This episode’s guest is Kara Goldin. She is the founder, CEO, and chief taster of Hint, the lifestyle company that sells bottled water and hand sanitizers
Prior to Hint, she has worked for are AOL, CNN, and Time. And, well, technically, the TeePee restaurant in Arizona. She is a graduate of Arizona State University.
The episode starts with a story about an executive from a large beverage company in Atlanta addressing her as “sweetie” and how that was a pivotal moment in her undaunted quest to start a company that sold bottled water.
Today Hint is over fifteen years old and sales exceed $150 million. It gone from employing Kara and her husband to over employs 200 people.
In this episode we discussed:
🍊 what it takes to make a cold call
🍎 get your products into Whole Foods
🍋 and, in general, how to be undaunted
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Guy Kawasaki: Guy Kawasaki: Guy Kawasaki: I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. Be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizers, maintain a large social distance, wear a mask, and for your sake and mine, listen to Dr. Tony Fauci. This is Remarkable People.
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I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. This episode's guest is Kara Goldin.
She is the founder and CEO of Hint - the lifestyle company that sells bottled water and hand sanitizers. Prior to Hint, she worked for AOL, CNN and Time, and, well, technically, the Tee Pee restaurant in Arizona.
She is a graduate of Arizona State University. This episode starts with a story about an executive from a large beverage company in Atlanta addressing her as ‘sweetie’ and how that was a pivotal moment in her undaunted quest to start a company.
Today, Hint is over fifteen years old, and sales exceed $150 million dollars. It has gone from employing Kara and her husband to over 200 people.
This episode of Remarkable People is brought to you by reMarkable, the paper tablet company. Yes, you got that right. Remarkable is sponsored by reMarkable. I have version two in my hot little hands, and it's so good, a very impressive upgrade. Here's how I use it – One: taking notes while I'm interviewing a podcast guest. Two: taking notes while being briefed about a speaking gig. Three: drafting the structure of keynote speeches. Four: storing manuals for all the gizmos that I buy. Five: roughing out drawings or things like surfboards, surfboard sheds. Six: wrapping my head around complex ideas with diagrams and flowcharts.
This is a remarkably well thought out product. It doesn't try to be all things to all people, but it takes notes better than anything I've used. Check out the recent reviews of the latest version.
I'm Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable people. Now, here is Kara Goldin, aka, Sweetie.
Has anyone called you ‘sweetie’ recently?
Recently, no, but someone has in the past called me ‘sweetie.’ Maybe one day, they'll actually regret that.
I'm pretty sure he regrets it already. Can you just tell us the story because I think that is a great story?
It came at a time when I was really giving up. I was having doubts and feeling like “There's no way I'm going to be able to do this.” We had gotten our product Hint into some stores in the Bay Area, where I live. Whole Foods was the first one, but we couldn't figure out things like shelf life and distribution. I'm like, "What am I doing? This is crazy. I should not be here." A friend introduced me to somebody at one of those large soda companies down in Atlanta and-
That narrows it down, as opposed to New York.
Yes, exactly. I was introduced, and a very nice gentleman, very senior-level gentleman, and got on the phone with him. I said, "Listen, I've gotten this thing off the ground. I think it's got some legs. I've gotten it into Whole Foods, but I really can't figure out the shelf life and the distribution. You can..." I didn't even know going into this call that I was going to say this. I said, "I just want it to live, and so you can have it."
I didn't even think... I didn't even know those words were going to come out of my mouth, but I just said, “I'm done.” He said, "Sweetie, Americans love sweet. This product is going nowhere." I'm like, "Wait a minute, he's calling me ‘sweetie?’"
Again, it was a phone call, so it wasn't even sitting across the room from him. Then I, quickly, mentally came back into the phone call because I was like, "Obviously, we're very different people because I would never do that; what he did." But then, in addition, it really allowed me to pause for a minute and listen to him because what I heard out of him for the next few minutes was his strategy, and basically, what he believed was success. He went on to say that Americans love sweet, and what they care about is calories, and so you're basically going down the wrong river.
I didn't believe that because I had seen that in my own life that I really felt like getting off of all the sweet was better for me, and it had changed my health. I thought, "Well, he has a lot more money than I do, so I better throw the gas on as I'm going down my river because he might figure it out eventually, and catch up."
It's a story that not only is quite humorous, especially when it's happening to somebody else, but it's also a story, I think, that is important where, if you're the underdog and you get an opportunity to talk to the Darth Vader - the big, bad competitor out there - it's a beautiful opportunity instead to think. It doesn't mean that you're wrong; it doesn't mean that having more experience makes them right, though, either. It just means it was validation for me that we were on a different path for what our purpose was.
