117 How Hard Could This Be? Kara Goldin of hint® on Building a $1bn Unicorn
Kara Goldin broke her Diet Coke habit by putting fruit in her water. It was the ‘aha’ moment that lost her 50 unwanted pounds and she’s now on target for $1bn unicorn status. Kara is founder and CEO of hint®, a healthy lifestyle brand that produces unsweetened water. Melinda Wittstock talks to Goldin about what inspires and frustrates her as a female entrepreneur, and why the biggest obstacle to success are the walls we build ourselves
Melinda Wittstock: My guest today is Kara Goldin. She’s the founder and CEO of Hint Water. If you haven’t heard of Hint, go get some. I’ve been drinking her unsweetened, fruit flavored water for years. Then one day earlier this year, I met her in San Francisco at an event put on by my entrepreneur group, Maverick 1000. I was so inspired by her story of how she built this 100 million dollar and growing revenue business, a healthy lifestyle brand. We’ll get into the startup and scale story in a moment. Plus, her new product, a sunscreen spray that is free of cancer causing parabens, and oxybenzone.
Oh, and a couple of other things about Kara. She’s been named by ‘Fast Company’ as the most creative people in business, by Fortune as one of the most powerful women entrepreneurs, by Forbes as 40 women to watch over 40, and the Huffington Post listed her as one of the six disrupters in business alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. There’s so much more to say about Kara, but we’re going to get into all of it. First, welcome to WINGS Kara.
Kara Goldin: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s great to be talking to you, because I think you have so much wisdom and insight to share with all our shero listeners. So like many entrepreneurs out there, your business was built on an inspiration, and one born of a problem that you were encountering in your own life. Tell us about that problem and the ‘eureka’ moment that led to Hint.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. I basically was … It was a little while ago. It was almost 13 years ago now. I was trying to get off of my Diet Coke addiction; and really was looking at every day I would wake up and I would have Diet Coke. I would just keep drinking it throughout the day. I really felt like it was something that I needed. Sort of on a parallel path, I didn’t think that they were related. I had left AOL. I had a great career at AOL and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. I had had three kids at this point. I found that I had no energy. I was looking for a job. I had terrible adult acne. I had a lot of extra weight on me even after losing the baby weight that I had gained while I was pregnant. I was trying to get rid of these extra pounds.
Basically, I was working out. I was shopping at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, and thinking I was doing the right thing. Really found that getting healthy was super, super challenging. Even if I was cooking and watching the calorie intake, and all that kind of stuff, I found that the weight just really wasn’t coming off.
After seeing a number of different doctors who basically said, “We can help you by giving you medication to kick-start your metabolism, and get your hormones under control,” and all kinds of stuff like that, I thought, ‘I’m going to look at everything that I’m putting into body, that I’m eating and drinking, and try and find a way to see if any of those things, including my Diet Coke, was actually interrupting my ability to get healthy.’
When I got rid of the Diet Coke, primarily because I just didn’t understand the ingredients that was in this can that I was drinking every day and so many times throughout the day. I started to lose weight. After two and a half weeks of living this way with no diet coke, I went cold turkey. I didn’t go down to one or two a day. I was really … I just decided, ‘You know what? I’m just not going to have it at all and see what happens.’ After two and a half weeks, I lost over 20 pounds. My acne cleared up. My energy was back. I really was shocked because I had thought that something that was calling itself ‘diet’ was actually good for me, and healthy for me. I started really talking to my friends about this as well. Everybody couldn’t believe that I had just shifted what I was drinking every day from Diet Coke to plain water and that I was finding health.
I really felt foolish, frankly, that I thought here I am, an educated person who had been very successful in tech, and doing well, that all of a sudden, I’m like trying to get something under control, my own health. Basically had been fooled for so many years by the word ‘diet’ – living this way, and sort of having this conversation with so many of my friends over the next six months. At this point, I had lost over 50 pounds. I realized that we’ve been marketed … I had been marketed to, so many of my friends had been marketed to, where everybody thought that the word ‘diet’ and ‘low fat,’ ‘vitamin’ and lots of words really meant health. If you bought into buying products that claimed that, that you were ultimately going to get healthier, which could either mean losing weight or more energy, or maintaining weight or whatever…When the reality was that none of those things were guaranteed, or frankly, even a possibility.
