January is about being cozy and setting intentions for the year. So, naturally I was delighted to pour a cup of coffee and start this year's Leading Lady Series conversation with Zara Watson Young owner of Watson & Young. Not only is Zara a leading lawyer based in New York with a white glove approach when it comes to supporting her clients, but she is a wife and mother of two little girls.
As Zara and I begin our conversation I can't help but notice her impeccable eyeliner and warm smile. She has become more than just my go to lawyer for all things IP, she is a friend and fellow entrepreneur at heart. I mention Zara's attention to detail down to the soft yet precise line that captures her eyes because it perfectly captures who she is as a woman in charge.
"Oh yes, I am definitely a perfectionist and type A!" Zara mentions right as we start the interview.
Ok Zara, coffee or cocktails?
"Can it be both?! I am actually a matcha drinker. I love matcha and if it were cocktails, I would say a martini."
Spoken like a true New Yorker, I always imagine Zara sophisticated and soirée-ing all over town after a full day of working hard and then home just in time to spend with her daughters after school.
What is your favorite dessert then?
"These are hard questions Sarah. I am a huge dessert person. I come from a family of bakers so I love all desserts but I do really love carrot cake."
Tell me more about your background and family being bakers. This tends to happen when I start chatting with others about cake. Everyone is connected to baking or decorating in their life and it just makes me smile with surprise.
"I have to start with my grandmother because she was the original baker. My grandmother and mom are from Haiti. My grandfather passed away when my mom was only 7, so my grandmother had to raise 6 kids and started a catering/baking business to support the family.
That's where my love of baking and entertaining came from. Entrepreneurship really started with her. My mom, aunts, and uncles would help with the business and this mentality and tenacity passed down to me."
It's interesting how a lot of entrepreneurs really develop into that life out of necessity and then they find themselves fulfilling this role.
"Yes, and since my mom grew up with that mentality it just blossomed for her life as well. My mother moved to London when she was in her late twenties and worked for the Haitian Embassy. I love hearing her tell the stories about that time because it makes me wish I could relive it with her! She spoke very little English in the beginning, but she had an amazing life in London. She was invited to Buckingham Palace all the time. She got invited to fabulous parties and this led her to continue the tradition of entertaining and passed it down to me. After I was born my parents divorced and my mom moved to the U.S. and started catering and event planning to support us."
Wait, sorry, can you go back and let's talk about your mom at Buckingham Palace!
"Yes, at that time my mom lived in Kensington and so she would tell us about how she met Princess Diana several times at events at Buckingham Palace. She would see Prince Charles and she went to all the lavish parties. She was living the life."
We both giggled as we imagined ourselves in her moms shoes at that age. After a few more minutes of talking about her parents meeting like in the 90s Romcom style films, shopping at Harrods and bumped into each other...sigh. Zara's mom sounds like someone we all want to live vicariously through.
Let's chat about your desire for law and how you decided to start your own practice.
"I had interest in law school during college and just happened to fall in love with my husband Sean at that time as well. He was in law school and funny enough we had known each other since we were 4 years old. So I connected with him to figure out if that was the route I wanted to take and well the rest is history. We now have a practice together and I wouldn't have it any other way."
What is it like working with your partner?
"First, it's a dream come true. We've dreamt of working together since college. I feel grateful and blessed to be able to work with him, but it does have its challenges. I am type A, so I have specific ways I want things done, my deliverables, the aesthetics of our brand, etc. Sean is a little bit more relaxed. He is a lawyers lawyer and loves to debate and is very straight forward. When you look at us as a team in business, we really compliment each others strengths. I want our daughters to see us building something. I wholeheartedly believe in entrepreneurship. It's not for everyone but I do hope that one of them might takeover or just be inspired! I really want them to be inspired to do something and create something of their own that will make an impact and they can feel fulfilled.
How did you fall into trademarking with creative brands?
"It all started with my youngest sister. I have a younger sister who has a learning disability and needed to attend a school specifically for kids like her. This was during my last year of law school and my parents had to sue New York State for private special education school. I essentially helped them and was part of the entire process. The law firm they used offered me a position after I graduated and I started working there. Everyone I worked with was great but, I just felt it wasn't for me.
What did you feel was missing from there?
"I didn't feel fulfilled. What I do now gives me such joy. I get to help female founders build and protect their companies. I relate so much because I am also building and growing my own company. The blood sweat and tears of that process to me is just incredible. I understand the journey that it takes to build a brand. During my consultations with clients now we discuss the journey and how we can help them throughout each stage. That is a much more involved and rewarding relationship than what I was experiencing at my first job as a lawyer.
I found a creative outlet, while I was working at my first job, through my blog. It was a lifestyle and fashion blog and I called it Little Pearls of Joy. I would share my travels from around the world as well as my photography. I really got into the branding side and I would talk with my friends who were content creators and hear their pain points of how to protect themselves with paid partnerships and sponsorships. That's really what started my love for intellectual property."
Spoken like a true entrepreneur, you found a solution to a common problem and made it happen!
What can we expect from Watson Young in 2024?
More visibility and more education on the importance of protecting your brand from a holistic perspective. We are so passionate about what we do and our goal this year is to reach as many people as possible.
How do you find balance as a mom and lawyer(CEO?) with such a demanding industry?
"I would say it's more about boundaries than balance. We have an 8 month old and she requires a lot of my attention and I am nursing still. So there are times when I am nursing in between meetings and responding to emails. That is just the reality. I always feel like it is very important to be transparent about that. Boundaries are the biggest thing, more so than balance. I dedicate sections of my day for work and for spending family time.
It is hard to shut off work. When my eldest daughter comes home from school I try to make it all about her and how her day was. But, I also don't mind her hearing Sean and I discussing our clients or business for the day. Now she even does pretend play on the phone where she will name some of our clients which I find very cute and also am a little proud. I like that she is seeing me do what I love. "
Zara reminds us that we are not defined by the roles we play, but by the passion and determination we bring to them. As we celebrate her achievements, let us also celebrate the extraordinary women in our own lives who defy the odds and inspire us to reach for the stars.
Where you can find Zara Watson Young