My purpose was health; his purpose was “Just keep making it sweet, and let's just get those calories out of there as quick as possible, because we're going to trick consumers into believing that we're better.”
Allegedly, Ken Olsen, who was the CEO and founder of Digital Equipment, once said that, “No one wants a computer in their home.” That's the same thing if Woz and Jobs had seen him-
It's the same story!
Right. It would be the same story. Can I make the argument that if he had not said that, the arc of your life might be different?
100%. That was such a major moment for me, where I just thought... I mean, I actually got off the phone. A lot of people have asked me like, "But because he had so much experience and because he came from such a brand, and they had been doing this for so long, didn't you think, at that point, you should just give up?" I said, "No, because I never started Hint to start a beverage company. I started it to help people get healthier." This was really the piece that allowed me to help people get healthier. We were on two very different paths.
When you're on two very separate paths, then you recognize, pretty quickly, how his advice might not have been relevant. That is the way that I really looked at it.
I think your example about the computer is right on too. Maybe you didn't want a computer in your house because it was too big, right? But that's not why people were getting a computer. Again, you run into those people that you think are so smart, they've had all this experience, but they may be looking at the picture a little bit differently.
Can we just geek out a little bit author to author? Question number one is: did you consider calling the book Sweetie, because I think it would be an amazing title?
I did. I did consider calling it Sweetie, but actually, it's interesting. It was definitely in the top ten, but it's funny. I've shed away from the sweetie conversation a bit, not the conversation, but in terms of labeling.
One thing is that I had a situation a few years ago where we were talking about that story and some of our advertising on Facebook. The algorithm kicked us out of being able to serve up an ad that said, "An executive once called her ‘sweetie,’ and that's what started her doing the company." Again, it was like the algorithm kicked us out because they said, "Your product isn't sweet." I was like, "But that's the point! That's the whole point of it!"
Wait. Stop the presses. Stop the presses. You're telling me that the Facebook algorithm kicked you out because something wasn't true?!
Yeah, and it was... It's a-
Somebody tell Donald Trump this!
It was a crazy, crazy story. Eventually, it worked itself out, but it was a very stressful situation internally.
I remember I was at this conference at the lobby conference. I brought it up. There were some nice Facebook executives there. I was telling them this, and they were like, "We've got this algorithm and stuff that does this." I'm like, "Just insert a person in there, and fix it, because that's not what we're trying to do. We're just trying to tell the story." All these people were just cracking up around the valley. They're just like, "I mean, come on."
Oh my God.
They eventually fixed it, but I think there were some of that. Anyway, but...
A couple more author-to-author questions, so why is the “U” lowercase in the title?
Well, that's a good question, and one you brought up early on. I think because Hint as our brand name has always had that lowercase, and it also has a period on the end.
I was going to ask you that next.
I think as my husband has said, "You're actually a pretty decent writer, but you often speak in two or three words per sentence maximum. You'll talk a lot, but you'll actually... It's the way you speak about stuff." When we actually were looking at the title, that was actually my husband; he joked about it, "Put the period on the end. It's like when you are describing people, you will say curious, undaunted." I thought it was interesting and fun, and so we said, "What the heck, let's go with it," but it was an interesting conversation internally, and there were people that had all kinds of opinions about it.
I think as Steve Jobs used to say, and I'm paraphrasing this, "You'll get a lot of opinions, but at the end of the day, you got to just go with what you ultimately think is the right thing to do." So far, it hasn't, thankfully, knock on wood, affected sales, and we're in the pre-sales mode.
It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of questions that go on when you're not there. It's like having a child. You think you got it all figured out. You go take all the classes then, all of a sudden, the baby comes, and you're trying to figure out how to change a diaper. You've done lots of big things, and you're like, "I don't want rocket poop or anything like that happening! I got to figure this stuff out."
You ask other... If you ask five authors for their advice, you get eight different answers.
It's such a crazy world out there, but you've been, actually, super helpful. Obviously, it has really paved the way for authors the way that you've done things. I mean that sincerely. I really watched you for years and just think that you're one of the brightest.
Well, thank you. I want to tell you I violated your copyright, maybe, because you obviously sent me a PDF, and I printed it, and I read it, and I liked it so much, I advise a company called MERGE4, which also has a female CEO, and they make the coolest socks. They make the Hint of socks. I liked it so much that I gave her the manuscript after I took my notes because I think she needs to read this right away. It's such a great book!
That's awesome. What did she say?
No, I just gave it to her today, so I owe you four dollars in royalty or...