I was drinking plain water for about a year and thinking like, ‘I’m so bored with plain water. There’s got to be a better way.’ One day, I started slicing up fruit that I had my kitchen and putting it in the water to … just for the taste. I went to my local Whole Foods in San Francisco and asked for a product that was bottled that just had flavor in it that didn’t have sweeteners in it, that didn’t have preservatives, that they were really made from real fruit extracts. I was shocked to hear that nothing like this was on the market in a still format. There were some products that were kind of pretending to sort of be this category and carbonated; carbonated flavored waters that didn’t have sweeteners in it. So many of them weren’t even using real fruit extracts to actually fruit flavor the products. Still today, that’s the case.
I really decided at that point, I mean frankly not even knowing if it was going to be a company, but I just thought it’d be super cool if I could launch a product that really helped not only myself get healthier, but also other people get healthier. I was doing it as a side project to looking for a job in tech. Then, I found that I was just so passionate about helping, like I said, myself and my family, and potentially other people, that I thought, ‘I can just go do this while I’m looking for something else.’ A couple years into really spending more of my time on this, because I was so passionate about it. I just decided I should actually create a company around that. That’s really how Hint started.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s amazing. It’s funny. It’s awesome. It’s an incredible story. It’s so interesting to me, too, how side projects become the passion project; where we’re really aligned with our true purpose or mission. How long did you take you from the moment of like, ‘Oh, this is a little side project before I go do something else in tech,’ before you thought, ‘Wow. No, this is it. This is giving me goose bumps in the back of my neck. This is what I’m meant to do.’
Kara Goldin: Well, the challenge for me was that I felt like I’d had a great career at AOL. I had launched their shopping and e-Commerce business early on, and was less than employee 100 at AOL, and had really built something that I was proud of. When I decided to leave AOL after it was a billion dollars in revenue, I was commuting on a crazy schedule to Virginia and New York, and traveling most of my time while having a young family. I really thought like, ‘I want to do something that really I’m passionate about.’
I kept telling friends, “I want to do something closer to home, that I’m not on a plane so much, that really makes a difference.” Initially, I thought and many of them thought, too, that I was going to do a non-profit. That initially … I should say, whenever anyone talks about making a difference, especially 12 years ago, it was really a non-profit. I kept looking at into different non-profits and thought, ‘Well, they’re interesting. They move slower than what I was used to seeing in the tech industry, where it was just very go out and try it. See if it works, and if it doesn’t work, then you go try something else, to try and see what else you could do to sort of break the model.’
I just really … While I was sort of living this way, and even starting this … not really realizing I was starting this company, this was really kind of going on for about a year. Then finally, when I got serious about it and thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to make … see if I can make a business out of this,’ and wrote my mini business plan to launch it, I found out that I was pregnant with my fourth child. At that point, I thought, ‘Okay, well, I want to be able to take some time when he’s born, and so, I need to like, write the business plan and get this launched,’ and so I did. While I had been thinking about it for a while and got some sort of additional prototypes done in my kitchen, I really wrote the business plan and actually got it to be a business, and launch it within six months; which is insane.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, yeah. Oh man, my first business, I launched that when I was pregnant. It took me long enough to get the capital together and to get my first clients, that did actually launch when my daughter, Sydney, was six weeks old. I remember people looking at me like I was crazy. Somehow, I’ve noticed in all the women that I’ve been interviewing, podcast and the book, that a lot of us do that. I don’t know whether it’s something about the female brain or something, where we can juggle stuff.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: We go out and we get stuff done.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Especially when we’re having kids, or have kids.
Kara Goldin: Well, it’s interesting because I felt like I had created a timeline for me that was serious. I thought, ‘I’m definitely going to take a little bit time off and spend some time with my new baby.’ I had younger kids as well, but I thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity for me to actually go and get as much done as possible.’ I had sort of soft committed to myself that I was going to get it launched; but I also thought if I didn’t get it launched, then I would just take a few months off and then start back up again. But boy, would it be really nice if we just went ahead and was able to actually get it off the ground. Then, I could … I don’t know, take a little bit of a rest for a couple of weeks. I mean I frankly had no idea what I was doing when I launched it.
