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Spotlight On:

Kate McLeod

What's the Story?

After experiencing the benefits of moisturizing with raw cocoa butter, Kate McLeod set out to create her own blend that offered a softer, simple application process. After 2 years in her kitchen, the Body Stone was born—a plant-based moisturizer resembling a beautiful bar of soap.

How are they different?

Kate McLeod’s focus on minimal waste is an essential facet of her business. Your first Stone comes in a re-usable, sustainably-farmed bamboo canister after which you can purchase whatever blend you’d like a la carte (you may also purchase your first Stone without the bamboo case if preferred).

What inspires us?

The current variety of Stones leaves us excited and eager for the new experiments being made at McLeod’s Butter Atelier. Their latest blends include the Atelier Stone I, which holds a crystal at its core, and the CBD Stone, made with 100mg full spectrum CBD.

Q&A

Kate McLeod

Co-Founder

The inside of Kate McLeod’s ‘Butter Atelier,’ located in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, resembles a kitchen far more than a traditional factory. Ensuring the authenticity of the Made Safe-certified blend, McLeod overseas the hand pouring of every single Body Stone produced there. She spent two years whipping up the vegan Body Stone formula, initially as a personal quest to fulfill her own need for a simple, soothing lotion. Each Stone’s list of natural ingredients includes cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil and fractionated coconut oil. With the help of a local sculptor, a mold was created to put the mixture into stone shapes meant to perfectly fit in the palm of a hand. And the product itself is not the only plant-based, sustainable element. Your first Stone comes in a re-usable bamboo canister, so whenever you run out you may purchase refills and avoid the additional packaging—a highly appealing alternative to those plastic pump bottles. They’re friendly to our skin and to our planet, and come in a variety of concoctions (from Mama Stone to Sleep Stone) for men, women and children.

You’ve worked in finance, opened a bakery in London, and been part of the yoga world in NYC. How are Body Stones an extension of this?

Every experience brings new skills, new pearls of wisdom, new perspectives and new ideas. When I created the Body Stone, I wasn’t intentionally creating a product; I was filling a natural need in my life. Body Stones are truly a culmination of my non-traditional journey. They embody everything I love, everything I have learned and everything I want to share.

You engage in “intentional manufacturing.” What is that and why is it important?

I am a maker. As a former pastry chef, I love working with my hands and understanding how things are made. Just as I am conscious of how I source my family’s food, I am conscious of what we are putting on our bodies—what the ingredients are; where they come from; how they absorb into the skin. The Body Stones started in my kitchen and were my personal moisturizer. As I build this business, I am unwilling to compromise on the purity, simplicity and safety of our original recipe. I still oversee the hand pouring of every single Stone in our Brooklyn-based Butter Atelier. We do things differently here and run our production facility more like a kitchen than a chemistry lab. 

Being in touch with one’s own body is a prime directive for your company. How is applying your Body Stone different than applying any other sort of moisturizer?

Our application process is very different than a traditional lotion. The Body Stone does not have a dispensing unit—there is no pump, no plastic bottle, no mess. It’s just the Stone, your body and your touch. I worked with a local sculptor to develop a solid, sculptural shape that you could comfortably hold in the palm of your hand. As you use your Stone, it will melt slowly, yielding just the amount you need. Over time, it will mold to your hand, to your body and take on a shape that is unique to you. I think this process of taking the time to feel your body beneath your fingertips forces you to take a moment and slow down in a way that is physically and spiritually nourishing. Truthfully, days when I apply the Stone are better days.

Why are daily body rituals important? And what do yours look like?

I can only speak for myself. For me, rituals are everything. They ground me; they provide solace and comfort; they make home feel like home; and they enable me to bring the feeling of warmth and hearth with me wherever I go. My biggest mantra (and our brand slogan) is “Know Your Self.” I view body rituals as the practice of coming to know your self. Taking the time to nourish and care for the physical body has an incredibly spiritual effect. It keeps us growing, evolving and changing. Without this, we get caught and we stagnate. “Know Your Self” is the grounding compass, ensuring that you don’t get lost in life’s journey.

Technically, you could eat your product. Is this a good thing?

