Kate McLeod on bringing a baking background to beauty: “The pastry chef in me came to life”


The path from investment banking to baking to beauty isn’t easy, but it was a winding career path that led Kate McLeod to launch her eponymous skincare brand.

“I was a trader at Goldman Sachs and ended up leaving Goldman and going to cooking school. I had a bakery to order and loved what I did, but life always changes,” McLeod said on the latest episode of the Glossy Beauty podcast, “Something very unexpected happened – I was living overseas – which brought me back to New York in 2015.”

McLeod reunited with a former boyfriend, Justin McLeod, founder and CEO of Hinge, through the help of a New York Times reporter, and the two were married soon after. With her love life on track, McLeod began to rediscover her own personal passions and rituals. A chance introduction by her sister-in-law to solid cocoa butter, the key ingredient in her now-heroine Body Stones, led her to play with matter in deeper ways.

“The pastry chef in me came to life,” she said. “I also have a very long history and background in working with chocolate, so I brought the cocoa butter into the kitchen and I was like, ‘If I play with this, pretend I’m making a good ganache. , what can I do to improve this application process?’ That’s really what sets us apart.”

With a key endorsement from Naomi Watts, McLeod went from handcrafting her body stones for friends and family to selling 20 body stones in one day at Watts’ Onda Beauty and then selling 40 more in one. weekend. It was then that McLeod transitioned from wrapping her stones in parchment paper to repackaging them in canisters with an official brand label. Three years later, the line is now sold at QVC and Sephora.

Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

A reflection of herself
“The brand is called Kate McLeod because she’s been so part of my journey. There are so many crazy steps along the way that made this all happen. And it was my quirk that made it possible. I found a silicone mold maker in Long Island City, and showed up with a piece of clay in Michael’s hand. There was no professional 3D printing and molding that I was working with, like a sculptor. The bamboo came from my kitchen. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s a spice box!’ I didn’t know how to call [the brand]. In many ways, it’s not me anymore; it’s grown bigger than me, especially as our team has grown. But at that first founding moment, it was me.

Find and land business partners
“One of the last things I did before the pandemic was go to a beauty conference. I knew the QVC team was going to be there and I was stalking the QVC team and the buyer. He there was a group of women who passed by, and I was like, ‘Is that man there?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘Tell him I want to put butter on his body, and bring him here.’ He came over and I gave him my pitch. I was very energetic and ‘into it’, and he was just deadpan. In the end, I was like, ‘So I think we’ll be a perfect fit for QVC. We We’re different, nobody’s doing that on your platform right now. I think your client will respond to that. And he said, ‘I think so.’ And he gave me an email address. As soon as the pandemic started, we got our first purchase order from QVC.”

Focus on your path
“One of the things I learned from watching my husband with Hinge is that Hinge started growing when they stopped chasing Tinder. When Hinge looked inside and thought, “Forget it. We’re not a swiping app. We don’t want to be a swiping app. We don’t even like what we’re becoming. We’re not Tinder, so stop trying to be Tinder.” When they peeked inside, that’s when the real growth [happened], and their identity was born. I don’t have much of an interest in competing with a ton of people on Sephora. I like to watch what everyone is doing. I like to learn, and then I like to listen to our customers and bring my team together and say to myself, ‘OK, how can we serve our customers better? What can we do? How can we continually challenge ourselves? And how can we continue to develop the brand in the best possible way? »


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