Like I said when we were talking earlier, like I think it’s just … I always tell entrepreneurs that the key thing is, is to keep moving; because if you’re moving, then hopefully you’re learning. Even if it’s networking and talking to people about their experience, you’re learning along the way, right? The key thing is just to not stop and just to … whether it’s networking with people, or writing about your experience, and thinking through different issues, that that’s the key thing that I think most entrepreneurs really need to be doing.
Melinda Wittstock: What’s fascinating about this is that a lot of people look around the room and say, at an entrepreneurial event, and they look at all these other entrepreneurs and they think, ‘Wow, they all have it figured out.’ Nobody does.
Kara Goldin: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m so grateful.
Kara Goldin: It’s so true.
Melinda Wittstock: To you for saying that, because it’s all a hypothesis until it’s not. It’s a hypothesis all the way through, even to when you’re at the point of scaling. You have different challenges and different things to monitor control. When you think of the challenges, as I’m sure there were, as there are with all businesses along the way; with building with Hint, what were some of the biggest ones? How did you handle those? Where things were like: ‘Oh, man. I can’t believe that just happened,’ or like, ‘Oh my’ … those kind of heart stopping moments?
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Can you give us an example of one and how you got through it?
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No, definitely. Well, I think that the key thing is that I felt like I really … Like I said, I launched it into Whole Foods. I always make food and beverage entrepreneurs feel great because I said, like I really didn’t understand … I didn’t understand what I was doing, but I also didn’t understand what I had to overcome. I got it into Whole Foods, and then I remember there was a merchandiser there that was sort of enabling me to get it on the shelf.
He sort of said in passing, “By the way, you know, your shelf life really isn’t long enough for … to be a beverage company in Whole Foods. You at least need to have like three months unless you’re going to be coming in here on a daily basis to actually check on your product. I mean, if you’re, … you know, you’re not orange juice, for example. You’re going to be a product that is able to be on a warm shelf, and so you’ve got to be able to have a product that really is shelf stable.” I didn’t know how to actually create a shelf stable product.
I was definitely putting the cart before the horse, but I was confident that I was going to be able to figure that out along the way. I just didn’t really know how to do that. I think the challenge of … I mean I always say to people that I think our biggest challenge as entrepreneurs is often putting walls up in front of yourself, and trying to figure out, ‘Okay, how do I actually get around this wall or break this wall down?’ I’ve just always been a person that is all about, ‘Well, just break it.’ Sometimes I just don’t even allow enough time in my head to figure out, ‘Oh gosh, that’s going to be really hard. I guess I shouldn’t launch the product. I guess I should figure this stuff out before.’ I mean, don’t get me wrong. I knew that I had a product that was going to be safe for consumers. I was constantly … I had had it on my shelf at home. I knew that there wasn’t going to be botulism or anything like that.
Really the key problem with it was that the taste was not as good initially. I should say, the taste was better initially than when it was the longer it stayed on the shelf. It just like depending on the fruit that I was using, it either kind of dissipated or the flavor changed significantly. I only launched with those fruits where the taste wasn’t changing as much. Then, basically was just trying to figure out [inaudible 00:14:26]. Ultimately, I didn’t want to put any preservatives in my product. I actually ended up enlisting my husband into the process, who was not in the food and beverage industry, either. He was an intellectual property lawyer.
He had actually done some work as an attorney on … He was a young attorney at the time, but he had been involved in the whole Odwalla botulism scare that had been evolved. He had sort of read and seen some of the information that they had gone through the processes to actually change the product, and had pasteurized, ultimately, the orange juice in order to be able to still be able to sold on the shelf. Ultimately, that’s what we ended up doing, that we pasteurized our water products, which, in addition to creating this brand and creating an entirely new [inaudible 00:15:17] unsweetened flavored water, we were actually the first water company to actually pasteurize the product. That allowed us to get the shelf life. That was a big challenge, only because no one had done it before.
I always say to entrepreneurs, “If you’re doing something … If you can actually mimic what someone else is doing, that’s easy. It’s not necessarily innovative.” Whether it’s a category or whether it’s a process, … there were so many firsts that we did along the way. Really, in order to be able to have a company that grew, because when I asked any people that I was introduced to from the soda companies that were friends of friends, they were all saying you actually can’t get a shelf stable product without having some sort of preservatives in the product. No one mentioned that they could do a pasteurization process. I think it’s just … I really think that that was to my benefit that I didn’t grow up in the CPG industry, because if I had, then I might have thought the same way that they thought; where they’re …
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, there’s such a benefit to being an outsider.