I'm good. I'm totally good. It's interesting. You're not the first person who has shared with me that... There's a handful of VCs that have actually... not even VCs that have invested in us but just people I know that have said, "This is a story that my team, that I'm investing in, should really read this book." I mean, I think it's great.
I think somebody asked me, "Is this book just for female entrepreneurs?" I'm like, "Not even slightly." I said, "Ask Guy. Guy said to me when he read the book, and was giving me a blurb." He said, "Who in the world would want to be an entrepreneur after they read this book?" I was like... I'm still smiling and standing. I'm just telling the story. He was like, "I know. It was great," but anyway...
Now that we've got through the minutiae of author-to-author, can you tell the audience what it means to be undaunted?
The book is called Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters. It really stemmed from when I would meet people, and everybody from… I would be out speaking, and people would raise their hand and ask questions, or entrepreneurs or just people along the way. They'd say, "Understand that I'm different than you. I have fears. I have doubts. You're very confident. You never make mistakes. You never... You don't have any fears." I would always get stuck on the fact that they really thought we were that different, and that they thought that they had all these roadblocks, and I didn't, or that I didn't have failures along the way, or I didn't have doubts.
A few years ago, I started articulating that I've met a lot of really incredible people that are leaders, are top athletes, are incredible people - entrepreneurs and not entrepreneurs - and they all have doubts. They all have doubters. They all have fears and failures. The difference is, first, that they try and how they get themselves out of those situations, and enjoy the journey along the way.
I thought, "I've had so many of these stories that people will chuckle the Sweetie story, my first job at Time magazine, that wanting to work at fortune, and basically just thought, "Well, I don't know, Time's in the building, so I'll just take a job there, and eventually I'll get to fortune," never did.
People would chuckle along the way. I thought, "I'm okay with it not working out." I always want it to work out, but if it doesn't work out, then I realized that that's actually going to help me the next time for it to be able to work out.
I started writing. I was on too many airplanes over the last few years. Last four years, actually, I was writing. I just thought, "These stories actually could really help people, and hopefully inspire people to just go and do." That's it.
I think that one of the most impressive stories of being undaunted in the book is how, when you were graduating from ASU, you got ninety job interviews. Every college student listening to this right now is wondering, "How the hell did she get ninety interviews?" I want you to tell that story, and explain the art of getting job interviews.
It all started... I was actually waitressing when I was in college and at this great little restaurant.
At the Tee Pee!
At the Tee Pee! Have you been to the Tee Pee?
No, but I read your book.
You got it. You've got to go to the Tee Pee, seriously. If you like Mexican food. In fact, I crave it. Just being up in Northern California, the best Mexican is still in Arizona, I think.
Anyway, I worked there, and a 100-year-old institution. This guy used to come in to the Tee Pee a lot. Finally, I just said like, "What do you do for a living?" People were always asking me. They knew I was a college student. I said, "Oh, I'm going to college. I'm graduating." He works at Anheuser-Busch.
I said, "What do you do for Anheuser-Busch?" He said, "I basically go on shoots." In Arizona, there's lots of shoots. We come out here and make sure that product placement is correct on these movie sets. I'm like, "That sounds like a pretty good job." He said, "You should come to Los Angeles, and if you come out to Los Angeles, I'll get you an interview." He didn't promise me a job. I thought, "Oh, that's interesting."
Then, when I'm going to LA, I thought, "Well, I'm going to go and find some other people out there that are going to interview me too just to justify me flying out there." As I started telling people that story, and I would also tell not only customers that were at the Tee Pee that I had met, but also parents, anyone who would talk to me about it, I'd be like, "Hey, do you know anybody? I really want to go to San Francisco. I really want to go to Chicago." They're like, "You know who I should introduce you to." People want to help if you actually tell them what you want to do.
We used to have travel agencies. I went to a local travel agency, and I said, "Okay, in a month from now, I want to go from Phoenix to LA to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York, and then back to Phoenix. What's it going to cost me?" They said, "It will be..." They said, "We'll call you." They called me the next day, and they said, "It'll be $472." I said, "I think maybe you misheard me."
They said, "No." They gave me the itinerary. I was afraid that they, basically, hit some wrong key in the system, so I said, "Here's my visa card. I hope I had enough left on my visa card, and it didn't bounce or something and or to get declined." Off I went, and along the way, as I kept telling the story - I mean, Guy, you would have been... I think you would have been that guy.
I was in the interview, and they were, like, "Oh, where are you going to next?" I'd say, "Oh, I'm going to San Francisco. I'm going to Chicago." They said, "Wait a minute, you're setting up all of these interviews." When I started, I think I had about probably half of that set up. Then as I went along and telling the story, they're like, "Oh, when you go to Chicago, you should interview with my friend at McKinsey." I'm like, "What is McKinsey?" Then I would go into McKinsey.