Yes! Your skin is your largest organ and it is porous! You don’t have to be chewing and swallowing something. Whatever you apply to your skin, you may as well be eating.

The reviews on your website are fantastic. One woman was able to stop using her cortisol and steroid creams. What were your thoughts after realizing the degree of positive effects your products have on others? Was this level of response expected?

Yes and no. Above all, I am greatly humbled by how well the Stones are received and how quickly word is spreading. Did I expect my kitchen creation to land in so many hands? I did not, and I am beyond honored. But did I expect such positive effects and positive reviews from those who try it? Yes, absolutely and I cannot take credit for this. Mother Nature is the true genius here. Body Stones simply allow the healing properties behind natural ingredients to shine.

What’s next?

I’m continuously experimenting in the Butter Atelier, and there are so many more skin food “recipes” I’m excited to share. I’m also excited to continue to get out in front of our amazing customers. I love bringing the Butter Atelier on the road, teaching about natural skincare and sharing my journey with our amazing community.

What advice do you have for both entrepreneurs and consumers hoping to make a difference in our world?

Two things: (1) Always “root in reality” and distinguish the difference between the story you are telling yourself vs. what is actually happening. (2) Don’t stop, keep going, move with the flow, enjoy the ride—and it will be an incredible ride, with very low lows and very high highs. But if you keep going, you’ll get somewhere.

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Spotlight On:

Solvify

What's the Story?

After experiencing a severe drought firsthand in his village, Pakistani teen Hasham Tanveer set out on a mission to end water scarcity and hunger around the globe. With the help of a polymer chemist, he spent two years developing Solvify, a super-absorbent nano-powder that can retain mass quantities of water that gets slowly released to the roots of plants/crops.

How are they different?

Solvify is made from recycled polymer waste which has the potential to prevent millions of tons of waste from entering our oceans. When applied to soil, it reduces the need for water by 70% and fertilizer by 50%, and increases crop yield by 20%. And as the super-absorbent particle biodegrades, it releases potassium ions that act as fertilizing agents for the plants.

What inspires us?

Solvify is conducting innovative, groundbreaking work that could help change the agriculture industry as well as the alarming rate of starvation and malnutrition in the world. It has the potential to make land threatened with desertification fertile again.

Q&A

Hasham Tanveer

Co-Founder, Solvify

When Hasham Tanveer’s village in Lahore, Pakistan experienced severe water shortage in 2015, he began to consider the challenges 2.2 billion people with chronic water shortages face every day. That same year, other regions of the country experienced famine leading to the loss of thousands of lives. Tanveer wanted to help and being a teenager in high school did not deter him. He teamed up with a polymer chemist and together they spent the next two years developing Solvify—a super-absorbent particle that can retain water up to 1,000 times its own weight. Made from non-hazardous and biodegradable waste material, Solvify can be applied to soil, reducing the need for water by seventy percent and the need for often-toxic fertilizer by fifty percent. Plus, it increases crop yield by twenty percent. His work won the prestigious Diamond Challenge sponsored by the University of Delaware and he used his winnings to bring Solvify to 200 farmers and their families. Tanveer is also one of We Are Family Foundation’s 2019 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leaders.

What was the process like when developing Solvify? Did you face many obstacles?

The process itself was very iterative. We barely had any idea of the scope of improvements we would need to make to our initial prototypes to get it to work. Initially, we were pushing only certain qualities of the polymer, and it was not until we first field tested it that we realized the prototype we had made was not suitable for farming at all. It took a long time after that to get to where we are right now, especially because of the wait we had to go through for testing each prototype on the field and gathering data. I believe we have been through the trouble that is expected from undertaking such a project, if not more, and while our current prototype is quite well suited for farming, we are still trying to improve our product before we file for a full patent. There are more hardships waiting for us on the R&D road for this project.

Were you clear from the get-go on what you hoped to accomplish or was it more of an organic unfolding?

We were pretty clear that we would be working with hydrogels from the get-go, however, a lot of what we had to integrate into our product was after the testing and data collection. We were not experts on agriculture and to develop this for Pakistani agriculture, we had to go back and change a lot, scrap many ideas we initially had, and brainstorm more to tackle the newer problems that arose. So it was, in a way, a set goal, but reaching it was a very organically unfolding process.