Kara Goldin: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: Especially when you come at it without an attitude of like, ‘Oh, it’s always been done this way.’ Also like you were describing, that you … like, a wall. Like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get over that, around that, under it, or whatever.’ I’m curious about that is such a necessary characteristic, I think for an entrepreneur to have. In your view, like when you look back on your life, is that something that’s learned, or is that just innate; where you’re like that as a little girl? Like not accepting ‘no’ for an answer, and just taking things on, or was it something that you learned as you went through your career?
Kara Goldin: I think it was really helpful. It certainly wasn’t something that I would have said a kid, but I think it was helpful that I was the last of five kids. My parents were very busy. They were outnumbered for most of their life of parenting. By the time they came to me was really … A longer story, but my parents had me, which was really old back then, at age 40. My parents were not these spring chickens having kids. I had brothers and sisters who a couple of them were a little bit more on the wilder side than not.
I think by the time my parents got to me, they were always like, “Try and figure it out first, and then if you need help, come back to me.” I think that really helped me as an entrepreneur to think for myself, too, that it was … That ‘try and figure things out.’
As my dad used to tease when he’d say ‘No’ to me, I’d always say, “No means maybe.”
Or, he’d say about me, “No means maybe, maybe means yes.” He would always be very careful before … He’d say, “If Kara really wants to do something, then she’s going to keep trying to find an angle,” whether it was ask my mom or keep asking a different way. I think that that’s definitely worked to my benefit, to be able to sort of be a kid that really tried to figure things out. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Were you entrepreneurial as a kid? Did you have the proverbial lemonade stand, or some sort of business, or were you organizing things? How did that all manifest as a kid?
Kara Goldin: I think that the key thing for me, I was in gymnastics through high school, and always was doing some sort of sport. I ran a lot as a kid. I was constantly doing something that kept me busy. I think in terms of entrepreneur, I feel like I was always doing the Kool-Aid stands, and things that I felt like I could …
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, Kool-Aid. Oh man.
Kara Goldin: Right. I could do-
Melinda Wittstock: That’s the [inaudible 00:19:10].
Kara Goldin: Right, do some stuff like that. I feel like I actually had a brother, my oldest brother who’s 15 years older than me. He is an attorney now. It’s funny: he would come home for his summer breaks from college and from law school. He would paint houses. He would ask me … He would tell me all about how he was going to paint houses, or he also had a side project that he actually redid Volkswagens. He would tell me all about, like he bought this certain Volkswagen for so much money, and then he was going to fix it up. Then, he’d have it repainted and resell it. He would explain all the points along the way in doing that.
I always tell people, his goal wasn’t to be a house painter or be an auto mechanic. His goal was really to make money in order to pay for law school, and be able to do that so that he didn’t work while he was in school. I really feel like just watching him along the way, I learned quite a bit about being an entrepreneur. It’s funny, because he’s not an entrepreneur. He’s a lawyer today, but I think it really helped me, that process of watching him go through that was incredibly healthy for me to be able to figure out how to actually get the stuff done in order to be an entrepreneur. I feel like that’s something that is great entrepreneurs are able to not get caught up in sort of large strategy.
Instead, they’re like, “Okay, can I take little steps to sort of break this down and get stuff accomplished in order to make something happen, and have small wins along the way?” Every entrepreneur that I’ve ever talked to has really … that’s been the reason why they’ve been able to be successful. They don’t … Rome wasn’t built in a day. Most entrepreneurs’ minds, it’s really, “Okay. Well, I got this point, and then I got to this point.” They set small goals and then they’re able to celebrate what they’ve accomplished along the way. Sooner or later, they end up getting closer and closer to what their ultimate goal is.
Melinda Wittstock: I think that is so true. It’s funny what you were saying earlier about your brother, because I was going to ask you about who your role models were; and particularly whether there were any women that you looked up to. Any kind of SuperSheros, I guess, in your life, as you were growing up?
Kara Goldin: Yeah. My mom actually decided when I went back … when I went back to school, when I went to kindergarten, my mom decided that she had always been … She was an art history major and had done some very entrepreneurial things, actually. She developed a course inside the Public School system where I grew up and where she actually taught all of … She went around to the local schools and taught a program of five key artists.
