18 Apr How to Turn an Idea into a Multi-Million Dollar Business
How to turn an idea into a multi-million dollar business? This is a question that everyone who has an idea asks. However, rarely do people find its answer. Therefore, to answer this question in the best possible way, we had our talk today.
In this week’s Manufacturing Ecommerce Success Series, our guest speaker was Kara Goldin. Kara is the Founder and CEO of Hint. Inc. Hint produces unsweetened and flavored water. Hint has grown from a kitchen table idea to 9 figure company with a distinct brand.
The conversation started with Curt asking Kara about her past and how she got to this point. Kara shared some details about her father who was the founder of Healthy Food Choices back in the 80s. She told how her dad started his company and how this opportunity shaped her too.
Later into the conversation, Kara shared her experience at America Online. She said that she moved to San Francisco with her husband for a change and 26 years later, they are still there. Moreover, Kara said that she joined America Online only because she liked what they did.
Therefore, she joined the company. Further, into the conversation, Kara shared her journey on how to turn an idea into a multi-million dollar business. She said that when she had her kids and was taking a break from work, she faced a few health issues.
Moreover, she said that she had adult acne and had also put on weight. This is when she started keeping a check on her diet and actually started putting fruits into water. According to Kara, this simple technique helped her lose weight and even her acne went away.
This is when she got the idea of Hint water. Moreover, she started her research on this idea. Adding to the conversation about how to turn an idea into a multi-million dollar business, Kara said that you need a lot of hard work.
She said that when she first started a new category of beverage, she said that she thought it was easy to start a new category because there was no competition. But soon she realized that for a new category you need to teach people a lot. This is what makes it harder according to Kara.
By the end of the conversation, Kara shared a few tips on how to turn an idea into a multi-million dollar business. The conversation ended with Curt and Damon thanking the guest for her presence.
Kara is the Founder and CEO of Hint. Inc. Hint is best known for its award-winning water Hint®. This water is unsweetened flavored water. Before this Kara was the VP of Electronic Commerce and Shopping at America Online and was also a part of CNN’s Sales Team.
Kara was also the Circulation Sales Manager at Times Magazine. Among the numerous awards and achievements that Kara has, some are incessantly noteworthy.
Kara was named one of InStyle’s Badass 50, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, Fortune’s Most Innovative Women in Food & Drink, and EY Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California.
Apart from this, Kara is also the host of her own Podcast The Kara Goldin Show.
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How to Turn an Idea into a Multi-Million Dollar Business
thought, people, called, book, starbucks, conagra, company, hint, whole foods, product, dad, story, started, pandemic, customers, buy, kids, healthy, day, figure
Kara Goldin, Damon Pistulka, Curt Anderson
Damon Pistulka 00:00
All right, everyone, Welcome once again to the manufacturing ecommerce Success Series. I’m Damon Pistulka, one of your hosts along with me, we’ve got Kurt Anderson, the other partner in crime and host and I am so happy today to announce who will be our speaker, but I’m gonna let Kurt do it.
Curt Anderson 00:20
So everyone, let’s go. Let’s go, Damon. Thank you, man. I’m like I’m starstruck right now. So if I get a little choked up, I got Kleenex here if I you know, I’m over 50 now, so if I get a little choked up, just bear with me. So guys, so Kurt Anderson, Damon is my host with the most. Thank you, Damon for all you do. Damon is a growth and exit strategy specialist at exit your way. Kurt Anderson here.
And again, what an absolute honor to introduce our guests who really needs no introduction. But it’s Kara golden, the founder and CEO of hint water. We have so much to cover today. We have so much that we’re going to talk about she’s in e commerce pioneer. Kara, welcome. Thank you What we know how busy you are. Thank you so much for taking time to join us today.
Kara Goldin 01:05
Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
Curt Anderson 01:07
Absolutely. So. So we’re going to go through a little timeline. And so as you can tell, I have my little hint, trying my carrier strain, if you will. So what I want to start with care. So we’re gonna go back in time a little bit, but we I hate to tell everybody, so I know I look much, much older. But we went to college around the same time. So I love the journey that you went on. And you wanted to kick off your career at Fortune Magazine, if I believe does that Does that ring about?
I said, Karen never found herself actually working at fortune but get this guy’s 2011 she was let’s see, I want to cover a couple things here she was the 10 voted, are considered not considered you earned the 10 most powerful women entrepreneurs, you were then unfortunate magazine, most innovative women in food and drink. And you’re the prestigious, Most Powerful Women in Business Award. So how amazing is that here? You wanted to work for Fortune, and then just knock down all these great awards? What an honor.
Kara Goldin 02:07
Yeah, I remember when we started hint in 2005. And I’ll never forget being in the fortune offices. And you know, it sort of felt like home because that’s what that was my first job in that building at times. I didn’t get a job at Fortune magazine. I got a job at Time Magazine, but I was sitting down with some writers. And one of the editors walked in and she wanted to meet me.
She said I love him. It’s great. So tell me a little bit about did you start off at coke? And I said no, I actually started in this building. And she said, Wait, what? And I said yeah, I in fact, I want him to be a writer here at fortune. So I’m sort of, you know, a little star struck because you’re actually writing a story about you know, my brand that I built and and you guys would never hire me and she said come on like wait, you got to tell me the story.
And so I tell her the story about you know how I wanted to get a job at fortune I was a journalism major and I marched into the building and and i that her name is Patty Sellars, and she runs the most powerful women entrepreneurs and she was dying she just couldn’t believe the story and you know to this day, I mean we’re friends and she just cracks up she said you know this is this is an entrepreneur and the making she said this is somebody who just keeps going and you know doesn’t stop so it’s funny story.
Curt Anderson 03:33
Well, I you know what nets a perfect tie in so we’re not going to go I’m gonna go I’m gonna go way back. So I want to talk about your dad for a second. So guys, so how I know I know a little bit about Carol she has she’s written this amazing, incredible book called undaunted, I’m telling it is a game changer. It’s a wall street bestseller. I strongly encourage everybody grab that book.
It’s undaunted, how I stumbled on curiosity. I’ve been a hint fan for years. We’ll talk about that. But I caught you on an Entrepreneur on Fire podcast, and then you and I connected on LinkedIn. And anytime, you know, I think most of us here are probably LinkedIn connections one way or another. You know, anybody that doubts the power of LinkedIn, here we are together, but let me just share a quote.
This is probably my favorite quote in your book I want to share, being undaunted is understanding what your fears are deciding when it’s important to face up to them, preparing yourself to confront them and working through them. I want to go back to your dad, what I just I love the story that you share in your dad if you don’t mind me sharing. So your dad actually was a food pioneer back in the 80s and was founded I think, was an innovator of healthy choice foods. Was that correct?
Kara Goldin 04:41
Yeah, he was he was he was, you know, I call him a frustrated entrepreneur. Because he was he developed that brand within some large companies. I mean, it’s it’s interesting to think back on it he worked initially for armour food company and And the original Healthy Choice brand, it was called dinner classics. And so he incubated that in our kitchen. Actually, it’s funny story I mean with with Julia Child was, you know, coming over to my house and all I remember my mom had just gone back to work, follow her dreams of being in fashion, which she was an art history major.
She wasn’t even, you know, my dad just kind of scratched his head. He said, so you’re gonna go be in fashion now. And and she said, yeah. And I mean, he just said, okay, you know, he just let her you know, she’s, she’s gonna go and follow her dreams and do what she wants. But I think my dad was most concerned because the sort of dinner of the quick dinner of the hour was stuffers, TV dinners. And I don’t know if any of you remember those. I don’t even know if they’re still around.
But he just thought that they were so awful. And most people today, if maybe the person that they thought was going to, you know, cook them dinner every night was not going to be around, most people would learn to cook. But my dad instead was, you know, trying to figure out the best TV dinner. And so my mom said, You work for a food company, you should just go and develop a dinner.
And so yeah, so that was the backstory and unhealthy choice that he went into armour food company. And he said, I want to develop this anyway. It’s interesting, because that story. I didn’t know what I was going through at the time. But I watched not only a an acquisition happen, you know, I was very early in my life where armour food company was acquired by conagra. There was kind of a shake up there.