I mean, it was this great education for a month. I've told the story on college campuses all the time. In fact, as you said, I went to Arizona State University, the somewhat famous Arizona State University, and President Crow, who runs the institution who's amazing and genius, he said to me, "So did we get you that first job at Time?" I said, "No, I did not use your... This is not where it happened."
I mean, I loved my experience there but that is not where it happened. I did this process where I just went out and figured it out. Then he said, "But that's what you learned to do at ASU." I said, "Maybe. Maybe." I could argue that! We’ll see.
I don't think so.
Right in the beginning, I should say, of COVID, I was at a high school. My son was graduating from high school, and I was at a graduation party and I overheard some parents say where they were chatting about how terrible it was for all of these students graduating from college, and how they're not going to be able to get jobs. I couldn't help myself. I walked over to them, of course, six feet away from them. I said, "Don't tell your kids that they can't get jobs. Actually, that's the wrong thing to do." This gentleman said to me, "Why do you say that?" I told him the story. I said, "The reality is that the entry level positions, they're out there because people need entry level."
It's actually a better time to go find a job, because everybody thinks that you can't find a job right now. Go out and find a job. Anyway, I think that's such a key story. Hopefully, it'll inspire people to just go out and find it, and find what they're passionate about.
The education too that I got, Guy, in terms of... I didn't know what a “consulting company” was, getting out of college. I didn't even know what “product placement” was. I didn't know what any of this stuff was. I thought it was super... I just really enjoyed it, and people want to help.
That is a great story. I have a theory that great companies are born not because of some McKinsey-esque market research, reliance upon data analytics and stuff like that, but great companies are born because the founder, or co-founders, make the product that they want to use. I would attribute that to Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Hint.
Correct me if I'm wrong. Is the genesis of Hint basically because you wanted Hint?
Well, I think I saw the problem. I love running into people who I met in that first year, who told me this is never going to happen, because they couldn't see what I saw, which was that these diet sweeteners were ultimately not helping me get as healthy as I wanted to be.
I was really early. People say to me like, "You're a fifteen-year-old company. The founder is still here - and by the way, still the CEO of the company - that's really unusual." I think there's a lot of things in there, including the fact that we were patient for the consumer to catch up to where I was at. We continued every single year to build and find these audiences, but we weren't running to the audiences and forcing them.
We had distribution opportunities with Walmart, for example, early on, that we passed on and people said, "You're crazy! You're passing on Walmart?!"
We're in Walmart today. We do super, super well, but I didn't believe that any brands that I could think of were actually built in a Walmart. I wasn't throwing darts at Walmart. I was just saying, "I couldn't think of any." I still believe that today, that understanding when you're new, when you are the dreamer and the visionary, and you are so far ahead of so many other people, I think that you have to be very careful to actually build up not only your brand.
I guess consumers need to discover it, and when you force feed them and say, "Okay, we've now entered into here, and you need to take it," they don't see it. They don't get it, and so you have to wait for them to some extent and show them why they ultimately need it.
I think also, that's another piece of this, why we tell my story so often that I think it's very relatable to so many people. I mean, I'll never forget early on, we were on a segment of CNBC, How I Made My Millions, which is more like how I spent my millions. I ran into this woman out by the pool in Georgia.
We were at a hotel for spring break in Georgia. She walked up to me because she saw the Hint bottles. She said, "Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt you. Do you know where I could find that water?" I said, "Oh, I got it down the street at the store - Harris Teeter." She said, "I've been dying to try that water. I saw this woman, of course, it was me, on How I Made My Millions. Do you know that she thought this drink up because she had this problem with diet soda?" I said, "You're kidding. Tell me the rest of the story." Of course, my daughter jumps in the pool because she thought, "Oh my God, what is she... What is this crazy mom doing?"
Here we go.
She jumps in the pool. Then the lady said, "She thought this up. She had a huge problem with diet soda, and she took it into Whole Foods." She went on and on. What I thought was so funny, because she said, "That is just like me. I need to do that." I said, "You need to do what?" She said, "I need to develop these products and ideas based on all the things that I think I should change in my life." I said, "You should do that."
My daughter came back, and she said, "Did you tell her yet that you're at Hint?" I said, "No, I didn't tell her yet." She said, "Oh, you work for that lady? What's she like?" I said, "This is crazy." I said, "I'm the lady." She said, "You're kidding. Oh, my God! I didn't even notice. This is crazy! I just can't even wait to try your product."