Still to this day, people have said to me, “Your mom was the one that actually taught me how to recognize a Picasso, how to recognize Monet.” It’s interesting because she really created a visual prompt for people to understand what those artists, what a Chagall is, what those artists really represented, and why they did that. While she loved doing that, she basically felt like it wasn’t something that ultimately she knew how to actually make a business out of. She thought: ‘What I’m really, really passionate about,’ which surprised her, ‘was fashion.’
She decided … She was always very well dressed and always went out the door, and never went out in sweatpants. She was always loved clothing, but she just decided, ‘What I’d really like to do is go and work in retail.’ She loved the idea of getting a discount in retail. Pretty soon, she worked actually in a department in Scottsdale until she was 80, because she just loved being around people and working with them to find their style. It’s funny, she really became what I … What’s termed today as kind of the original personal shopper, where clothing would come in, she would actually help people … that she knew who would be interested in those specific designers, et cetera. She would call them and tell them that the newest collection came in, and she could put things aside.
I admired her because in her 40s, at 45, she decided that she was going to go do something that she was really passionate about and that she could actually change course. She didn’t totally give up what she was doing around art. She always had a passion for art, but then she went and did something else. She sort of reinvented herself and what she was going to do. I think that she was kind of the first person.
Then actually, my dad interestingly enough, really decided to do something … solve a problem for himself. After my mom decided to go back to work, my dad suddenly … my mom wasn’t home by dinner time every night. My dad had to either cook his own meals and figure out how to do that, because that wasn’t something that he had done his entire life, or, he had to buy the prepared meals; which at the time, was Stauffer’s cheesy dinners, which he sort of famously coined as ‘mystery meat.’ He wasn’t going to do that. He was working at ConAgra at the time. He decided that instead of actually buying these prepared meals, he would develop his own line, which was called ‘Healthy Choice,’ which was the number one prepared meal line for ConAgra and still is today one of the number one products that ConAgra sells. Yeah, so my dad developed that.
Melinda Wittstock: I know Healthy Choice. Your dad did that, that’s awesome.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so I see. There’s a lot … like in thinking, when we look at our parents and what we get from them, there are so many … little clues like that. At a certain point in your life, I mean a little bit older, and all of these … I don’t know. It’s like going back and connecting the dots, it all starts to seem to make sense. Do you have a sense of that in your life as well?
Kara Goldin: Yeah. It’s funny. I mean I look back on it, and I look at how my dad kind of became an entrepreneur within a larger company. Yet, I, as I mentioned, I watched my brother who was … didn’t view himself as an entrepreneur, but sort of did what he needed to do in order to save money over the summer.
I always asked my dad, “Why don’t you go out and sort of start your own company?” Because I watched my dad never make over $100,000 a year even though he had developed this amazing line for a large company! I just thought … It just didn’t make sense that he wasn’t going and doing this. Ultimately, … another piece of the story that I also watched my dad working for a large company in the 80s; that there was a whole period of time where if you didn’t have an MBA, you were … in big trouble, as a business person. My dad in the 80s was laid off from ConAgra because he didn’t have a master’s degree in business. Even though he had developed this amazing line for this large company-
Melinda Wittstock: That’s heartbreaking.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: It really is. It makes you think, ‘Right, that’s it”: ‘I’m going to be in control of my destiny,’ which of course, you are.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. I think like all of these pieces … I mean he ended up being laid off for I think 18 months.
Then, actually his relationships with his suppliers for Healthy Choice ultimately, they banded together and basically said to ConAgra, we are not actually going to sell you guys shrimp and some of the other things that went into the meals unless you hire Bill [Keenan 00:27:33] back into,” my dad, “into the company.” It taught me a lot about … and ultimately, he was hired back in and spent the last five years until he retired back in the company. It really was … I was watching from afar as a child of a father who had been laid off for not having a business degree. I thought that just doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. It was unexpected.
I watched the power of suppliers and the relationships, and sort of how that helped my dad. Then, I also watched how my brother was going to make money while my parents couldn’t help him to … get through law school. As much as they would have wanted to, it was at a time when they just didn’t have the money to do it. My brother knew that he had to go and do it. I had all of those people around me who were really kind of following an entrepreneurial spirit. Many, in the case of my mom, really finding her passion. Or, taking steps, in the case of my brother, to do what he needed to do in order to get to his passion, law.
I thought those were all learning experiences that make me the person who I am today.