And my dad survived that shake up and was incredibly loyal to conagra. I mean, still to this day, healthy choices, one of the number one products, it’s crazy to think that, you know, he developed it way back when and, and actually in the 80s, he lost his job for not having an MBA, and I share this with, you know, college students all the time, that for anybody who’s sort of lived through the 80s.
I mean, it was, you know, they just went through the roster. It didn’t matter what you did, if you didn’t have an MBA, you were axed. I mean, I I share that story. Still, with my kids. They’re like, wait, what I mean, people don’t even have to go to college. or something, you know, as long as they’re successful. But back then, that’s what happened. And anyway, he was laid off. And that’s while I was in high school.
And you know, we all tightened our belts, I was the youngest of five kids. And I kept saying to my dad, you know, you’re really creative, you should just go develop your own company, and and he said, I’m in my 50s. I can’t just go start a company. I mean, how could I do that? And anyway, he, what’s fascinating is he ultimately ended up getting his job back at conagra. He agreed we were living in Scottsdale, Arizona, he conagra reached out to him because they said, Listen, some of our suppliers won’t actually sell to us, because they were the shrimp fishermen off the coast of Georgia.
And they had heard that my dad, you know, lost his job because he didn’t have an MBA and they said, none of us have an MBA. So why are you buying our shrimp? And so they wouldn’t sell them shrimp. And so they So ultimately, my dad ended up getting his job back because of his relationships with his suppliers. And so many learnings. I mean, along the way, again, I’m just this little kid watching saying, dad, when are you going to get a job? You know, looking back on that time, you know, again, super, super incredible lessons from there.
So anyway, he ended up getting got his job back actually moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where conagra was based for a couple of years, and then sort of, you know, lived out the rest of his journey at conagra. But it was such an interesting story. And one too, I think of not only of large companies of, you know, how he fought to actually innovate within a large company, how, you know, like, he was incredibly loyal. I mean, and it just, it kind of didn’t matter, right, that there were points along the way that he really, you know, that he couldn’t do anything about it. I guess he could have gone back and gone to business school.
But what I think the big lesson that I’ve learned from that and what I share with people is that and I think many Jen’s ears and and millennials know it today. You know, companies don’t have a lot of loyalty with employees, right? They want you to deliver. And so with that in mind, you know, you should go out and do what makes you happy. What you think you can add value to and it’s an important lesson
Curt Anderson 10:04
what man What a powerful story and when you looked at like your career of and we’re going to get into it right now how you started big corporate and then kind of fit is almost like a we’re going to get ahead break guys ready? Cheers alone with a little cherry right now
Kara Goldin 10:19
it’s nice owning a water company right you’re really hydrated.
Curt Anderson 10:24
I just I was wrapping up a strawberry Kiwi and so then I jumped into cherry so but you know look at like hint is kind of the rebel if you will of like the anti corporate. And we’re gonna dig into that. But let’s I want to talk. I want to take another step on your dad there. Okay. Yeah, so two things I absolutely love. Your dad would always say to you, you know care of you goes to you maybe always means yes. No means maybe maybe means yes. And it’s a great theme throughout the book about how relentless you are, how undaunted title the book, unstoppable, but another thing that really sang to me with your father.
So Kara graduated from college was wrapping up college and you go deep, and like great stories on like, you’re going different parts of country trying to figure out what you want to do with your career. And at that age, what a pivotal point with for all of us, you know, really sets the tone of, you know, meeting a significant other, your career, so on and so forth. You go to New York, your dream was fortune, you end up landing a potential job at time. You come back and you say, Dad, I’m not sure if I should take the job. What What advice Did your father tell you?
Kara Goldin 11:30
Well, I, my dad always looked at at life, when you’re trying to look at risk, actually figure out, if it doesn’t go the way you want it to go? What’s it going to cost you? And what does that dollar amount mean to you, because he would say that that means different things to different people and and you know, from my father, there, it the most important thing for him was actually to be able to put food on the table and have for five kids and you know, have, you know, a roof over your head.
And but he said for you, you know, you got to figure out how much money is left on your lease how much you know, as a plane ticket back to Phoenix from New York City. And he said, you know, you just have to figure it out, you’ve got some credit left on your, on your Visa card. And, and so, like, figure that out, and that’s what your risk is, and so stop, you know, putting walls up in front of yourself and figuring and getting scared about it, you know, you just at the end of the day, that is what your risk is.
And that is really, really important advice. I think what’s so interesting, you know, just kind of the journey and also one of the reasons why I wanted to write this book is, I mean, while my dad was, you know, incredibly wise, he didn’t know how wise he was every there’s just so many people along the way that have said stuff that I’ve just been a sponge, you know, in picking that stuff up. But, but anyway, that that one in particular with my dad just forced me to kind of go out there and, and just go take a chance.
And, and it was scary. It was incredibly scary. I mean, one of the stories I talked about in the book, but a friend who lived with me in New York at the time said I cannot even believe you know, the stuff that happened to you out there. The first day that I was trying to find the subway in New York City, I had never, I didn’t get out, you know, past Arizona much. And I get to New York and I’m trying to find the subway and somebody died right in front of the apartment that I was staying in.
And you know, this police officers just taken away the body and there’s a spray painting. I mean, I’m in my bright green, you know, suit from Arizona thinking I’m you know, first day of work, and all this happens to me and, and people said didn’t Weren’t you scared? Didn’t you at that point, say I’m going to go home? And I said, No. I mean, it couldn’t happen again. I mean, it was so horrible. Right? How could I be and it didn’t, right. I mean, it was just it was an awful situation. But it was just like one more point along the journey, that I you know, it’s just, it’s crazy.
So, but yeah, I mean, I think that’s an important point to learn. And I think it’s, it’s a point at any single age. You know, any where you are along the way is figure out what is the worst that can happen. And it’s an important thing. And sometimes that’s really scary to look at too. But it you know, whether you value it on, on money, or time or whatever it is, I mean, even during the pandemic, I had many people say to me, you know, I’m thinking about I live in San Francisco, we’re just outside of San Francisco and Marin County, and many people say, you know, I think I might leave, and I think I might go to Montana or wherever. And I said you should go.
Because I think like that’s the thing that if you’ve got this bug where you think like I might want to go I said you can always go back, right? I mean, it’s just I think you just figure out what is the risk, and then a lot of people will actually go take that risk, and then others won’t, for whatever reason, maybe it was just a bad idea. But if nothing else, just go, it’s your journey.
Curt Anderson 15:12
With that just phenomenal and how many, you know, we know not to get into a parent thing. But sometimes parents are like, Oh, you shouldn’t do that. Or you think the reasons not to, or we put walls up or, you know, prevent those risks, and just brilliant, brilliant advice, where your dad just simply says, What’s the worst that can happen. And I see my dear friend, Jeffrey Stern, the CEO of voice expresses on our call today, he was an upper west sider during that same timeframe, so he can relate to your story.
So let’s, let’s Um, so what an inspiration with your dad, you go off to time, have a great career, great start to your career there, you end up at this little tiny startup called CNN. And so that was a interesting. So again, guys, I can’t tell you everything in a book, you got to read the book. But I want to jump into our program manufacturing e commerce success, we have a true e commerce pioneer.
So you know what, serendipity or whatever you want to call it. So you go to Manhattan, you meet your significant other Theo, and you guys decide to build your life, you cross you come to the other side of the country, and start in e commerce. And can you talk a little bit about how that journey started in e commerce America Online, and you built a powerhouse? Can you share a little bit about that?
Kara Goldin 16:24
Yeah, so we, so I was at CNN and in New York. And then when I, when my husband was graduating from law school from NYU, he really wanted to do technology law. And everybody, you know, he was interviewing with all these firms in New York City’s from New York, and everybody said, Go West, like for a couple of years, this is 1994. And everyone said, Go West, you can come back to New York, it’s just not really happening here.
And so we went to San Francisco engaged and thought we were just going to be there for a couple years. 26 years later, we’re still we’re still there. And but you know, it’s interesting when he got a job with a firm and San Francisco, and I had, I had kind of heard about this guy, Steve Jobs. And I was, I actually had a Macintosh when I was in college, I saved my pennies. I was sort of, you know, starstruck by the design and the elements of, you know, the Macintosh. And, and, and when I, I sort of associated Apple with Silicon Valley, and even back then, and I remember thinking, there’s no way I can get a job with Apple and actually get in and, you know, work for Steve.
