How a Hunk of Cocoa Butter Inspired This Former Pastry Chef to Start a New Kind of Beauty Business
Success stories

How a Hunk of Cocoa Butter Inspired This Former Pastry Chef to Start a New Kind of Beauty Business

This content was created by Girlboss, in collaboration with Kate McLeod.

Success means different things to different people, but for Kate McLeod, it’s not even a word in her vocabulary. “It’s a word that society has defined (in my opinion) in a pretty toxic way,” she says. “It’s not a metric I'm interested in using in my life.”

Kate considers herself a work in progress instead—because she’s had not one, not two but three career pivots. She started out in finance at Goldman Sachs, then went to culinary school and became a pastry chef then she started her own bakery in London. Kate eventually started her own eco-friendly skincare brand, where she uses her pastry skills to formulate moisturizing Body Stones that melt into the skin on contact. Oh, and she also happens to be married to the founder and CEO of Hinge, Justin McLeod.

I chatted with her about her first job (working at a Texas weiner stand), the radical power of self-care and what’s next for Kate the brand and Kate the person.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

“A fashion designer. I spent hours with fashion plates (‘90s babies, IYKYK). I’d pinch shop towels from my dad’s tool room and sew them around my dolls. By the time I got to college, I was convinced I wanted to go to med school, but then I took an econ class and I changed my mind. I spent so much of my high school career in the AP science lab, but I was tired and burned out. Picking a major was terrifying because, in my heart, I’ve always known that I never had conviction/clarity on what I wanted to do when I grew up. It’s a scary question. The one constant is that I have always wanted to be a mother.”

What was your first job?

“I worked the counter at a small Texas weiner stand (and have never drank fountain soda again!). After graduating from Wellesley College, I started on the rates desk at Goldman Sachs. Both were priceless experiences.”

How did you go from a career in finance to becoming a pastry chef?

“The month I started at Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers went down. [Editor’s Note: The fourth-largest investment bank filed for bankruptcy in 2008]. I got to see the industry stripped down. It wasn’t for me. I had known this on some level, but before I was in it every day, I ignored that knowing. Then I became so miserable, I couldn’t ignore it. Thankfully, I attended culinary school, and this made me realize there were more options out there than doctors, lawyers, investors, teachers, etc. I don’t think I fully grasped that there are limitless possibilities.”

Tell me about how a chunk of cocoa butter became the catalyst for starting your own business?

“The Body Stone changed my life. During a hard time, I started working with one of my favorite ingredients for my skin, not for a confection: cocoa butter. I came up with a mixture that I would hold in my hands and apply to my body. The days I did this were brighter. The moment of connection with myself made me feel empowered, strong and capable, and I wanted to go out and connect with others. There is a softness in taking care of yourself that reveals an unparalleled strength.”

What sets Kate McLeod apart from the other skincare brands on the market?

“We’re not just a skincare brand. We’re… 

Food for your skin, made from scratch: Every Body Stone is made in our Hudson Valley workshop—no contract manufacturers here.

Doing more with less: Our sustainability ideology is grounded in all parts of our business, from the reusable plastic-free packaging to water-free, multipurpose products  Kate McLeod is also Climate Neutral Certified and part of 1% For the Plant.

Everyday magic: if you use the Body Stone, you will have glowing nourished skin, but something else will happen. You’re going to get to know yourself better. It is discovering that there is a well of strength inside your inner softness. Self-care is powerful.”

What did success mean to you growing up versus what does it mean to you now?

“I used to allow others to define success for me. I looked for their approval on what I was doing, where I was going, who I was with etc. Right now, I don't know the word success. What I consider instead is: Am I happy? Am I excited when I wake up? Am I calm at the end of the day? Do I easily lose my patience? Do I feel connected to my body? Do I understand my feelings? I’m much more interested in these questions. If I was baking a ‘success’ cake, these are the ingredients I’d use.”

Do you consider yourself successful?

“I consider myself a work in progress. I consider myself to be growing. I am proud that I have been sitting with things versus repressing/numbing. I am coming to know myself and trust myself more fully. I am deeply grateful that at home and at work, I have partners willing to go on this journey with me.”

What’s next for Kate McLeod the person, and Kate McLeod the brand?

“Kate McLeod the person is just going to keep showing up. She’s excited to spend the summer in upstate New York: dancing in the workshop, baking with the babies and swimming as much as possible.

As for the brand, we’re turning five this fall. Yay! And just like a five-year-old child is a separate identity from their parents, so too is Kate McLeod the company and Kate McLeod the person. And that separation feels good. Yes, there's a little mourning, attachment and grief, but there is also a freeing, expansive inhalation. Additionally in year five, we will be expanding our retail partnerships (so excited about this!) and growing the Sephora relationship to bring this practice to more people. We’ll also be refining our collection, exploring new relationships and partnerships, and growing, growing, growing. I’m honored to do this work”

And now onto Rapid Fire… Who are you inspired by?

“My children, as well as Oprah and Glennon Doyle.”

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

“A bath or a hot shower with The Pebble, our solid bath and shower oil, listening to a podcast in bed and lots of laughter.”

How many unread emails do you have?

“About 1,500 in my personal inbox. Only 15-20 at work. I archive them every couple months.”

What are some qualities you look for in an employee?

“Awareness of themselves, an ability to relate and connect on a human level, drive, and scrappiness.”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

“Keep going! Keep showing up with curiosity and a willingness to grow/change/shift/evolve.”

Worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“To keep ‘plowing’ through because it's what you ‘should’ do.”

What does “girlboss” mean to you?

“A girlboss knows herself well enough to know that deep down she knows what’s best for her. She has an inner knowing and she trusts it. She trusts herself because she has been brave enough to sit with and connect with herself. She can connect with others on a much deeper level because of this. An individual that can build a community from a place of knowing, sitting, understanding and compassion, that’s a ‘girlboss.’”

Get 20% off your first order of the Kate McLeod Daily Stone with code GIRLBOSS20.