Melinda Wittstock: That is so interesting. I mean, I think there are two things. One is just the delighting your vendors or suppliers, your customers, and that loyalty that I think the really successful businesses [model 00:29:05] that, and seeing your dad demonstrate that, like the loyalty of the suppliers to get him reinstated, is a beautiful illustration of that point. Which you make your customers, you have great relationships, magic happens.
Kara Goldin: 100%.
Melinda Wittstock: The other one.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so true. If you create value, value will follow. I’m also like captivated by the idea of your mom at 45 reinventing herself; because I look around me now and I see so many women in their 40s and even 50s who worked in corporate America, or they hit the glass ceiling, or maybe they took time off and they had kids. Then, or they compromised. They lived a life of “should’s”, ‘I should do this,’ ‘I should be that,’ ‘I should be that,’ that separated them from their passion. Now, a little bit later in life, come into entrepreneurship or at least come into this kind of gig economy where you are much more in charge of your own destiny. You are your own boss. All those women who are reinventing at a later stage in life! It’s fascinating and wonderful to watch. Do you have any advice for women of that age group, in terms of how they come into entrepreneurship … because when we think of entrepreneurship, all too often it’s like a dude in a hoodie with running shoes!
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Not a woman in her late 40s or 50s.
Kara Goldin: Well, I think that the key thing that people are starting to see, especially if they’ve worked in a company or doing something for a long time, is that it’s okay. It’s scary to go and do it, but there’s enough examples of people who are going out and loving what they do. I speak on this topic all the time, and trying to help people figure out … For me, it was really I never hated my job.
I never got to that point when I was at AOL, where I was just like, “Oh my god. I hate this. I can’t do this anymore.” I feel like really fortunate that that was the case. That’s not the case for everybody. I feel like don’t allow yourself to get to that point, because then I think it’s almost hard. It’s like you’re getting out of a hole and trying to figure out what you want to do every day that gets you excited. I can’t say that being an entrepreneur is easy. I think that the benefit is really that, especially if you’re a founder in a company. It’s your own. I can’t say it’s any easier than being an attorney and working 90 hours a week; but you don’t feel like you’re just working for a paycheck. You instead feel like you’re hopefully doing something that you’re really interested in, and that you’re going to make a difference in some way.
I think it’s really the challenge is just really figuring out what is that thing? What do you want to do that you can really want to get up every day and want to go out the door, and really talk about how interested you are. Frankly, that doesn’t have to be something that is a for profit business. There are many people who do that around non-profit, which I think is great, too. I think what I’m seeing more and more today is that especially with women that they see that there’s a problem that’s out there.
They’re like, “Oh, I wish that there was this thing that actually solved that problem.” You see it with Sara Blakely with Spanx. You see it with me with a beverage that I didn’t want a product with sweeteners in it. You see products that are whatever in your kids’ lives, and that you’ve seen that, ‘Gosh, I wish that there was something that just did this.’ If you see a problem that you really think that you can go fix, and you can figure out how to actually develop it and get it on the market. Or also, if you’ve had years of experience working in the corporate world, but you’re not that excited about it, you actually see something that is doing the problem that you wanted to solve, and you want to join them; there’s nothing wrong with that, either. I think that that’s really … I mean we have a number of people who have done that with our company, where they may not be the person that is going to develop a product, but they found Hint and they knew they loved it. They felt really passionate about it.
They just decided, “Oh, I’m going to go join that company, because every day, they’re helping people get closer and closer to drinking water, and that’s really cool.” Some of those people may go start their own company after they leave Hint, which would be great. Others are just really excited to join an effort that they believe in.
Melinda Wittstock: One of the things that is, I think so uplifting is this mix that you see more and more of, in, I guess you could call them conscious capitalism, or more like evolved enterprise business models where entrepreneurs are doing social good but linking passion and purpose to profit. That these things are not antithetical! I know you talked about maybe you’d do a non-profit, but more and more, those business models and perhaps driven by Millenials, are succeeding more than the traditional ones. Is that something that you’ve noticed? We see it even in the …
My company [Verifeed 00:34:12], we analyzed all these millions of social conversations. We see that brands and businesses that walk their talk on mission and social good purpose are actually outperforming those that don’t have that as an aspect of what they do. I wonder, it’s my hypothesis anyway that women are very uniquely suited for the way this is changing. What do you think about that?