But I was, actually I was talking about this yesterday, back in, you know, 1994, for those of you who were trying to research anything, I had access because of my fiance to this thing called LexisNexis, which was kind of the pre, you know, dating the Google, like, you couldn’t really search very easily for stuff and but I would go on LexisNexis and look up these companies. And so that’s what I was doing. And I stumbled upon this little startup that was called to market. And it had spun out it was a Steve Jobs idea it had spun out of apple.
I figured it was it was an apple, but it was kind of close. And it was, you know, five guys who had worked for Steve that at Apple. And so I saw that it was in San Mateo, California, I thought, well, I think that’s in Northern California, it’s probably pretty close to San Francisco. I didn’t know anybody I didn’t really know the area that well, but I thought I have a car I can I can go down there if they’ll actually meet with me. And so I picked up the phone and cold called and. And it was that what they were doing was basically taking graphics and putting it on a disk.
And this was Steve’s, you know, brilliance of when speeds of computers were just not really, you know, what, certainly not what they are today, but what the dream was. So you couldn’t put graphics on. I mean, talking about freezing on computers, you know, today, it’s like, forget it. I mean, it was just, you couldn’t load anything on there. But instead, this idea of put the graphics on a disk and load it in to the computer. So Apple didn’t want to invest in it anymore. So these guys spun it out.
And this company called America Online, invested in this company and so I was just intrigued by it. I had no experience but I’ll never forget when I picked up the phone and cold call these guys, I said you know I I don’t know what I would do here but I just am really really intrigued and I’m a big catalog shopper and I get what you’re talking about and what the issues are and, and one of the guys said to me, he said so you’ve worked for CNN, you know Ted Turner and these visionary people, these brands, these big brands that are out there.
And he said, Do you think you can contribute to what we’re doing? And I think back on that a lot, because I think it was something where neither of my previous jobs anyone had ever asked me can you contribute? And I? I said, Yeah, I think I can I really think that I have ideas, and I think I can help in some way. And so that’s when they said, Okay, well, you’ve got a job and, and we’re giving you an offer.
And I remember that they gave me a contract, I’d never had a contract prior to moving to Silicon Valley. And in the contract, I handed it to, you know, my, my new lawyer husband, and he said, Gosh, there’s something called equity in here. They’re giving you equity in the company. And I said, I knew what equity was, but I said, Oh, well, I mean, is that bad? Or he said, No, no, it’s, it’s really good. I don’t know if it’ll be worth anything. And anyway, the net of it is, is we were acquired by America Online about a year later.
And I was handed this button in the acquisition called shopping, and, and asked to just go build it. I didn’t even have revenue targets that first, you know, year, I mean, no one actually thought it was going to happen and all kinds of stories, they’re actually stories that got cut from the book, including my story with Jeff Bezos. And, you know, it’s just I mean, it was, it was crazy, the stories that we went through in the 90s, that you, you know, truly can’t even make up, I beat it. It’s just, it’s nuts.
So that was a, you know, that was really kind of the beginnings of, of what, you know, what we see today as DTC and so many things. But the important thing about it, I think, that I share with so many people is that we, you know, we didn’t know, like we didn’t, we didn’t know where the puzzle ended, right. We always believe that it didn’t end, we kept adding on to what else we could do, some of it was based on technology. And some of it was based on just what other people were doing and other industries, which, frankly, was just so different.
And so you need to when I ultimately decided to start, you know, a beverage company, it was just such a different mindset and thinking I go back to, you know, my technology days, as you know, not only today are we over 50% of our business is direct to consumer, but just that thinking in the mindset of everything from Can you contribute, to build a brand to, you know, let’s just keep adding on we’re never really done. All of those kind of aspects, I think are really things that I learned, you know, from to market, and then ultimately at AOL.
Curt Anderson 22:51
Yeah. And so basically from zero, and for those of us that have been around for a while, we remember those early 90 days a fort 14.4 modem dial up and how clunky it was. And, you know, there was no Google there was, you know, we were years away from YouTube. We’re years away from Facebook, let alone anything going on today. So I mean, it was really primitive, primitive times in compared to now you built up, you took America, your your shopping section of America Online, you took from zero to a billion landed bunch of great brands, and then it just then kind of dissipated, or you started to decide to start a family and it just kind of went away?
Kara Goldin 23:29
Well, first of all, I had an incredible team. I mean, I had over 200 people who were working on this business as well. But you know, I think it’s interesting when I, when I decided to leave it was it was a billion dollars in revenue. And clearly, looking back, I had been through a hockey stick situation where the company just grew like crazy. And I think I probably was saying things like, you know, I’m kind of bored, things are different, you know, all these things that you say, when you’ve been through this hyper growth.
Thankfully, it wasn’t, you know, a freefall, where the company was just, you know, tanking. But I really, I had three kids under the age of four, back in San Francisco, the United Airlines pilots knew my name who were flying from San Francisco to Dulles. And, you know, it’s just, I just thought, What am I doing? And, you know, it’s funny, I say this often, often to parents, and, you know, people who are trying to figure out if they want a family, I think that so many people were saying to me, I mean, this was another set of doubters that they’d say, you know, don’t take too much time off work.
Because I was taking a couple I said, I’m going to take a little time off and spend time with my family, because it was important to me and people said, you know, aren’t you worried that you’ll never get a job again? And I kept thinking, well, if I did a great job before, can I get another job? I mean, right, I was I had more people concerned about me. And you know, about the timing and how much time I would be taking off. And, and again, I, I think that it’s it’s something, it’s a lesson of nobody really knows, right people people think like,
Oh, you know, you can’t take off three months, six months a year, whatever it is, at the end of the day, if you’ve done a great job, then I believe you can actually get a job anytime, right? It’s just it. It’s really about, you know, being able to articulate yourself and share your story and really contribute more than anything else. So yeah, that was that was a crazy story. But, but yeah, I mean, I think it was also a story of, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do technology. I mean, I liked technology. But here I was, suddenly, I was considered a tech executive.
And, you know, in Silicon Valley, and I thought, Wait, I thought I was a journalist, I thought I was, you know, why is everybody putting me in this box around technology. And again, I enjoyed technology. But it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t sort of that that wasn’t my only thing that I knew how to do in life. And I think for me, that’s when I really got interested in health I got interested in, in health for myself, but also for my family. And I started reading labels, and, you know, really kind of becoming passionate about this.
I don’t think I was actually, I mean, I always lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, and, and was an athlete and, you know, paid attention to what I was putting in my body. I thought that diet soda was actually healthy. I mean, little did I know until later when I really started paying attention. That did that sort of change. But I think that, that that’s that’s just a story of everyone’s got their journey, right?
And everybody’s got their things that they’re super passionate about. And sometimes those passions can also change. And maybe everybody listening here has thought about that, you know, even if you think back 10 years, did you care about certain things that you do today?
And maybe there were pivotal points along the way that changed that nobody can answer those questions. But you and and I’m a huge believer now that all of these things along the way, even, you know, working at time, and then CNN and what I learned about culture, not that it was good or bad, but there were pieces that were just different, right, and everybody’s got those pieces that they put into their own story right along the way. And that’s what makes you who you are today.
Curt Anderson 27:40
Right? Absolutely. What I have So, so net, I love how you said pivotal. I mean, that’s such a pivotal time, right there from that transition from America Online, to what your kitchen table and you know, the problem that you solve, but you had, you know, lots of connections on and Silicon Valley, you know, still the early early times of internet, e commerce, you could have gone to Google there are other places you could go and you decide to you know, in your book, you can run or you talk about your diet coke addiction, right?
And, you know, it’s very common where you were, you know, you talk about the entrepreneur, or not you intentionally but people talk about that, that entrepreneur that solves the problem, you know, but there’s plenty of people that solve a problem for themselves, but it’s another type of person that can really take it to market. Okay, so Okay, so now let’s dig right in the head.
Okay, so our crowd is manufacturers ecommerce. I’ve got my little I want to be a manufacturer when I grew up t shirt for you today. So you know, Who would have ever thought when you start when you planted in the New York City that you would be made in USA, you know, women business owner, manufacturer, e commerce, you know, you cover all the checkmarks that kind of what we preach every every week here.
So let’s dig right into your at your kitchen table. You decided to drop this little Diet Coke addiction that you talked about in your book, and you’re like, you know what, I’m going to switch the water, but it’s just boring to death. What do I do? How did that transition go? And I want to go right into like, the day you started and said I’m going to I’m launching it.