Anyway, the point is I think more and more people start to tell their stories around a brand, but there used to be this taboo like, "Oh, you don't tell your story, why you ultimately did it." I think that that is where you're able to really get equity for your brand when you actually get people to associate it.
I think you confirm my point that Hint was not created because you had read some market research that natural flavored water was a big industry.
Not at all.
You made it because you were addicted to diet Coke, right?
Totally, and also customers. Along the way, people have said, "Oh, do you do a lot of research around flavors and customers?"
True story, I used to live in San Francisco, and I lived right across the street from this private boys school that my kids did not go to, but I knew many of the parents who came into the lineup to drop off their son. When I was in my garage, where the first few months of Hint - first year, actually, of Hint - I would know that the lineup was happening at 8:30 in the morning, and so I literally would run over to these parents.
I'd say, "I just developed this water with..." I have, in a bag, twelve bottles. I said, "Would you mind?" It's funny because I run into those people today, and they tell the story. They're like, "I was part of the original focus groups," and people think, "Oh, did she do the market research?" I said, "No, I knocked on her window, and I said, "Hey, would you mind trying this water?" But again, how many times have people... They're invested in the brand that way. How many times have they told that story? Anyway, I did not intend it to be that way, but that's true story.
Basically, you're talking about evangelism. I just want you to know, speaking as the person who may be one of the most qualified people in the world to tell you about secular evangelism.
You were talking about evangelism.
That's why we like each other. We speak the same language, Guy.
If there are any food entrepreneurs listening to this, you've got to tell the story of how you got into Whole Foods, because my interpretation… I know a woman who founded a company called Sweet Loren's, and she has the best cookie dough. It's everyone's fantasy to get into Whole Foods. How did you get into Whole Foods?
I had been doing my own little market research, basically convincing myself. Again, I came from tech; I didn't come from the food or beverage industry, and so I had the same question that so many other did. How do you get into Whole Foods? I was a consumer. I was just shopping there.
I had really changed my life for that past year, and had eliminated my need for diet soda. I'm shopping at Whole Foods in San Francisco on California and Franklin, and I see this guy stocking the shelves. I said, "Hey, could you point me to a water that just has fruit in it?" I remember him pointing me to a Vitamin Water.
I had seen Vitamin Water on the shelf. I flipped it around, and shared with him that Vitamin Water actually wasn't like what I was talking about because it had more calories than a can of Coke. He was like, "Oh, you're kidding. That's why I've been gaining so much weight. I had no idea. It was so bad."
Then I would shop there over the next couple of weeks, and he literally would run around the store with me because he felt like I was educating him on the beverage industry. He would tell all his buddies that were working at Whole Foods. I was, "Gosh, that's so interesting. I knew nothing about the beverage industry." Whole Foods is like the mecca of health, and I'm telling this person that works there. It was just nutty to me.
That was really when I decided, "Maybe there is a product opportunity here, and maybe I should try it," but I didn't... I had worked in these big companies. Some of them were small, and then got big like AOL. But I thought, "I don't even know if this is a company. I think it's just three skews. Let's just throw them up on the shelf and see what happens until I figure out exactly what I'm going to do next." That was when I recognized that I was pregnant with my fourth child shortly after I had made this decision that I wrote the business plan, and I was going to get it off the shelf.
My timeline, again, hadn't worked in these big food companies. I thought, "Six months is enough time to figure this out, and then I'll have a baby and maybe take some time off with my fourth, and see what happens." Of course, there's delays in the product coming out. I had done some in my kitchen, and then they had gone to this bottling plant that I found out in Chicago. It was a little delayed. It ended up showing up the day before my planned C section.
It's in my garage, taking up space for my car. I thought, "Okay, I'm going in for my planned C section. I've got a babysitter with my three kids."
I wake up on May 27th, 2005. My husband says, "So what do you want to do? We don't have to be at the hospital till 2:00." I said, "Let's go to Whole Foods and see... I'm going to talk to that guy who is stocking the shelves, and let's see if we can get him to put it on the shelf." He said, “I was thinking like a walk or maybe brunch or something, not really doing that.” I said, "We got to get this stuff out of the garage. We got to do this."
He went with me. He said, "You're not carrying cases." I said, "Okay, great." We get to the store. I see the guy, and I said, "Do you remember me?" He said, "You are so pregnant!" I said, "I am?" He said, "Wow, I didn't realize you were this pregnant." I said, "No, I'm super pregnant." He said, "So when are you having a baby?" I said, "This afternoon at 2:00, and that is why I'm here, because I would love for you to put it on the shelf." He said, "Wait, what? Wait, what? How do you know that you're having a baby at 2:00?" I said, "Oh, I'm having a planned C section." He said, "What's a planned C section?" I said, "Okay, so..."