Did you (or others) ever think you were too young to take on such a crucial project?

Back when I first decided to work on this project, I was in high school and to be honest, I was very intimidated. There was a feeling of anxiousness in finally taking the steps to start doing something that mattered to me; that I’d been thinking of doing for quite some time. The people who wound up being part of the team were really supportive and it gave me the courage to start doing the work that was needed. After we had done initial prototyping and people got to know about what we were doing, we realized some people were skeptical of high school students working to tackle such a major issue. But it all disappeared as soon as we had our working prototypes—the proof behind our hard work.

How does Solvify actually work? How long does it keep the soil watered before a new application is needed?

The polymer is loaded with water beforehand. It is a very light-weight polymer and we plan on selling it in bags just like fertilizer. For application on soil, the dried polymer is spread and mixed with the soil. When that field is then watered, the polymers inside the soil soak up the water and that is how the polymer is loaded. The source of this water can be anything from rain to an irrigation system. We have brought down the life of the polymer to around 6 months, which is roughly one cultivation cycle for a crop. The polymer is almost completely biodegraded by the time of harvesting, so its presence in the soil does not interfere with the machinery used during the harvest. New application is required at the start of the cultivation cycle of a crop.

Why does Solvify lessen the need for fertilizer?

A major reason a lot of fertilizer is wasted is because when it dissolves in water, ammonia escapes as the solution stands on the field idle under the environment and that solution leaches down into the ground as well. Solvify locks the water-fertilizer solution into the polymer, stopping the evaporation of ammonia and leaching of the water into the ground. Furthermore, as Solvify biodegrades, it releases potassium ions into the soil which act as fertilizing agents for the plants.

How many farmers now have access to this product? And what sort of results are they experiencing?

Almost 200 farmer families have access to Solvify and they are helping us get the pilot project done. So far, the results have been great yet there is a slight deviation from our expectations which is helping us to optimize the product.

How did you pick your team? At the moment, it’s all men. Do you plan to include women in the future?

It was not a deliberate choice to have only men on the team. It was just how things unfolded. And of course, picking people for our team is a purely meritocratic process and as we plan to expand the startup, we will surely expand our team and hopefully you will see more diversity down the road.

Are there any downsides to Solvify? Or any aspects you haven’t yet mastered?

We spent a lot of time making sure we overcame every downside we came across during the development process. However new problems might arise when the product is tested in drastically different conditions across the country. This is why we are still trying to determine any such shortcomings and are calling our current product a prototype. We plan on collecting more data before a launch and making our product as perfect as possible.

Solvify is made from recycled polymer waste which has the potential to prevent millions of tons of waste from landing in our oceans. How do you gather the source materials?

Any type of natural waste with suitable polymer can be used as a raw material to develop Solvify. We also need some synthetic chemicals to carry out the manufacturing process, but at the end, the waste being used is saved from getting into the landfills and oceans.

What do you see as the future of our food supply chain?

We need to understand that the main issue with hunger around the world is not shortage of food around the world, but shortage of food in the areas where food insecurity exists. We need to empower every nation around the globe to grow their own food and as long as we do not accomplish that, food insecurity will remain an issue. With the changes caused by global warming, I believe more people need to step up with innovative solutions to empower LDCs (Least Developed Countries) to become climate resistant in terms of agriculture and growing their own food.

Are you developing other products at this time?

There are certainly other projects planned in the pipeline, but being full-time students makes things hectic and the processes tend to slow down. We are keeping most of our focus on Solvify right now.

Do you feel optimistic about a healthy future for our planet?

I do. I think humans have come a long way so far and I have faith that we will fix this mess we have made of our planet. We can already see people making solid efforts with technology to reverse the damage done. We will manage to fix our planet. It might take decades, but we will get there.

Any advice for other teens with big ideas?

Start making it real. Ideas will not matter until you can make them tangible. Our startup culture is gaining momentum and I think this is a great time to get involved with like-minded people and to turn your ideas into solutions and products. There are people out there willing to work with teens, empowering them with their networks and technical expertise. Just set your mind to it and start working.

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Susan Rockefeller