Kara Goldin 29:12
Yeah, so quickly. My my backstory was, you know, I’m, I’ve taken a break from I’m having a bunch of kids and you know, reading labels trying to figure out how to, you know, be a good mom and good parent. And then I you know, one day looked in the mirror and realized I had developed terrible adult acne. My energy levels were a lot lower than they had ever been in my life. I didn’t really have an excuse for taking a nap every single day. Yeah, because I wasn’t working really I mean, I’m parenting but I wasn’t going into an office every single day.
And I had gained a bunch of weight of where I was excellent at gaining weight over the all of my pregnancies. I was terrible at losing the weight and I couldn’t figure it out. So I thought now I’ve got a break from you. No working, I’m going to, I’m going to do that before I go back into, into my job. And so I was dieting, I looked at a lot of different diets and counting calories. And then and reading labels thinking, Okay, I’m gonna focus and I’m gonna figure this out, and nothing was working. And so then one day, I was drinking my diet coke.
And I thought, this is exactly, you know, what I would cancel in food based on the ingredients, I just didn’t understand the ingredients. And so I thought, I’m going to not drink Diet Coke anymore, I’m going to put it to the side and see what happens. And so I did that. And I started, you know, getting thirsty. And I started drinking water. And I thought, you know, this is actually okay. Except, it’s, it really is not that engaging, right?
It doesn’t taste that great. I want, you know, different tastes and, and something and so I started slicing up fruit and throwing it in the water. And two and a half weeks after just making this change, I lost over 20 pounds, my skin cleared up, my energy levels went went significantly higher. And then I just became so curious, right, like, why did that happen? Because I’m drinking diet, diet soda, Diet Coke, in particular. And I thought, you know, that just I don’t know, that’s sort of counter to what I thought at the time diet drinks were 10 calories. They weren’t zero calories. And so it’s it was, yeah, I mean, it was really kind of shocking to me and so many levels as well.
But that’s when I thought every single day I’m getting up. And I’m kind of thinking and focusing on that, versus I wasn’t even thinking about the tech stuff. And and anytime you can find something that you’re really passionate about what you’re really curious about, I think, and you can figure out how do I make a job out of it? I mean, it’s not like work that right? It’s just something you’re just trying to solve this puzzle, in many ways. So that was the backstory on it. And you know, and I kept asking around, I would ask anyone that was in the food and beverage industry, you know, how did you get started?
How did you find, you know, information about diet sweeteners? And then, you know, a lot of times people wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have the right experience, right, that they would say, Oh, you have a lot of really interesting questions. But did you work at Pepsi before? And I said, No, never done that. I’ve, you know, been in tech, I’ve been in journalism. And but you know, people kind of cancel you at that point. Because they think, Oh, you know, not only that, but also the fact that I had, you know, three kids, like they’re thinking, I’m not gonna waste my time with this person on a lot of levels. And so that, I mean, that was me.
And so the only way I could really figure it out was to immerse myself in it and started going into grocery stores. I would bother anybody who looked official. Right. And, and, you know, and I would, I would like pray that they that the store owners wouldn’t like kick me out of the store, right?
I would just sit there and you know, ask anyone if they look like they were stocking shelves, and you know, the cereal aisle, I would say, Excuse me, I’m interested in getting a drink on the shelf. just annoying as can be. And I just didn’t care because I just wasn’t that I always thought I can go back to tech if I want to. But it’s just it was entertaining to me. And and interesting and educational on many levels.
Curt Anderson 33:46
Right? That and guys and again, you guys you have to get the book it is your you’re just dying. You’re reading laughing out loud is like is your tone of story. I’m just rehashing your stories. And they’re just absolutely hysterical. I’m just pitching you, you know, in Whole Foods, just like running up the people on the counter, you know, at the counter is like, Hey, what do you know, asking all these questions? So it’s just hysterical.
So let’s talk about your your four children. So we have Mr. Caitlin Keck. Kennan, my saying that correct? Yeah, Tina. Yeah. And Justin. So what I want to share so the day that you decided to launch hint, you also had news for Theo that you’re expecting your fourth. Can you talk a little bit about how how did that go down with with Theo that day?
Kara Goldin 34:31
Yeah, so I was. So basically, I was sharing with them that I had decided that we were going to launch, I was going to launch this this beverage company. And, you know, he knew I was really interested in it. And I had been kind of thinking about it. And, and, you know, he didn’t think it was the best idea I’d ever come up with. He was, you know, very straightforward about that. He had actually left his role. He was at Netscape, another tech company. was one of their first intellectual property attorneys.
And that’s when, you know, he was he had actually gone to a startup. And he was sort of, you know, finishing up that startup and, and so I said, Listen, I’m going to start this company, and it’s going to help people drink water, and it has fruit in it. And the name of the company is wah wah. And so he said, you know, the intellectual property attorney and him said, don’t call it Wah, wah. And again, I had grown up on the west coast. So I hadn’t, you know, had the experience for those of you who are not familiar, there’s this store on the East Coast called Wawa. And it’s very, like
Curt Anderson 35:40
real quick, I’m sorry, the tree so from Philadelphia is cracking up because that’s where that’s the home of wah wah. Right. Exactly. But
Kara Goldin 35:47
again, I’m the Arizona girl, I had no idea about law when I’m, here’s this new yorker who was very familiar with Wawa and he said, No, don’t don’t do that don’t do wha wha. And so as I was, you know, thinking about other ideas for for a product, that’s what I said to him, I said, Well, here’s some other names and hint came up along and that, and then, you know, at that point, he wasn’t my favorite person, probably at that on that day, because I thought he just, you know, poo pooed my idea for a name of my company, and I’d been, you know, up all night thinking about what I was going to call it.
And so I just decided there was no better time to share with them that I was pregnant with our fourth child, Justin. And so, you know, he walked out of the room, I wasn’t sure if he was actually coming back in the room. But this point, because when we launched hint, for kids under the age of six, I was not the profile of an entrepreneur that should be able to go and do this in an industry, you know, that I knew nothing about. And he said, so. So, you know, to share with me when you think you’re going to actually launch this, this not wah wah company, let’s, you know, figure out exactly what do you think it’s going to be called. And I said, Well, I’m, my, our baby is going to be born in about six months.
And so that should give us enough time to kind of get the product on the shelf. And, you know, he’s just shaking his head and walking out of the room and cracking and cracking up but not really cracking up because I shared with them, you know, I thought it was a good idea to actually let them know that we were taking $50,000 out of our bank account, or I was because I, you know, was needed to buy caps and bottles and all these things. And I didn’t want them to think that I was going to the Bahamas on a girls trip or something. And, you know, he was arguing with me about taking the money out.
I’ve had a lot of audiences asked me about that I’d made some money and at AOL, and he wasn’t arguing about it. But he just he really didn’t think it was the best idea. Because it was just it was he sort of knew enough to be scared, right and fear it. But I said, Listen, I really want to do something that I think can. It’s not really I never saw this company. As a I mean, yes, we are a beverage company. But for me, it was about turning the industry around and getting people to health.
And and I saw so much in the industry that was healthy perception versus healthy reality, this whole concept of diet drinks again, disappear. You know, I suddenly seen the light around the fact that diet didn’t mean health. It never I’ve been drinking for years thinking that I was doing the right thing. And I was like, What is wrong with this industry. But I was so far ahead. And what I didn’t know until we ultimately launched the company. I mean, I knew I was launching a product, I knew I was launching a new, you know, company, but I share this with entrepreneurs all the time that when you see that you’re the only one in the market.
And you’re like you think, oh, there’s nobody doing this. It’s great. I realized two months into this that, that, you know, that’s great for about a minute, because we were launching a new category. And no matter what industry you’re in, when you don’t see it in the market, and you’re launching a new category, there’s a huge amount of education that goes on with that. And, you know, speaking about our friend, Allison Levine, it’s just you know, I think launching a category is like climbing Everest right?
launching a company is like climbing a mountain. But launching a new category is like climbing Everest and there’s a couple of different types of entrepreneurs, you can see something in the marketplace or multiple brands in the marketplace that are in your category and you’re going to do a better version of that. But when you’re doing an entirely new thing that is not on the market, then whatever time you think it’s going to take to get going? Double it, triple it, right? Because you’ve got to educate that consumer.
