Beth Ford is executive vice president and C.E.O. of Land O’ Lakes in Illinois and the granddaughter of Maurice G. Land, who created the company. She became aware of her family’s traditions of female empowerment when she was a toddler. “Growing up, my mom would dress me in women’s clothes and we’d get together and talk,” she said in a 2016 conversation with The New York Times. “She used to say, ‘We can do this!’ and I’d think, ‘I don’t want to do that.’”
About 12 years ago, she started scrubbing toilets on her lunch hour and began experimenting with a number of her own solutions. She couldn’t keep all of them in her tool box, though: so, she commissioned a toilet-fluid dispenser. The creators at El Cerrito S.P.H. fabricated it, and when the device was completed, Ford sent it to a professional designer who, after attaching a bathroom to his SUV, named it the Ford III Soap Balancer. Ford II is named after her grandfather, who invented the first-ever toilet paper with a straw in the dispenser, and III after Ford’s father, who had another patented pitcher. The toilet has unique UV protection so that she can clear the pit basin without harming the rest of the rim. “There is a certain kind of OCD that’s linked to cleaning the toilet,” she said. “I love it, because I’m also OCD, and it’s not really a glamorous thing to do.”
The product has become so popular that she’s able to sell the decorative Mugmacher piece that comes with the Soap Balancer for between $6,000 and $8,000. “Once I started doing that, I was like, ‘This really cool and a little weird,’ so people started wanting my toilet oil,” she said. Ford celebrated one of the biggest highlights of her career in 2017: the induction of her company into the prestigious Family Brands Hall of Fame. “To earn the fame and honor that our company’s come to be known for, it was a very special day,” she said.
The name “Land O’ Lakes” is an Indian native word that means “stealing salt” and refers to the reputation of the lakes on her family’s farm in Illinois. “In terms of family, it was family first,” Ford said, adding that, in her mind, her family’s legacy is about making the world more welcoming to people, from immigrants to ethnic, racial, sexual and gender minorities. “If you took all of my family’s commitments, they’re always to have everyone safe, to leave everyone clean and feel comfortable. They’re inclusor, so I don’t feel like I’m standing on a pedestal; I feel like I’m just me.”
This story first appeared in the May 23, 2018 issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Today.