doesn’t do well with lotion but he got this and it was tactile and grounding” that is powerful.
The third part is just the personal pride. We are starting to onboard spas, and this past weekend I was down in Jamaica onboarding a spa and I brought my daughter. There was this moment where I just sort of exhaled and took in how far I’d come.
What do you feel is the most important part of your job? Why?
I think just standing in my own authentic truth and integrity. I really feel like I have a message to deliver. Taking care of yourself is important. Taking care of your skin is important. For the longest time, I thought people would think it’s corny, but it’s really not. Staying grounded in my message is the most important part of my job.
All of your products are waterless, vegan, and plastic-free. Why do you feel having a brand that is both ethical and sustainable is important?
Frankly, in the beginning, I wasn’t designing a brand, I was designing a product for myself. However, I have sustainable values in my home. So, when I made the product, it naturally embodied those.
I spend a lot of time in nature. It’s painful to think about the harm we are doing to our environment. This is my personal self-care practice, it got me out of a hard time. I want everything in this product to stand with the integrity in which it’s made.
Our products being waterless cuts our carbon emissions by 50% and since they’re locally made it cuts them down another 50%. It’s nice to know that nothing is wasted at the end of a stone.
What are the core values of your workplace?
I am going to sum it up with the word kindness. I think kindness really encompasses a lot. Within kindness there’s listening, there’s curiosity to understand one another. You can’t always guarantee you’re going to see someone, but the best you can do is try to listen. There is honesty and dedication.
We are a start-up so there’s a level of scrappiness and sweat that goes into it. I think the other thing is play, which is hard because we’re a remote team. Once a quarter, the whole team will get together and do something fun.
I’ve taken them to dance lessons and bowling and even took them to my house upstate where I cooked for them. It’s important to connect human to human.
What advice would you give to those looking to improve their self-care rituals?
What is interesting is, if you go on Instagram in five minutes you’ll find about twenty different self-care rituals. I would say that every single one of them is legit, but none of them are going to work for you unless you take a moment to be present.
You can sit on your yoga mat for twenty minutes a day and not be doing a thing, you can have a forty-minute beauty routine, and if you’re beating yourself up with negative chatter the whole time you’re not doing anything.
If you take a few seconds to breathe deeply, you can literally shift your whole nervous system to rest and digest. For me, the stone requires touch along with breathing that helps my mind click off so that I’m present.
There are infinite ways you can take care of yourself, but if you’re not feeling any real benefit or change ask yourself “Where is my mind when I’m doing this?”
What advice would you give to those looking to start a business?
I didn’t make a product to make a product. Starting a company is really hard. So, I think that if you’re starting a company just to start a company, I wouldn’t. I’m not sure if that’s enough. You need the passion and the drive to go through all the ups and downs. There has to be love.
I am always honored when people tell me “Wow, you’re so passionate about this.” It is so near and dear to my heart—it’s a part of me. If you’re putting something out into the world that resonates with you, that’s going to be received.
Yes, it’s going to be difficult but keep trying. If you show up day in and day out, your message will be received. In time, if you keep showing up, things will evolve, but if you stop, they will stop.
What is one Kate McLeod product you cannot live without?
Honestly, my real favorite product is the face stone. It has tamanu oil in it—which gives it a slightly green hue—and blue tansy oil. It is 0% on the comedogenic scale.
When I had my babies, I was so interested in luscious oils that I ended up making my own moisturizer. What’s amazing is that it doubles as a guasha and moisturizer.
I do a whole face massage with it. It gives you an amazing glow and is incredible under makeup. At nighttime, I’ll put it on thicker and wear it as an overnight facemask.
I even use it as an oil-based cleanser. I’m so proud of it. It’s different.
What is your favorite pastry?
My favorite pastry is a canale. I love to make canale. When I first started making these stones, I put them in a glass jar and dug them out, but everyone told me no one else would dig them out—and they were right.
So, the first mold I used to make the stone was actually a mini canale mold. Canale is by far my favorite but I’m also very into tarts and pies.
However, I try to avoid sugar now because I feel much better without it—but I believe that everything should be done in moderation!
Where do you see Kate McLeod going within the next five years?
I hope that we can share our products with more people. We just celebrated our first year online with Sephora. We are currently the only solid moisturizer in Sephora.
I hope to grow our retail partnerships. I believe we are bringing a lot of love into the world, and I really want to continue doing that. I don’t have an interest in growing my business just to grow it.
I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not want to leave your house or put clothes on. I know what it’s like to be really sad. I also know that the anecdote to that loneliness is connection—and connecting with yourself.
If we can keep getting this product into more hands, I hope we can help people connect with themselves and others. I think we have a lot more to say and conversations to have.
I’m really grateful for the community we have right now and the conversations we’re having, I would love to see more of that.