You’ve got to educate the gatekeeper. In this case, it was the store buyers who, you know, when I went to them ultimately and said, hey, I’ve got an unsweetened flavored water, they’d say, Have you tried vitamin water? And I’m like, they didn’t even have a diet version of vitamin water at the time. I said, Oh, Vitamin Water has sugar in it. And they’d say, Yeah, but it’s healthy. It has vitamins, and it has water in it. And I’d say, No, no, no, no, no. So we’re, I’m doing water with fruit, and no sweeteners. And they’d say, well, what’s wrong with diet sweeteners, and, you know, and so you, you have to educate people, and they have to try your product.
And, and you have to educate the gatekeepers and, and so there were so many hurdles along the way, but I didn’t care. Because what I saw in front of me was a concept and an idea that if I could actually get it off the ground, I could help people get healthier. And that to this day, is my driving force. I mean, there were not even companies, we didn’t even talk about mission driven or purpose driven companies when I launched this almost 16 years ago now. But that’s what I was doing the whole time. I mean, I, you know, the beverage was the tool to really help people. And I think that anytime you’re launching a company, in any industry that can help people.
That is just that is so powerful, right? But it’s staying alive. Yeah. I mean, that’s the key thing. And right, it’s having enough money, having enough, you know, capital, having people that really want to be a part of, you know, your adventure. And I mean, that’s a whole other chapter along the way. And, but, but yeah, I mean, that’s, it’s, it’s a crazy story. And you know, that we ultimately got it into Whole Foods. And and, you know, I think that was the original question that you asked me when we got it into Whole Foods.
I knew I was having a plan C section for my fourth at two o’clock in the afternoon. And I woke up, my husband said, What do you want to do today, thinking we were gonna go to brunch or go on a nice walk before delivering our fourth child that I said, I want to go and see if we can get it into Whole Foods. And because I have a pallet of water, and in my garage that was delivered yesterday, and it’s taking up a parking space. And he said, that is not what I thought you were going to say at all. And I said, Okay, I need to go to Whole Foods. And he said, You’re not going to lift any cases of water, you’re gonna have a baby this afternoon.
And anyway, so he was nice enough to like, get a dolly and bring 10 cases, and we went to Whole Foods together. And, and that’s when I saw the guy that I had been, you know, bothering for months. And, and I hadn’t seen him in a couple of months. And he saw me and the first thing out of his mouth was I said, Hi, do you remember me? And he said, You are so pregnant? And I said, Yeah, I’m very pregnant. He said, Are you going to deliver the baby right here in the store? And I said, I hope not. I mean, I’m actually having a plan C section at 2pm.
And he said, uh, so what’s a Plan C section? And I said, like a Plan C section versus a emergency c section. I’ve had both so I can answer any questions. And so my husband, my poor husband, went started backing up into the fruit and vegetable Island, you know, in, in whole foods in San Francisco thinking, Oh, my god, she’s going there right now she’s going to actually tell the guy what a Plan C section is. And so he went and took a tour around the school, the store and that’s what I said, I after 15 minutes, he said, You know, I thank you so much. I’ve always wondered, you know, kind of what c sections were I’ve heard about it.
But you know, my mom and I never talked about that stuff. I don’t have any sisters. And you know, and Theo said, so, like, are you going to put her product on the shelf for what exactly is happening right now? And I said, Yeah, that’d be a great idea, too. But I left the store not even knowing whether or not he was going to do it. But I mean, I think that’s a story of all along the way. You will meet people and educating people and building relationships are ultimately what help you and you don’t really know how they’re going to help you right but you know, people buy from people they like,
Curt Anderson 44:41
but if you don’t mind me sharing in the book you I’m glad you brought this up because the guy calls you so you deliver Justin. Hey, yeah. The next day the gentleman calls the house or calls. I don’t maybe feel cell phone or call somehow and feels like hey, the guy from Whole Foods is on the phone and you’re recovering the next day. And you’re like, hello. And he’s like, hey, the water is gone. And you’re like, what do you mean the water is gone? No, we sold it. And like you’re thinking like somebody walked off with that. But the guy said, he sold 10 cases in a day while you’re in the hospital. I absolutely love, love that story.
And our friend, we have a comment in the chat. Our friend IRA Bowman, ever has eight children. He says, I’ve been great at gaining sympathy weight during my wife’s pregnancy. So he’s got it for eight times. So So I have a great reason to drink him wider. So it’s not only for moms, it’s for dads as well. But Kara, what I’d love to dig into is a couple of things. Number one, we in your book, you make it crystal clear multiple times great themes throughout the book, never referred to you as Sweetie, is that and then what I’d love to do, and then I want to dig into your your Starbucks experience.
But can you share with everybody the folks on? You know, because when you read the book, but you do a great job with an entrepreneurial journey of those tipping points, plenty of times, like you said, We’re like, we could throw in a towel. And I’ll go back to Google, you know, join a towel, or go back to tack or do whatever, but you just kept on you were undaunted, and kept plowing through, tell us to the sweetie story from the Coca Cola executive.
Kara Goldin 46:14
Yeah, so it was about a year and two having camped out there, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area. And we were getting traction, but I there was just so much I didn’t know and I was, you know, relentless. I was I was tired, right? Like for kids under the age of six, I, you know, I had help, but and I had enlisted my husband at this point to help me do deliveries, but it was really just us, you know, and it was, it was a lot and I was getting calls and to get recruited into pretty great roles. And I just thought, I don’t know, I’m not really passionate about that. But I’m just I’m about to throw in the towel. I can’t figure out how to produce a product that has a proper shelf life that whole foods and other markets need. And I’m so tired of talking to buyers and trying to
she froze for a second,
Kara Goldin 47:09
my dad, how do I get our product into Safeway? And he’s like, I have no idea like, you know, being an in conagra, for example, you know, they they negotiated the space for them. So he wasn’t even, he didn’t he didn’t understand like, how did they get slotting done exactly that was done by somebody else. And so I recognized all the hurdles that were coming with scaling. And and also, you know, every day, I would feel like I would have these wins. And then suddenly, there would be something else on my list to go and do like it was just never not for the stores like okay, well you’ve reached, you know, three months shelf life.
And now what you really need is six months and like they kept moving the peanut further along. And it’s so irritating and frustrating on a lot of levels. So I was sharing this with a friend of mine. And she said, You know, I, I sat next to this guy on an airplane from very senior level at Coca Cola, and you should talk to him because maybe he could like produce your product. Maybe they could put it on the trucks and sounded great, right? He’s got, you know, multi billion dollar company years of experience and exactly the person that I want to meet. And I remember being so prepared for it was a call it wasn’t an in person meeting.
And after about 15 minutes of describing exactly, you know, what we had accomplished and lots of, you know, traction and our tiny little footprint in San Francisco, but it was really, you know, this unsweetened flavored water market was here to stay and coming from personal experience. I’ve given up the Diet Coke, and now I’m, you know, this is where this is the next trend.
And he interrupted me and said, sweetie, Americans love sweet this product is going anywhere. And I was like, Whoa, like what, sweetie? I’m thinking, huh? Okay. So many people. I’ve shared that story with people over the years and they’ve said, Why didn’t you say excuse me or hang up the phone on them or watching people
Curt Anderson 49:10
cringe on zoom right now? They’re like, it’s like, needle off the record player. Right?
Kara Goldin 49:14
Yeah, no. And I mean, I remember sharing this with with my dad and he’s like, if you weren’t sitting across the table from and that really probably wouldn’t have ended well, like he would have seen your face or so I was just in shock. And then I and then I just listened for the next 45 minutes why he believed that people didn’t want unsweetened flavored water. And again, the diet industry 16 years ago was you know, they were at 10 calories for drinks. They weren’t at zero calories yet.
So he went on to say, you know, the real thing is, is that we have to get to zero calories eventually because the consumer wants sweeter things. They just want to see zero. And I and so I just kept thinking but what if it doesn’t work? What if it doesn’t make you healthy. And I think that the big thing that I saw that, you know, really I look at that time and tech that it kind of enabled me to, to think a little bit more about this was, we had put a customer on our bottles from day one, we had put an 800 number and an email on our bottle, which was not what people were doing in the beverage industry 16 years ago. And so we had done it, because that’s what everybody did in tech.