At this point, my husband, by the way, is backing up into the fruits and vegetables section. He was like, "She is about to tell him what a planned C section is. I cannot even believe this." I said, "There's vaginal deliveries, and there's planned C sections, or there are C sections, and then there's planned C sections. When you've had too many C sections, then they just schedule you. It's like going to the Ritz Carlton.
It's all great." He said, "Oh, well, this is really, really educational. You're always educating me when I'm here, and this is amazing. Thank you so much." I was like, "Okay, so getting back to the cases, can we actually get them on the shelf? My husband's somewhere around here. I don't know. He disappeared for a minute. He'll be back in a minute with the cases, but it'd be amazing, and then I can go have my baby and not be worried about it."
He said, "I'll do my best. I don't know if I can get it on there or not." We didn't know leaving the store whether or not he was going to be able to get it on the shelf. We left ten cases with him. The next day, he called in the hospital. My son, Justin, was born healthy. Everything was great. My husband picked up the phone. Nobody calls you by the way when you have a fourth child. All your friends, your family, everybody's like, "Oh, she'll be gone for a few weeks. We'll leave her alone."
Been there, done that.
My phone rings. I'm so excited. I'm like, "Oh my god, someone's checking in on me." It's the guy from Whole Foods, and he said, "Hey, the cases are gone." I said, "Who took them?" He said, "No, they're sold. You have ten cases there." I mean, this is crazy. I was like, "Wait. What? People bought the cases that quickly? I mean, this is crazy." That was the beginning of Hint. They sold ten cases overnight.
We checked out of the hospital early, because I had to go refill my space on the shelf, and that was when my husband joined me as well because he said, "You can't drive. You've just had a C section. I'll go deliver them. By the way, I stopped By FedEx Kinkos to get some business cards, and I'm now the chief operating officer."
He had been at Silicon Valley. He was at Netscape. He was their first intellectual property lawyer. He put that on his card just as see what happens. He's still there today, fifteen years later, the chief operating officer and a much better one than he was even back then. He did more than carry cases today.
That's a very good segue for another topic, which is how did you make co-founding and operating a company with your spouse work?
I think we always had different skill sets. We both really recognize that. I mean, we're just... People who know us well know that we're just very different people, but people always say, "Did you know that you wanted to work with your husband?" No, he was helping me.
I think, now, I look at it in a little bit different way, and that we have two things that are so important to us, one, our family and the company. I think it's almost more complicated.
Again, it's not for everybody, but it's almost more complicated when you think about it. When I see two founders who maybe met each other in business school, and they're starting a company, I get really nervous that one is going to decide to have her family sooner than the other.
There's different life decisions. All of a sudden, you have a lot more decisions. For us, it's been great. We have four teenagers. It's been great raising kids, and also, kids seeing that we do things a little bit differently.
We do things that we feel passionate about, that have purpose. Also, as my son said to me a few years back, well, two things, he said, "Mom, why is it that women aren't CEOs?" I thought, "Here we go. Am I really going to have to do this with my son?" I said, "I don't..." His name is Keenan. I said, "Keenan, I don't know. I don't know the answer to that."
He said, "Well, I play a lot of tennis, and you know what I was thinking about is why is it that we have female teams, and we have male teams, because there's women that I actually want to play with because they're great athletes?" He said, "I don't really understand this, but I think that what you're doing is actually showing me that it's possible." I said... I was like, "That's amazing."
Again, it's not for everybody, but I do think if you have different skill sets, it could actually be easier.
How in the world did you build Hint and raised four kids at the same time?
I didn't just raised my kids, but also my husband. He's very active in helping in both, building a company and also building a family. I don't think it's just about raising them. I think it's also they watch, and they listen.
I had a teacher say to me a few years ago that, "Your kids know more about things like preferred stock or things that they see you going up against the big guy." I mean, they also see me doing things that I'm not supposed to do in... It's not in the book where... I have a huge initiative right now going on in Washington around clean water. People have said like... It's my passion project. I've learned a lot about water over the last fifteen years.
We're hoping - actually, I'm working on it with Congresswoman Jackie Speier to actually bring something before Congress. The fact that I am not a lobbyist. I don't have any experience doing this. I do have experience in this industry and understanding bad things that are in our tap water supply, including PFAS and some of the other things that are out there. Again, they see the stuff that I'm doing as, "She didn't have any experience, but yet she's making progress along the way."
I was in another interview yesterday, and I was talking about this. I mean, I think we all wish for our kids to have passion and get up every single morning and do something that they really want to do. Happiness drives into that as well, but that I think is the most important thing that I see, and being able to do a hard thing, do a startup but also something that they see I love what I'm doing.