Kara Goldin: So describe that a little bit more. How do you see that as … I want to make sure that I answer the question right.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. No, I guess it’s been called, in some cases, conscious capitalism, or in others, evolved enterprise. A lot of business models that do well by doing good. Whether it’s actually part of their business model, or they’re just much more conscious about it could manifest as clean supply chain, diversity on the board, or it could be like a buy one, give one, or solving, like as you were saying, a specific societal problem using entrepreneurial tactics or an entrepreneurial mindset; and that you can make a lot of money and do good at the same time.
I just happened to have noticed when we analyze all these social conversations in my business, that we see that not only ran to businesses that talking in a really authentic way, but also the ones that are walking their talk, in alignment of mission, purpose, social good, seemed to have a lot more traction than those that don’t.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, I mean just going back to sort of what I’ve seen. I feel like women are … I just feel like women see problems that they actually feel like they can solve, which I think is just a … I mean, I’ve never seen any sort of scientific explanation about this, but I feel like women just see problems differently. They look at a problem, and they analyze it, and then they say … Even in sort of talking to my friends over the years, just like, ‘Yeah, I just wish it was that way.’
I feel like particularly with female entrepreneurs, that it’s not just about recognizing it’s a problem. It’s about recognizing how do you solve that problem? So many of those things I think are really, … Today, they’re called social entrepreneurism or conscious capitalism, or … It’s really about finding … It’s really about the solving problems aspect of it. Like I said before, it could be in a non-profit. It could be in a profit. It could be a service. It could be a product.
At the end of the day, I think more and more people are saying, “I want to get up in the morning and solve a problem, versus actually just like … really just getting a paycheck.” That’s something that I think more and more people are figuring out, that it’s just possible to do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Last year, you launched the Kara Network. It’s a digital resource and mentoring platform for aspiring and also established entrepreneurs. I love the give forward of this whole effort. What are some of the biggest needs and challenges you see entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs, who are in your network? What are they looking for? What do they need the most?
Kara Goldin: I think that the biggest thing that I see is that people are creating their own … so often, people are creating their own walls. You definitely have environments where people are working in where … whether you call it glass ceilings, or walls, or whatever, where people are running into challenges. I so often run into people that I know, either from my kids’ schools, or people I’ve worked with in the past, or whatever, … who, when I meet with them and discuss what they’re going to do next, or why they haven’t done something, it’s fascinating to me because they’ll say things like, ‘Well, I haven’t worked in years.’ Or, ‘I’m a lawyer and I can’t do something else.’ They’re the ones that are constantly putting up their own walls. I have this theory that often times, the biggest challenge is yourself and really continuing to say something to yourself about why you can’t do something.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, getting out of our own way and all those [crosstalk 00:38:26] limiting beliefs wherever they come from, our friends, our family, society, all of it.
Kara Goldin: Exactly. Unfortunately, what that sets up, as I always remind people is that if you go and tell your husband or your kids, or your … mother, or whoever it is, people that you really confide in that you can’t do something, you’ve now set up your whole network to believe that you can’t do something. Every time they see you, they’re not going to be able to … They won’t consciously do that, but they won’t really be able to be your advocate for being able to just go do stuff.
Melinda Wittstock: Will they say things to you like, “Are you okay?”
Kara Goldin: Exactly, right. It’s the worst thing in the whole world, because you have basically set up your network to believe that you can’t. I always tell people that instead of actually articulating to all kinds of people around you that you can’t do it. Instead, why don’t you question yourself why you believe that? Then, set up five people who you think have actually been in a similar situation to you to … and who have actually gone and done it. Why do you think that they’re better than you? So often, people can’t actually do that. They get sort of lost in being able to actually solve that problem.
I always tell people, “So instead of focusing on that, just go do it. Just go figure it out.” That’s the number one thing that I think people really, really gets them off of the ground. I think it’s questioning your own beliefs, which frankly, as we talked about before in starting Hint, I believed … or I know that I believed a lot of things, including the word ‘diet’ and ‘low fat,’ and all these things were one thing. When I actually figured out that the more you tell yourself that things are … the way that they are, the more you’re likely to believe it. You have to constantly go back and question those things to figure out whether or not things that you’ve been taught, whether it’s about yourself or whether it’s about a product, or whatever; whether or not they’re things that you should really hold on to as beliefs.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, here’s another assumption that you challenged: this idea of sunscreen preventing cancer. Then, tell me about the discovery that you had that’s led to this new Hint products.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, so very similar story to Hint the water. I went through a scary time a few years ago where I had a pre-cancer dry patch on my nose that I had to have removed. I don’t have a lot of fat on my nose. I had a conversation with my dermatologist, which was if this continues to grow back, … it grew back a couple of times.