And, you know, don’t tell anybody if they reached out on the email or the customer service number, but the customer service person was me. And so from day one, I started getting these phone calls from customers, you know, saying, Hey, I just had your product at Whole Foods, and you know, super, it really helps me drink water, I started hearing about this new disease that I had never heard about before called type two diabetes. And it was probably two to, you know, 2% of the population had type two diabetes or pre diabetes, my roommate from college actually still does work for the Center for Disease Control.
And I reached out to her and I said, What is type two diabetes like as compared to type one diabetes. And she was saying that the interesting thing about type two diabetes was that it was very small, but that the people who were claiming to be getting type two versus type one, which you know, you’re born with type one, you’re acquiring type two, and they’re really still not exactly sure what is causing this over time, but they claim to be drinking and eating diet and low fat, and really trying to, you know, to live this healthy lifestyle.
And yet the and yet, they hadn’t really figured out exactly what was going on. But I was hearing it from the customers that they were looking to try and eliminate and figure it out on their own. And, and so you know, and by the way, today, type two diabetes is 40 to 45% of the population has type two diabetes or pre diabetes. And the same is still true, where people are claiming that, you know, they’re trying, they’re, you know, eating healthier things.
And it’s still not working. And And anyway, it’s just it’s a whole crazy thing. And so, while this guy at Coca Cola was sharing that it needs to get down to zero, and they want to make diet sweeteners that are sweeter, I kept thinking about these customers, who frankly, were like me just trying to get healthier. And I thought the decks are so stacked against the average consumer that’s just trying to get healthy. And this guy, this industry, like guru running billion dollar company, he is not on the same mission or the same page as me.
And so when I finally hung up the phone, and it was, you know, a great conversation, it was fine. I thought I have a choice. I either quit, which I think he thought I was going to, or I put the gas on because he doesn’t get it. And this is just an It was my job to continue to help. And I really, you know, to this day, I mean, I think that the having that relationship, and it was so small back then. And like I said, part of the you know, the biggest reason that we’ve done direct to consumer is to have that relationship with the customer.
When you know, I I opened my eyes and saw it like so much just by remembering my conversations that I had had with this customers saying you’re helping me, right, they didn’t know me just throw a bottle of water there. They’re saying to me, you know, you’re really helping and I thought so that gave me energy that gave me energy, even when, you know, these these large companies are and, you know, people running large and large initiatives were they were not on the same page. And so that’s what I did. And I you know, just keep moving forward.
Curt Anderson 54:08
That is awesome. And I want to be mindful of your time. I know, I know. We’re coming into where I’m good, though. And so from from from my family to yours, thank you for being undaunted and plowing through. If you have another minute or two, I would do it your the the Starbucks story and again, I’m sure to throw out a bunch of things your book guys, you have to buy the book, but the you make a comment about how you would tell people Hey, we’re having a dialogue with McDonald’s and Starbucks. Theo would would chime in and say, hey Kara, it’s more of a monologue. It’s not really really a dialogue again, like it
Kara Goldin 54:42
still happens. By the way. I know I still talk about my dialogues and your I could
Curt Anderson 54:48
just hear the two of you like going at it but I just I love your sense of humor and your book. It just really resonates. It’s just it’s a wonderful business book. But I’m not a coffee drinker, but I would meet people in Starbucks back in the day. Not being a coffee drinker, I would love walking to Starbucks and I would get a bottle of I think it was. I think it was blackberry if I’m not mistaken.
Kara Goldin 55:07
Yeah, it was the Blackberry.
Curt Anderson 55:08
And I’m like, I actually man, like, there’s actually a drink that I don’t drink soda. I don’t drink coffee. And I don’t like plain water. somebody out there solved my problem. It was on Starbucks, but then also that wasn’t on Starbucks. Can you tell everybody what happened there?
Kara Goldin 55:21
Yeah. So we, we got into Starbucks. And you know, if there’s a people always talk to me about what what were the points along the way and and, you know, building cans that you remember, were like pivotal points and celebrations and hard times. And Starbucks hits all of those, right?
It was a we got into Starbucks, it was they just the BlackBerry hand, and I remember thinking, you know, we were really smart about it, we we not only I really pressed Starbucks for what is success to you guys, they didn’t, you know, sometimes you, you get in and and you don’t even ask, right, you’re like, Okay, we’re in and you know, but I said I don’t want to go in, unless I actually know what successes and so finally got a number out of them.
And it was one and a half bottles per store per day, we were supposed to launch in a few 100 stores, then they called us back and they said, you know, 11,000 stores and and so we were off to the races, it took us about six months to kind of achieve success with them. And then every single day, I looked at that number, and I saw it growing. And after about a year and a half, we were doing three times what success was for them. And I was feeling so cocky and confident about my Starbucks numbers.
I like, you know, had a little mini celebration every single day, because of what was going on at Starbucks, we get an email from the new buyer at Starbucks. And she said, Hey, can we set up a call? I’m thinking Sure, like, it’s, uh, you know, let’s all send a bottle of champagne. I mean, everything’s great at Starbucks. And she said, I have some bad news for you. And I even said, It can’t be that bad. I mean, I’m, you know, let’s all be a little positive this morning. I’m doing, you know, three times the amount. And she said, unfortunately, we’re changing strategy directive from the CEOs office.
And we are, we’re eliminating him from the case. And I said, what, what do you mean, you can’t do that? She said, No, we actually can do that. And I said, No, I have millions of dollars worth the product that is sitting in my warehouse right now. I’ve just blackberry hint. So you can’t do that. And it’s gonna go bad. And I said, When are you guys thinking that you would like to do this? And she said, next week, and I said, next week, I mean, you can’t do that. I have all this product. I gotta go back to my investors. I got I mean, this is this is crazy. And she said, I’m, I’m really sorry. And click. And I just thought, like, I don’t cry very often. But I cried.
On that day, I thought I was, I remember shaking at that conversation, thinking, Oh, my gosh, we have probably, you know, 10 people in the company at this point. It was, you know, it was a bad day. And then when I resurfaced after a couple of days, I, you know, I thought, so the good news about Starbucks, if there is any good news, I’m always trying to look for the good is that they exposed us to so many doors throughout the, you know, there’s a Starbucks in every corner, right? And so there were, we were in areas that we would have never had the money to go and get distribution, we didn’t have people etc.
So Starbucks was the only place that you could find us. And so that was the good part. But I still didn’t know what to do with the inventory. And so we ended up, you know, trying to still figure it out. I was trying to figure out, like, how do I find those customers? How do I let them know, Starbucks would not give us of course, the register data, even if they had the names or the emails, which they probably didn’t, they wouldn’t give it to us. And so I was really stuck on this problem, and not really knowing sort of where it was gonna go.
And I got an email, actually from a buyer at Amazon. And what’s a funny piece about the buyer at Amazon is he reached out to me and he said, I don’t know if you remember me, but I used to work at Time Magazine. And I said, Yes. And he said, No, I remember you at Time Magazine. I’m a few years older, but when I heard that you ran hint, I remember you as always being super helpful and It’s funny, and just like he didn’t work in my same team, but it was just it was interesting. And I mean, it’s, it’s an important point, because you just never know who’s watching, right?
And how they can help you later in life and how there’s just so many things along the journey where as Steve Jobs used to say, the dots eventually connect, right? So anyway, he said, I’m in charge of all of grocery for Amazon. And, and we, I buy your product at Starbucks every morning. And I, I didn’t even have the guts to tell him that we’ve been kicked out of Starbucks at this point. I mean, the conversations going great. And I thought, do I share with him that we’re actually not in Starbucks anymore? But I didn’t.
And he said, How long is it going to take me to get, you know, some hint? And I said, Oh, we had an overrun of blackberry hints. So if you’re interested in buying it, if you want to wire me the money for a couple of truckloads, I’m super happy to sell it to you. And he said, Yeah, that sounds awesome. So anyway, we became the number one product on Amazon grocery. And he was so thrilled, he was really excited. I’m sitting in the Seattle offices, about a year later, we were doing more than blackberry hint. And he said, you know, what’s really interesting about your product as compared to other other beverages?