I suspect I know the answer to this question, but were you a tiger mom?
I think at times, but I'm also a kid where... I was last to five kids. My dad had started a brand inside of a larger company, Conagra. It actually originally Armour food company. His brand was called Healthy Choice. My parents didn't have me until they were forty, which back then was really old. I always joke that they didn't really have any energy.
Before I walked out the door, they said, "Don't do anything. Don't get in trouble, and just be careful." That's what they would say. I was very much latchkey kid or whatever, running out the door, but I think they also would really instill in me, "Go figure it out."
I think that that's what I am constantly saying to my kids, "Get as far as you can go." There's been times where I've jumped in. I think I'm usually right when I end up... I don't do it often, but I do feel like my daughter, who's now in college, is an incredible debater. I always go back to this because she didn't make the team initially.
There was a team in San Francisco or a private thing that she was always a really good writer early on. I thought she really should start to do more of this debating. They didn't allow her into the program. I thought like, "What are you guys missing?" I went back, and I said, "I don't do this very often, but you guys should really take a closer look at her. She may not have interviewed. She's in third grade. She may not have interviewed, but just give her a-
Third grade has a debate team?
I know! It was insane. But then, I mean, she went on. Now, what's hysterical to me is she's awful at college. She's actually teaching the class by Zoom to these kids.
I always remind her, and she won all kinds of awards, always won the awards in high school and everything. I said, "Do they remember when they said ‘no’ to you the first time? Always remind them." She was like, "I know. I always tell the kids along the way."
Again, you can't do it every single day, but I think you can jump in. Also, I'm an entrepreneur. I spend a lot of time, and as you said in the book, there's many hours. Being an entrepreneur sounds great, super sexy. It's like the thing to do, but there's way easier ways to make money and spend less time along the way.
Along the way, did you ever feel that being a woman really held you back, or really was a problem raising money?
I've always said that I've never been a man, so I don't know, and I mean that. We just raised money. We just closed around a couple of months ago in the middle of COVID for twenty-five million. Everybody said, “You can't do it by Zoom.” I just said, "Well, we have great growth. We need it for growing, so why not?" But I think if you set your mind to anything, you can ultimately do it. That is really the mindset. I don't allow that wall to get up in front of me. Do I think it's harder? Is my gut saying that it's harder to raise money as a woman? Probably. At the end of the day, I hate raising money.
To me, it's like begging. It is not a fun process nowhere along the way, even if you're the nicest people that you're dealing with. It's just I don't love it.
I think that that's the key thing, that if you allow yourself to really have these things in front of you that block you from doing what you ultimately want to do, then, I mean, I think you need to smash that down and work that one out before you can actually come to a conclusion that you're not going to be able to do it because of your gender.
I found it very interesting that in the latter part of your book, you talk about sunblocks and deodorants. I want you to explain the concept of diversification, which is what you did, versus focus and putting all the eggs in one basket and guarding that basket very well, because those are two opposing theories.
We really did our first branch out of water into sunscreen. I did it when I had skin cancer on my nose, and I was looking for a sunscreen that actually I wanted to wear. What I found was that all the sunscreens that were out there were either too white. They used a lot of zinc, or they were unscented, and they smelled not so great. I thought, "I need something that really I want to embrace." I believe smell is something that gets you excited about a product, that makes it sticky, not sticky in terms of feel, but sticky in terms of you wanting to actually touch it and feel it.
I used Hint as a placeholder when we had to apply for the FDA certification. Then we got it, and we just decided, "I don't know if people will like the sunscreen or not. I like it a lot. I've been making it at home for myself and for my friends," and so we just threw it out there. Then all of a sudden, everybody in the soda industry is getting all upset. "We knew what she was doing, and now she's off making..." I said, "Listen, I've said it from day one: I did not view this as a beverage company. I viewed it as a way to help people get healthy." That ended up getting us thinking, "What else is going on?"
My father who... My parents overall, but my father who was very important to me had Alzheimer's ten years ago and passed away. I started looking at Alzheimer's, and looking at aluminum, and coming in contact with aluminum. I thought, "I don't have to drink out of cans or use aluminum foil," but I didn't realize that I was getting aluminum every single day from antiperspirant. I thought, "I do want to wear something. How do I do it?" There was nothing out there that I really wanted to wear. That's when it started.
We just launched hand sanitizers because this was another thing during COVID that, I thought, a lot of them smell rancid, so we just launched Clementine, using our fruit from our drinks. That's really the consistent thread across all of these products is that we're able to thread it.