She said to me, “If it continues to grow back, then you’re going to need to see a plastic surgeon,” and really, really freaked me out. I started wearing sunscreen religiously. Finally, ended up, after buying lots of sunscreen from my local CVS, which is where most sunscreens, most people buy sunscreens from your Walgreens, or CVS, or Duane Reade, or whatever. I bought the most expensive sunscreen there: that was Neutrogena. Then, I found that my pre-cancer kept growing back on my nose.
I started digging into really understanding ingredients in sunscreen and found some information around an ingredient that is in 95% of our sunscreens called ‘oxybenzone.’ Oxybenzone was approved by the FDA in 1976, after the Center for Disease Control had said that it may actually exasperate pre-cancer cells under the skin. I saw in my own life that pre-cancer…that I didn’t know that I had pre-cancer cells living underneath my skin. Every time I was putting on sunscreen, it could actually be exasperating those pre-cancer cells to grow.
I finally look for a sunscreen without oxybenzone in it, and it wasn’t easy. I found a sunscreen at my local dermatology office called ‘Elta,’ which didn’t have oxybenzone in it. It was really expensive. It was almost $50 a bottle. I thought even if you’re doing Botox and spending lots of other money inside of your dermatology office, like $50 for a bottle of sunscreen is pricey. I thought that is not going to be a mainstream product for anybody who really wants to put sunscreen on.
Finally, I decided one day, ‘Gosh, not only would I like to have a sunscreen that doesn’t have oxybenzone and parabens in it, but I’d also like it to smell better.’ I took some of our essences from our water, our fruit that we’re using to actually provide taste for the water, and I put it in the sunscreen. Suddenly, I had amazing sunscreen that smelled like grapefruit, or pear, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really what I’m looking for in a sunscreen.’ It creates this great situation where it smells great, and it feels great. Little did I know, I had to go through FDA process of getting it approved? All sunscreens have to be approved, and because I was actually using real fruit extract, it took a little bit longer. There had to be shelf life testing, et cetera.
A couple of years later, we got the approval for sunscreen. Then, we launched it online, and now it’s going into Target in January of this year. We’re hoping to get some other big distribution announced in the next few weeks as well. We’re really excited. It’s now in a few of the Four Seasons hotels in Scottsdale, as well as Hualalai. Then, a bunch of dermatology offices throughout the Bay area, and some hotels up in Napa, the wine country area. Very, very exciting!
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic. Congratulations on that.
Kara Goldin: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: I know that you are a super busy lady and we’re running out of time. I just wanted to ask you, final question about your moon shot. Where do you think Hint is going to be? What’s your vision of it in the next five, ten years? What is your wildest dream success?
Kara Goldin: My goal has always been to create a product that really solved a problem around health, which is I believe, since starting Hint, we’ve actually made people more aware of not just the amount of sugar and sweeteners they’re putting into their body; but overall, not just what they’re putting into their body around beverages, but everything else. Clean eating, good stuff, no preservatives, et cetera. We launched the sunscreen to really prove that it’s not just about what you’re putting into your body. It’s also what you’re putting on your body. We’ll be coming out with some other personal care items in the next few months.
Our hope next year is also to come out with some products around the home that really help people to understand that health is not just about working out, or eating, or drinking diet. It’s really about everything that interacts with you on a daily basis. My goal has really been to create awareness around this, and we’ve done it by creating great products that people can consume or use every day, and help people to get healthier. My overall goal is really to expand that company and ultimately to help the consumer really get healthy, and get the best health that they can possibly get.
Melinda Wittstock: So inspiring.
Kara Goldin: Thank you so much.
Melinda Wittstock: Kara, I want to thank you for putting on your wings and flying with all of us today. So inspiring.
Kara Goldin: Thank you so much. It’s been really, really great to be here. I’m very, very excited to see where you guys are with this as well. It’s very, very exciting.
Melinda Wittstock: Thank you. Kara Goldin from hint water.