Leah Ward: “Kindness is flourishing”

Believing you are the smartest person in the room is only setting yourself up to be complacent. If you are the smartest person already, what will motivate you to be better? I strongly believe that you should always strive to better yourself and learn new things. Have the confidence in what you know, but also […]

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Believing you are the smartest person in the room is only setting yourself up to be complacent. If you are the smartest person already, what will motivate you to be better? I strongly believe that you should always strive to better yourself and learn new things. Have the confidence in what you know, but also be willing to learn from others. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t surround myself around successful people. It is the individuals I consider my friends and mentors that inspire me to do new things and give me the tips and tricks to create new opportunities for myself that I may not have seen on my own.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Ward.

Leah Ward is an accomplished lawyer, mother, and entrepreneur who co-founded Jo Collection Cosmetics ( a beauty brand focused on streamlined and effective skincare products. Pregnant, homeschooling, and launching a product all during the height of the quarantine, Leah found innovative ways to be successful through the challenges of Covid-19.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Along-time devotee to luxury skincare, I actually began my career as a criminal defense attorney. It was in law school, where I was spending hours going to school and working simultaneously, that the initial spark for formulating my own product line came to light. Long-working hours coupled with studying made a 12-step skincare routine practically impossible. Out of necessity, I set out to look for a more streamlined beauty product that would produce the same results as the current products I was using but that would also be easy to use in half the time.

When my mother passed away unexpectedly, I changed my career path from criminal law and began working in pharmaceuticals at Profounda Health and Beauty, Inc. When the business grew to running its own manufacturing facility, my inner spark ignited again. I decided to use the opportunity and resources at my fingertips to finally finish formulating a more efficient skin care product I had been continually searching for but was unable to find on the market. Together with my father Todd Maclaughlan, who was invaluable in helping bring the science and technology to make this possible, I co-founded Jo Collection Cosmetics (named after my late mother Joanne) introducing my one-step daily chemical peel.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

The biggest surprise after starting my own company, was finding out I was pregnant! I had already envisioned the next year of my life to include many long days and nights cultivating my new baby in the form of my budding business. So, an actual baby was quite the new adventure plan.

Luckily for me, the beginning of my pregnancy went along a lot smoother than I had originally anticipated. Though that luck of an easy pregnancy completely went out the window as soon as the pandemic arrived in the United States. I was right in the middle of launching my product and getting everything prepared for my upcoming maternity leave when suddenly I was forced to work from home 3 months sooner than I had expected. Not only was I now juggling the work stress from having my launch interrupted, but suddenly I was also at doctor’s appointments alone being told to prepare that my husband may not be allowed in the hospital when I go into labor. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case (I was allowed one support person- I figured my husband would appreciate me choosing him ha!) but that stress as a first-time bio mom was quite a lot to handle.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! Currently I am continuing to reach out and introduce my customers to The Pineapple Peel. It is an easy, one-step, and leave-on daily chemical exfoliator made for people like me that just do not have the time for those complicated 12-step skincare routines. Whether that be because they have long-working hours, are engaged in a time-consuming education course, or they are like me now- a parent with little time having both hands free.

We are also currently working to launch 3 new products in the next 12 months that will fit beautifully with our Pineapple Peel. Simple, clean, and streamlined products that help make men and women feel beautiful without worrying about a 20-minute night or day skincare routine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person who has been my biggest mentor and has influenced my leadership style the most is undoubtedly my father, Todd MacLaughlan. Todd, after working for many big-name pharmaceutical companies including Bayer and Monsanto, decided to stop making money for someone else and start making money for himself. With that ambition, he was able to start his own successful pharmaceutical company from the ground up. He is a hardworking and inspirational man that has shown me my whole life that through hard work and dedication anything is possible. One of the most important things I learned from him is that the world is constantly going to tell you no and it is your job to keep saying yes and convince the world why they should say yes too. Most importantly to never give up with the first closed door, because that first door was created for people who follow the rules, people who make the rules create their own doors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

To give some background on my family, I am a stepmother to three kids ages 8, 12, and 14 as well as a bio mom to a new baby that was born during this pandemic in May.

Uniquely, I have dealt not only with homeschooling my 8-year-old full time, helping my stepdaughters with school over facetime, being pregnant and giving birth at the height of the quarantine shut down, but I also LAUNCHED my beauty brand right at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic! Needless to say, I have had quite a few challenges brought my way due to these past couple of months.

The biggest struggle beyond just the general unease and fear of anyone in my family getting sick, was definitely time management. My family went from each having their own personal time outside the house for work, school and play, to suddenly constantly being in each other’s personal space. It was quite the adjustment to set boundaries allowing everyone not only to get their work done, but to actually be able to accomplish their goals in that time.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

The biggest thing I’ve done in dealing with this new way of life was make a mentality change. I decided to switch my focus from mourning the loss of what I thought my life should look like right now and decided to alter these new conditions instead into a way that most benefited me and my family.

As a newly pregnant woman and mother, I had a lot of expectations of what life should look like. Due to the quarantine a lot of things have not been possible, but we’ve been able to turn it around and take this time to focus on being together as a family. The older kids for instance would usually be off with friends or gone during the day with school or summer camps and instead we’ve been able to really connect as a family in a way that maybe wouldn’t have been possible before.