And I’m like, what’s that? He said, the people that are buying hint, are also buying diabetes monitors, and other healthy items that cross over categories. And I said, That’s really interesting. And I’m sharing kind of my purpose of why I started the company. And he said, Yeah, very different than other products that are, you know, in beverage like soda, etc. And I said, Gosh, can you give me some of those emails? Because I’d really like to reach out to these customers and get some more information.
And he said, you know, to Starbucks, give you the data. And I said, No, as a matter of fact, they don’t give me a sense, Whole Foods give you the data. I said, No, he said, You think Jeff Bezos is gonna give you the data? And I said, Well, I don’t know. I mean, it’s my data. And he said, No, no, this is not your data. This is my dad. He said, I buy your product, and I sell it. And that’s hard data. And I said, Oh, well, I guess so. And it was that moment, that pivotal moment where I thought, he’s so right.
Like, I’ve been sitting here for eight years, basically selling my product to all of these companies, they have all of the data and the relationship with the customer. And so I’m flying on Southwest from Seattle back to San Francisco. And I’m just sitting here thinking, How do I get this data? And I’m like, I’m never gonna get this data out of any of these people, Amazon or any of these retailers. Instead, I need to start my own direct to consumer company. And that was seven, a little over seven years ago now on drinkin calm.
Again, I had the experience to go and do it. But, you know, story that I share in the book is that, you know, my board was not psyched about it, they have 10 reasons why it wouldn’t be successful. And so Theo and I, that weekend, you know, bought basically Shopify before Shopify bought, you know, ecommerce in a box and set it up. My teenage kids were cracking up at me saying, like, do you code? I mean, do you actually know how to do this? I’m like, it’s all good. Like, I’ll figure it out. It was the worst store ever.
Like it was like, but it worked. And that’s what I share with people I think, is a theme throughout, you know, hints, really is that always understand that you can improve on what you’re doing, but you start somewhere. Right. And, and, anyway, that the the overall overarching story of that, to that, you know, I think about Starbucks To this day, fondly, is that the dots eventually connect, right?
And I don’t know if it’s a circle, or if it’s a triangle, but for me, when challenging times happened, Starbucks kicking us out of there, you have to believe that, you know, there’s something good will come out of it for me, that buyer at Amazon, would, would he have, you know, reached out to us if he wasn’t buying it at Starbucks every day. And then ultimately, for me to actually figure out that we needed to do a direct to consumer business.
It was because of Starbucks, and and because of Amazon. And so all of these challenging, challenging times, maybe it’s the pandemic for you, right, maybe it’s all of these things where you start to really look back on those times and figure out, how do I actually move forward? And what do I do with this information? And I think that that is the key thing that I got out of that
Curt Anderson 1:05:10
you are such an inspiration. And Gail, our friend is saying that she loves these stories. Jeff was just asking from New Jersey, if, you know, did the did Starbucks ever call back after after the six success on Amazon?
Kara Goldin 1:05:25
No, you know, it was funny, I saw I was speaking actually, at an event and and Howard Schultz was there. And you know, and I’ve met him a couple of times. And I, you know, and he never said anything about it. And I just and again, you know, it’s funny, because I think when you really live a life of knowing that the dots eventually do connect, it’s it’s it really, I was angry at the time. And but I’m all good, right? And I think, you know, you can look back on life and think that it was all it was all part of the bigger picture, right? And I look at so much of that now. And it just, it’s healthier, right? You know, and you look back and you’re just like, it’s all good. I’m not angry.
I’m not, you know, if Starbucks wanted to do something with us. I mean, we would, we would definitely do something with Starbucks. But I think more than anything, you know, today, our direct to consumer business that tripled. And during 2020, I mean, tripled, right. And in the fact that we had it set up, and, you know, we, at the beginning of the pandemic, we had over a million people in our database customers that were buying hint. I mean, you know, and, and I look back on Amazon, and, and by the way, we still sell through Amazon, we love Amazon, I mean, Amazon’s great.
And they and during the pandemic, at a time when, you know, people were having challenging shipping products, we have our own relationships with FedEx, ground and ship products. But, you know, Amazon’s got their own airplanes, where they’re shipping. And so there’s people, consumers say to us, like, should I buy it at Target or Costco or at you know, at Amazon? I mean, what helps you the most I mean, that’s what’s so crazy about our relationship with our consumers.
Can you imagine actually writing to a company and saying, I want to help you guys succeed? Like, where should I buy your product? I get those emails every single day. That’s crazy. Right? Right, that says that I’ve got this relationship with the consumer, and I’m doing it right, and what my answer is, go buy it at Target, or Costco, or Amazon, or, you know, if it’s cheaper, and that’s what you’re, and they have the right flavor. I mean, go do it, that I believe that the customer today controls how and where they’re going to buy. And if if you are not, if you are not servicing that customer with that mindset, then you’re going to lose
Curt Anderson 1:08:02
the man, you are such an inspiration, I just I man, we could talk all day. And the thing is, the chapters of your book I love you know, align with a cause, build the plane while you’re flying it. You know, it just it goes on and on. I love your story. Because I can’t imagine there’s been a manufacturer that hasn’t hasn’t had that vulnerability where a big chunk of sales 2030 50%, or with either that one customer, that one industry, pandemic comes along aerospace, whatever it is, you know, your fault, not your fault. Some you know, all of us have been there, we lose that big customer.
Now, what do you do, and what I love about your story, and where this really resonates with our crowd hitting those manufacturers that are brand new to e commerce, they are scared to death of like breaking that supply chain of like, hey, we’ve always gone through these channels, this is how we’ve always done it. If I go direct to consumer or direct to that end user, I might offend those folks. So I love your story of like, Hey, you know, we’ve eliminated that vulnerability by creating engagement and millions of customers as opposed to having all of our eggs in one basket. I think that’s another one of your chapters. Yeah, and
Kara Goldin 1:09:10
I mean, I think that sort of lessons learned there too, is obviously the customer like having that having that direct relationship with customers. And again, there’s plenty of people that have an ordered our product on drinkin calm, that are buying our product in stores, and you know, they go to Costco every week, and that’s awesome. And we want that relationship to be successful.
But it’s what we’ve seen is that the more we actually invest all of our ads, for example, that we run on Facebook and and Google those all go to drinkin calm, but we know that there are customers that go on Amazon, I buy stuff on Amazon and I also go to Costco and target and Whole Foods and, and there what we’ve seen is that as we’ve spent more money on You know, social and online there, they’re actually going into that has increased offline too. And it just does. And, and I think it’s just this, this halo and really thinking about the customer is just going to, you know, they’re going to buy where ever they’re going to buy.
But in terms of manufacturing, I mean, I’m a huge believer that you just have to have options, right? That, you know, the Starbucks story is not just about, you know, where you’re actually being sold. But one of have always thinking about that, what if this thing goes away tomorrow, you know, what’s the worst that can happen? and How bad is it going to it? How bad is that going to affect you? And, you know, being a little bit paranoid, to some extent to and from another friend of mine who’s and I talked about in the book, Josh Dorf. I had met him early on and Josh started his family started the first organic whole wheat flour company said this to me, when I was just starting him.
He said, I said, How do I get into Whole Foods and he said, we’ll get into Whole Foods. But you know, the most important thing is never allow a retailer to control your destiny. It’s pick and shovel work. And I’m like writing pick and shovel work, what’s what’s pick and shovel work? And you said, you know, he said that they’re not they don’t really, I mean, they’ll, they’ll like you, but they’ll make their own decisions. And the day that you sit there and basically hand the keys over to any retailer, any supplier, you know, any, whatever shipping company, you’re, you know, you’re vulnerable, right? And you have to think about it that way.
And and, you know, I think people have said, when we’ve been in meetings and set and sort of articulated this to suppliers and why we’re doing what we’re doing, we’re like, Look, we just, I mean, you go away tomorrow, you could tell us that you don’t love us anymore. And and at the end of the day, like we got to stay in business, I got people, I’ve got employees that are depending on me, right? And I’ve got this is what I’ve got to do. So they’re like, you’re so authentic. I’m like, No, I’m real. Like, this is like I’ve been through it, I know these things, I got the Starbucks story, I got all these journeys along the way.
And I didn’t love those times. And, and so anyway, it’s it’s a, there are a lot of stories and also say, you know, during, I mean, Two other quick things. I mean, even during the pandemic, I mean, the book was already inked before the pandemic, I, you know, I’ve told the story a couple of times that in the book, I talk about the 2008 2009 financial crisis, it was not pretty for hand, I mean, we almost could not survive, right?
