Curious, compassionate and determined, Kara Goldin launched a 30-million-dollar beverage company from the comfort of her own kitchen. Hint, the naturally flavored water, is more than an entrepreneurial endeavor — it’s an effort to solve a national health concern.
As a wife, mom, health enthusiast and business owner, we sat down with Kara at the “Success Makers Workshop” to hear how she managed to get out of her own way and her product onto the shelves.
Teresa Miller Archer: Tell me about the moment you thought about Hint, then how you progressed into forming your company.
Kara Goldin: I was running AOL’s E-Commerce team since day one, for almost seven years at that point, and then I took a couple of years off. I have four kids. I really wanted to do something that made a difference.
While I was doing that, I was also trying to get healthy. I had some extra weight on me and for the first time in my life I had terrible adult acne. I went to a bunch of different doctors who were like, “Your hormones have changed, your metabolism’s changed, you’ve had babies too close to one another.” All this stuff that sort of made no sense to me, and I think I was probably pre-diabetic.
Almost thirteen, fourteen years ago now, 2% of the population had type 2 diabetes and now over 40% of the population has type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. I really felt like that was probably the reason why I was getting this acne too. My system just wasn’t working properly, so I decided that I would try to change the food and drinks I was eating and try to read labels.
I was having a really tough time with it and finally [with] the Diet Coke that I was drinking, I just decided, “I don’t even understand what I’m drinking.” I threw it in the garbage and thought, I’ve really gotta make a change. Frankly, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stop. Those next two weeks were horrible but finally, I kicked the [soda] habit and I started drinking water.
But plain water was just boring, so I started slicing up fruits and throwing it in water and friends of mine were saying, “Gosh, you should go start this as a business.” I took it to Whole Foods in San Francisco and all of a sudden, Whole Foods took it in nationwide.
I just kept selling it, never really believing that it was a business. We self-financed the business for the first two years and it just kept growing. I always call myself an accidental entrepreneur because I really didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to solve this problem for myself and I thought if people paid more attention to what they were putting in their bodies, then we wouldn’t be talking about a national healthcare system.
I always call myself an accidental entrepreneur because I really didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to solve this problem …
We just launched a sunscreen, saying if people knew what they were putting on their skin then they would actually be able to be healthier, but right now like there are so many games that these consumer products companies play with consumers. I’m sort of a consumer advocate for “we should all know.” We’re based in San Francisco, so we got it in to Google very early and we’re now the number one beverage in Silicon Valley to tech firms. Our mission has been to help consumers take the sweet down in their diet, because we believe if they can make that one tiny step, they’ll see significant changes.
TA: In your journey, is there a major surprise or issue that you hit that you found the most difficult in terms of being a female entrepreneur, pushing your business through or even a mentality that you found you had to overcome in order to succeed?
KG: I’m writing a book about this now, but I found in my journey that I always put walls in front of myself. I thought, “Okay, I can’t do that.” So I would figure out, “How do I push through?”
Sometimes I had to go around it. Sometimes I had to go under it. But I always had this mindset of no matter what, I have to just get through it. I would hear people say for example, “Women can’t raise money” or “You can’t have four kids and work,” or “You can’t work with your husband.” Nothing really phases me anymore, because if you let that “can’t” get in front of you, you’ll never be able to do it.
Let all the naysayers energize you. Listen to these people that say you can’t do things and recognize it, but then push forward.
TA: In general, if you could incept women with one thought or replace one thought with another thought, what would it be?
KG: I think we get in our own way oftentimes. Apparently there is a number of athletes that are now female CEOs of companies and I think that’s the thing that you’re trained as a young athlete to do. Everything’s hard and you’ve got to figure out a way around it. You’ve just got to figure it out.