In business, I learned that the crisis changed all the rules. Yes, my marketing budget went toward avenues that were no longer viable and there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. However, instead of focusing on where I had lost, I focused on what I could gain with these new rule changes. Different channels and opportunities opened that previously did not exist to me before. Avenues that may have been available that I simply would not have found had it not for the pandemic shifting my way of doing business. I also found that my new home schedule worked better for me. I found I am most productive at night with the soft glow of the computer leading my creativity. Before the pandemic I would work during the day and spend time with my kids at night. With this new shift in schedules I found myself splitting my work between day and night, spending time with my kids in the middle of the day instead. And that works for me. I found a way to make the new conditions benefit me.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

My greatest challenge as a woman in business centers around the fact that I am the main caregiver to my newborn, and a lot of time the first person my other children come to with a question. While I appreciate the time home with my children and I am lucky that I have a very involved husband, the majority of the time I am still the parent the children come to first. My kids need help with school, they call on me. The baby is hungry? She needs my physical body to feed her. Being on lockdown there is little escape from the constant need for mom. And that Includes when I am on business calls or video conferencing. It has been difficult to separate work duties and being the woman of the house.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

One of the best ways I’ve addressed separating my mom and business roles has been to set a schedule, but also plan for interruptions. For me, that means always keeping my microphone on mute unless I’m speaking when on business calls. Having a door to close with instructions that when the door is closed, dad’s in charge. And making sure to schedule a little quality time too, because I found that right after some undivided attention the kids are more likely to leave me alone to work for a few hours.

Another great tip I learned is to tell the kids you are going to work for a few hours and when your done you can all do chores together. They tend to avoid you for a bit after that.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

The biggest thing I did to address the challenges of everyone being home was to solidify a new family schedule. My son is very schedule orientated, so the first few days of distance learning was very difficult for him. He was given classwork to turn in either at the end of the day, or alternatively the end of the week. That was far too much freedom for him when his toys and electronics lay just feet away, and with his parents’ home to play and talk with. This also did not work for my husband and I, as while we wanted to play all day, we also had work to do. So, we set up a new family schedule that laid out school/work time, playtime, and family time.

I got a whiteboard and wrote out a bell schedule just like the one my son had at school. Then, we told my son if he was finished with the work the teacher made available to him for that class period before the time was up, he could play, BUT, it had to be related to the subject he was supposed to be learning about. So, if he had math class and the worksheet only took him 15 minutes, he could spend the next 20 minutes playing online math games. He got to have fun while still learning something, and my husband and I got that time to work uninterrupted. It was a win-win.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

I think that when people start to get cabin fever, their imaginations starts to run wild which amplifies psychological and environmental stressors. The best thing to do is take that imagination and refocus it.

Children are the best at using their imagination. If they are bored with the space they are in, help them create a new one by making a pillow fort. Need someone to play with? My children have really taken advantage of video conferencing to play with their friends. For yourself, reinvent your bathroom with candles, bath bombs, and face masks to give yourself a spa experience for some time to relax alone. When you refocus your imagination into new ways for you and your family to do things you loved doing before the pandemic, you stop your brain from having the time to stress about the unknown.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, if you keep moving forward you will still find yourself in a better place. There are a lot of unknowns in the world right now, but if you only focus on your fear of the unknown you will be stuck in that negative headspace. The best way out of a funk is to make an action to move yourself out of it. The whole world is adapting and making positive changes, you too can find a way to change the environment in a way that benefits you and start to find your way out of that negativity loop.
  2. The pendulum always has a way of swinging back. I like to remind myself when something particularly bad or stressful is happening in my life that things can only go up from here. When the pandemic first started, I experienced a lot of panic as people were buying up all the baby wipes and diapers when I knew I had a baby due in weeks that would need those resources. I quickly recognized however that people were willing to take care of me and that stress by doing favors such as grabbing things I needed that they saw when they were out at stores. There were still shortages going on, but my friends and family banded together and were able to ease that initial panic for me.
  3. You feel good after the work out, not before it. The pandemic has been difficult to process, there is no denying that. It has caused tension in almost every aspect of our lives from busines to personal relationships. But if you turn your perspective around and focus on changing the environment to work for you, you will find new way to define success. People tend to value hard earned success more because they have sacrificed for it.
  4. Kindness is flourishing. From people dropping off food and supplies to the homes of their immune compromised neighbors, to those going out of their way to support local businesses, the world is being inundated with unprecedented kindness. If you take the time to turn off the news and look out your front door, you’ll find that the majority of your world isn’t in chaos. People have banded together to look after one another.
  5. Other people understand what you are going through. Everything may seem scary and lonely right now to you, but we are in a unique position that the rest of the world recognizes these feelings too. When my kid comes busting in the room during a conference call I am met with laughter and understanding instead of frustration, their kid is in the other room too. The world has never been so empathetic.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

From my experience, the best way to help your friends and family cope with anxiety is to help them focus on specific problem-solving actions around that anxiety. If they are feeling restless and needing a change of environment, help them redecorate their space by moving furniture around. If they are feeling lonely help set up a virtual call with friends or family. Give them control over their anxiety by giving them a solution to focus on.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Believing you are the smartest person in the room is only setting yourself up to be complacent. If you are the smartest person already, what will motivate you to be better? I strongly believe that you should always strive to better yourself and learn new things. Have the confidence in what you know, but also be willing to learn from others. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t surround myself around successful people. It is the individuals I consider my friends and mentors that inspire me to do new things and give me the tips and tricks to create new opportunities for myself that I may not have seen on my own.

How can our readers follow you online?

You contact me through Instagram under Jo_Collection_Cosmetics or through the contact me page at!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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