I mean, I think that the one thing we’ve really prided ourselves on, we’ve never miss payroll, we’ve never, you know, over hired we are when you come into hint, you’re rolling up your sleeves, you’re sometimes doing two jobs until it’s too much. And then we hire another person. I mean, we’re really, even to this day. I mean, I still, you know, everybody works really, really hard in this company and needs to love what they’re doing. And they’re compensated appropriately as well. But 2008 2009, we almost ran out of money, and we didn’t have enough money.
And when the pandemic hit at the end of March, I reached out after closing our offices, I called my CFO and I said, We need money, like we need two years worth of money, we’re growing, and we need money. And he said, cara, he’s I mean, his name is Julio Julius, Ben knows me really well, very good friend work for me for 10 years. He said, everybody’s on zoom right now. You’re not going to raise money, this pandemic will go away. And we’ll, we’ll be fine. And I said, I said, I’m 2008 2009 is just like sitting there with me.
And I want I need two years of capital in the bank, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. And he said, you’re not going to be able to raise money on zoom. And I said, zoom is a tool. And don’t allow zoom to be your your wall. And he said, I’m with you. I don’t know how this is going to happen. And I said, it’s going to happen because we’re going to stop allowing that wall to get too big, and we need to go out and raise money. And we did. And of course we had the business setup properly.
It was growing, we had you know, all the right storage, okay. But again, with the minute you allow your fears to build that wall up, in a way, and I look back again on the 2008 2009 time, as I never really knew why I experienced what those dark days and you know, those days when, you know people just said, like we had major retailers say to us unless you you know, pay us and give us free product. We’re gonna kick you out of here. I mean, it was awful. It was awful on so many levels and I just said, I’m not going there again. And again, these points in your journey are really the ones that gets at you by I think the, the 2000 2008 2009 set me up in so many ways for the pandemic.
Curt Anderson 1:15:16
I mean, I’d say You are such an inspiration. You’re being so generous with your time. I know we’re way over. So I have one last question for you. We have a bunch of moms on the call. We have my friend Alyssa is expected her, her and her significant other are expecting and we have Aaron and my friends, Jen down in Miami. Your son Keenan had a comment in the book. He said Mom, I just realized not many women run companies.
As an as a you know, I worship my mother, I’m a dad, I’m a girl Dad, I tell you are such an inspiration on from for manufacturers. For e commerce, e commerce direct to the consumer. You just you check so many boxes. Let’s as a mom, thank you for what you’re doing. But what a great comment for Keenan to just not even be aware and you’re just breaking ceilings. You know, you’re an inspiration for so many women entrepreneurs out there. So kudos to you, congratulations for what you do and what so what do your kids think of mom being this usually successful entrepreneur? Well, it’s
Kara Goldin 1:16:18
it was a story that, you know, when when your kids sit there and like, especially when you feel like you’re here at everywhere else, like, you know, you have your own guilt about working as a as a parent, right? Not just mothers, but I think, you know, you’re wondering, am I spending too much time, like aisle forking and not spending enough time with my kids. And suddenly my son’s like, you know, Mom, I just watched Sheryl Sandberg on TV talking about leaning in. And you know, and it’s all horrible. And, you know, and I love Sheryl, actually, I really do. And, you know, but that that whole lean in initiative, I just, you know, was really kind of looking at it as, as challenging, right?
For people that were we’re trying to work and, and have balance and etc. And so I said that That’s right. Kenan, like, you know, there are there are challenges. And he said, Well, why aren’t there very many, you know, female CEOs and founders out there? And I said, You know, I don’t really know the answer. So the next day, he came back, he plays a ton of tennis. And he came back and he said, Mom, why are girls teams and boys teams for tennis? And I said, I don’t know, like, you tell me, why are there girls and boys? And he said, Well, there’s better tennis players on the girls team. Some they’re way better than some of these boys.
So I think I’m gonna go and tell the coach that there are certain girls that I’d rather be playing tennis with. And I said, you know, you go do that. And it was at that moment that I realized that just by doing what I do every single day, I’m actually teaching my kids that it’s just rules that gender should be there. But it should be based on what you do, and how good you are. Right. And so it was, you know, and I think it’s still still to this day. I mean, what he’s, you asked the question about, you know, what did they think I’m working on a huge initiative in Washington, around clean water, and I briefly talked about it in the book.
And, you know, it was, frankly, put on hold with the Trump administration to some extent, and hopefully, with the new infrastructure bill that’s in place about, I think 111 billion is in that bill, to actually clean up water infrastructure. So which, sadly, might not even be enough at it for what they want to do. They want to replace all the pipes across the country for the lead and lots of other stuff that I’ve been focused on. But we’ve been I’ve been working with Congresswoman Jackie sphere, to actually take it before Congress.
And you know, if we get it, where we want to go, I’d be testifying in Congress about what I know about water, and potentially even some of our partners that we co pack through, I’ve talked to them about because there’s great variety across the US and our water quality based on states and we remove all of the stuff out of the water, but it varies significantly and and things like pee fast and things not it’s not just lead, you know, our snack, etc.
So anyway, you know, he said to me, Hey, you know, and actually, my other kids as well, they said, Well, if you go before Congress, and you’re testifying, like for sure, we want to you know, we want to come we want to get out of school, there are three of them in college and, and but again, like, I think what they’ve learned is follow your passion, go and do what you do every single day. And, you know, and I think what they would stay still to this day. Today as my daughter was in a car when she was little, and a friend of mine was driving her to a playdate, and she said, Where’s your mom?
Because I had to go out of town. And she said, she said, Oh, I don’t know, I think she’s fighting big soda or something, I have no idea what she’s doing, you know, like to be able to be a parent and be doing something that actually has purpose and meaning. And every single day they think, you know, even to this day, they they think mom’s a little crazy. But she’s actually doing stuff where, six months ago, it wasn’t happening, and now it’s happening. So if you can be, you know, I think that’s that’s what every parent wants to be. That’s what every human wants to be. Do something with purpose, it’s going to make a mark and make a difference.
Curt Anderson 1:20:51
Yep, line with a cause? Well, I’ll tell you are an absolute blessing. Again, anybody on the call comes I’m drink I drink every Friday on our show, I’m drinking it with my clients. So I’m a hint to Holic. Guys, I strongly encourage you, if I can get your book here, check out Kara’s book. It is a game changer. I love this book. So one last question, my dear my BFF Gail up in Canada, she said is hidden Canada.
Kara Goldin 1:21:20
We are in a small way. We were we’re in really on the coasts, Toronto, and Vancouver, but we’re hoping actually with Costco that we’re actually going to be expanding that extremely with, with the pandemic, it’s been a little challenging to with border issues. So, but we’re hoping that that’s actually that that’s going to happen. So yeah, so But definitely, you know, let me reach out to me, I’m all over social at Kara golden. And if I can, you know, answer questions, I mean, the big thing that I wanted to do was just let people know that, you know, it can’t happen if you don’t try.
And you got to believe and, you know, all the elements along the way of, you know, staying alive and having enough money to do it, having a team that really believes and supports and you know, you don’t have to have tons of experience to go do stuff, as I always say to my team, it’s none of this is brain surgery, right? It’s just it’s just about critical thinking and, and just trying to ask lots of different people along the way.
And oftentimes, it’s not the people that have been industry giants that are the ones that are actually going to have all the answers to your questions, because you’re, you know, trying to do something different in some way. And so look around and be free to ask people and I, you know, it’s the informations out there, it’s for you to actually take that information and execute on it.
Curt Anderson 1:22:54
Yeah, and I love the David and Goliath, where, you know, the giant soda companies just cannot figure it out, you know, for whatever reason, left a nice door open for you. And again, you’ve created an incredible product, you deliver healthy, you know, you have sunscreen, now you have deodorant that you offer to a multitude of different products. So again, Carrie, You are such an incredible inspiration, such a blessing. Thank you, entrepreneurs, women, entrepreneurs, children, my daughter worships you. And so So again, thank you are so generous with your time. I appreciate it. I’m going to give everybody a big cheers, Happy.
Kara Goldin 1:23:29
Happy Friday, guys
Curt Anderson 1:23:32
go out and get hit. And so I’m going to stop recording. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.