Now that we really have four categories, I think it really speaks to consumers are saying, "I get it now. I may not use her deodorant, but I..." I mean, people are obsessed with our sunscreen. I think they're going to be obsessed with the sanitizer. Again, I think the smell is really something across all categories that people... You want things to smell good!
Do you not have my address to send me this stuff?
I will send it to you, literally hot off the press. We're just getting it. I will, Guy, for sure. I'll send you a whole pack of it.
I think you've truly perfected the art of branding, and so I'd like your insights into the arts-
You are saying, like… we should end the interview right there. I mean, Guy Kawasaki is saying this to me. This is amazing.
I am not worthy. I am not worthy.
You absolutely are.
I want to hear how you built the Hint brand, and getting very specific, this audience has got to hear the story about being mentioned in the Hungry Girl blog versus Good Morning America, because that is a great story. Two questions, branding and Hungry Girl versus Good Morning America.
I think that the branding really goes back to when we were doing this product, and we're up against 2,000 beverage. That's how many competitors are out there in the beverage industry.
You think you have a lot in tech in different categories. The beverage industry is probably the most crowded industry out there. It's pretty nuts, and so people will look at the bottle, and they'd say, "What's it sweetened with?" I would say, "It's not sweet at all." Then I would share my story about why I actually developed the product and the company. People kept reciting that story I told you in Georgia. I thought, "If that's the way that we can educate people by telling them their why, giving our purpose for launching it."
I didn't launch it because I saw Vitamin Water on the shelf, and I wanted to do a competitive product. That was not my goal. My goal was that this wasn't out there. That's frankly how we've grown this product into being the largest non-alcoholic beverage in the U.S. that doesn't have a relationship with the big soda companies. We've done it in a way that really brings my why, and really think about the consumer.
Today, fifty-five percent of our business is direct to consumer. We're still very much in a lot of stores, and embrace that distribution, but I think that it's hard to stand out on the shelf. It's easier to do it through really touching with the consumer, and sharing exactly why they would want it, who they are. Are they like me? They are, right?
Many of them have kids. Many of them are working parents. Many of them just want to drink better tasting water. That really leads into the crux of the Hungry Girl story versus Good Morning America. Early on, I mean, we really, really thought that Diane Sawyer, who was retired now, but at the time, we thought, "Oh, she loves our products. She's going to just kill it and really be able to speak to it." When we were on this Hungry Girl, which I feel like that was the beginning where I really saw that kind of communities, and almost like... They didn't call them this back then, but these influencers, if she could say to her community, "You should really try this product," they would, right?
I thought, "Wow." It doesn't matter today if it's a giant brand that says it, or a smaller brand that has a community and the stickiness of that community. It's really what is the relationship that that person has developed with their community. I think it really spoke to... You talked about market research. I think it really speaks to why I've looked at audience numbers or impressions. I'm like, "Yeah." I don't know. I think it just depends on how active people are and how much trust you have with your community, and that's really that story. We sold lots more. The story was through with the Hungry Girl site.
It was at a time when it really was an ‘A-Ha’ moment for me.
Because I read your book, and I know you do this, I'm going to ask you this. What makes you unstoppable?
I think owning my failures, my insecurities, and pushing through. I think that... I say the first part first because I think that it's easy to say, "Oh, I'm just going to push through. I'm just going to get up every morning, and I'm going to do it." I think if you actually say to yourself, "Things are hard at times, but I'm going to go do this, and I'm going to figure out a way to do it," that's ultimately what makes people unstoppable.
Curiosity, I think is a great aspect of it as well. If you're always trying to learn and always trying to add that on to do, I think that's an important aspect. Tricky one.
What did I not ask you that I should have asked you?
Wow, that's a good question. Do you still love what you're doing? I think that the answer is ‘yes.’ It also leads into piece of advice, where I feel like don't do... It frustrates me when I see leaders not actually enjoying what they're doing, because I don't think that you're helping yourself. I don't think that you're helping your family if you have a family. I don't think you're helping your team either. I think that that's such an important piece that if you're enjoying yourself, then I think that your passion and ultimately your stickiness not only for your team but also for your consumers will show through.
I hope you enjoyed this episode with Kara Goldin, and learned what it takes to make a cold call, get your products into Whole Foods, stock shelves on the day of your C section, and in general, act undaunted. Look for her book, Undaunted, because it'll be out soon, or better yet, just pre-order it now. It's a valuable read for any entrepreneur and female entrepreneurs in particular.
My thanks to Kae Lim of Hint for helping me make this podcast possible. My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick for making this podcast sweet.
This episode of Remarkable People is brought to you by reMarkable - the paper tablet company.
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