In this episode, we’re joined by Kara Goldin, Founder and CEO of Hint water.
Kara speaks with us about the lessons she learned from working in the tech industry as an executive and how she became an accidental entrepreneur.
Furthermore, she explains how she came up with the idea for Hint water and the initial steps she took to get it off the ground, which included getting it into Whole Foods, even though she was still producing it in her own kitchen.
Kara’s advice stresses the importance of just getting started, questioning everything, learning quickly and figuring it out along the way.
Lastly, we also got her to talk about her wall street journal bestselling book called “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters”. She shares how the book came about and why she was motivated to write it.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
In this episode, I speak with Kara Goldin, Founder and CEO of Hint water. Kara speaks with us about lessons learned from working in the tech industry as an executive and how she became an accidental entrepreneur. She explains how she came up with the idea for Hint water and the initial steps she took to get it off the ground, which included getting it into whole foods, even though she was still producing it in her own kitchen.
Kara’s advice stresses the importance of just getting started, questioning everything, learning quickly and figuring it out along the way. We also got her to talk about our wall street journal bestselling book called undaunted overcoming doubts and doubters. She shares how the book came about and why she was motivated to write it.
Kara is a very accomplished physical products entrepreneur with a great story to tell. Enjoy. Yeah. Hey Karen. Thanks for joining me. I appreciate you being here. Where are you calling from?
Kara: I am in Marin county, just over the San Francisco golden gate bridge.
Ken: Oh yeah. I love that area. I have a twelve-year-old that’s his favorite, uh, part of the country to visit.
Kara: Oh, it is a nice part of it. And then the weather is beautiful here right now. So it’s, it’s uh, very, very, uh, conducive to the lifestyle I like to read too.
Ken: Oh yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s kick it off. We usually like to just ask you for a quote that’s been impactful to you. Do you have, do you have one that comes to mind that you could share with the listeners?
Kara: Yeah, I have so many quotes, but I think in particular one that has, you know, really kind of keeps popping up in my head and almost every day, um, is, uh, the dots eventually connect. And I think that particularly kind of looking through, you know, the challenging times of, uh, definitely the last year that so many of us.
Have had that, uh, maybe some of the challenging times prior to the last year actually helped us prepare, certainly helped me prepare, uh, for, you know, even having more challenging times and being able to really stay. Resilient during that time.
Ken: That’s great. That’s great. And so why don’t you, why don’t we start by just telling us a little bit about yourself.
I, you know, I know that you’re, you’re out there and a lot of people know who you are, but, um, for the listener that doesn’t know who you are, maybe tell us a little bit about your background.
Kara: Sure. Uh, well, I’m the, I’m currently the founder and CEO of a water brand called hint. Uh, actually we do a little outside of water as well.
I would do sunscreen and some other personal care products, but we started 16 years ago. Uh, when. I had an issue with diet sweeteners. I didn’t know. I had an issue with diet sweeteners, but I was, uh, addicted to a diet soda, diet Coke in particular, where I was just drinking my diet soda, thinking that I was doing the right thing, because it was diet.
I mean, what’s wrong with diet soda? And when I finally woke up and. Realized that I had to do something about my health. I had developed terrible adult acne. My energy levels were low. And, uh, I had gained a bunch of weight over the course of multiple pregnancies. That’s when I started looking at the food that I was consuming.
And what I quickly realized was that it was less about what I was eating and possibly more about. The other thing that had ingredients in it that I didn’t understand, which was my diet soda. And so I did a quick swap of my drink for plain water. What I realized though, was that, although I knew that I was supposed to be drinking more water, I didn’t because it was boring.
So I started slicing up fruit in my kitchen, throwing it in water, and that got me to drink. Water through this test that I was doing two and a half weeks after giving up diet, soda and drinking. My concoction that I made in my kitchen. That’s when I lost 24 pounds. Uh, my skin cleared up and my energy levels skyrocketed.
And that’s when I really started to get curious about. Why this was, I mean, what, what happened? I mean, it’s, it’s a drink. That’s not food, it’s low calorie. All of these things were going through my head. I had not been a, you know, food expert, a few food executive or drink executive soda executive either.
Uh, prior to taking a couple of years off, I was an executive at a company called America online where I was. Uh, there early and I had launched the e-commerce and shopping at America online. I was running their partnerships program. So I was responsible for kind of building a mini mall, um, dealing with lots of, uh, vendors and retailers, such as J crew and the gap and LLB and et cetera.
And so that was really when I, uh, you know, again, thought that when I. Was going to go back to work after taking a couple of years off, I certainly, I was a tech executive. Why wouldn’t I go back into tech? I was successful. I was, you know, had a big, fancy title, all of these things that seem like I was a natural to stay in that industry.
But the problem was that I was not. Sort of satisfying my curiosity for learning and, and that’s when I stumbled upon this problem than I had and a fix for it. And I thought, how hard would it be to launch a beverage in the store? And, and, uh, I call myself an accidental entrepreneur too, because. People always ask me, did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur or was this all the plan the whole time?
I’m like, no, I, I was just trying to fix this problem for myself and have the convenience of picking up a bottle of a drink that I could buy ready-made at the store. Right. I never really thought about it even as a company, but when I really thought about it, After talking to a bunch of people, you know, about my own sort of mini journey here and discovery.
That’s when I thought, gosh, if I could develop a product that could help millions of people worldwide enjoy water, that’d be pretty darn cool career. So that’s how it began.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, let’s go back in time a little bit. I want to, I want to get some timelines on this. Um, so it sounds like you, you went to ASU, is that where you went to college?
Okay. Yeah. I spent some time in Arizona. I was there for, for about seven years. Um, we were down in Tucson, so university of Arizona, that’s a, that’s where my dad actually taught school. Um, but I love Arizona and actually love the weather in Arizona. People don’t realize how, how nice it is for most of the year.
You know, they just think about the heat during the summer, but the rest of the year is absolutely amazing. Totally. Okay. And so right out of school, um, you went to time magazine, is that right? Was that your first job?
Kara: I did. I was a journalism major and had a minor in finance. And so I actually wanted to, I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t, uh, I didn’t know how I would do that.
And, uh, you know, there were. Any jobs that I could find in the magazines, like I’d look in the little masthead and try and figure out. Okay. Are there any jobs here in Arizona? I’m sure there were, but for me, just being a college student, not really understanding where I would go find these jobs. That’s when everything had New York in the mastheads.
So I decided I’m going to move to New York and go find a job. And, uh, I really appreciated fortune magazine because taking my finance classes, finance was really my hardest. Subject for me just didn’t come. Naturally. Writing came very naturally. Um, finance did not. But just by reading fortune magazine, I felt like I could really put it into, um, you know, the right frame of mind in my own mind, um, to be able to understand so many different concepts and finance that frankly, you know, the dots eventually connected there too.
Once I started figuring out that I could read fortune and get kind of my head in the game and really. Get some general understanding of how things, uh, sort of fall into different scenarios. And so I thought about that would be my dream job. Uh, but when I, when I showed up in New York and went to one of the chapters in the book talks about, I showed up at the HR department, uh, they didn’t actually have any job openings.
And that’s when I said, well, is there anything else in the building? I mean, I’m here. So. Maybe I can get a job doing something, something else. So I did, I went to, uh, time magazine and, uh, worked on circulation. I didn’t even know what circulation was when I took the job. I just liked the person that I had interviewed with and I figured I’ll, I’ll learn.
Right. I didn’t know. Circulation was kind of the, uh, the, the blow in insert cards that go in magazines that fall out. Um, and. In a, not sort of sexiest job in the world, but man, I look back on those years and the stuff that I learned around pricing and around just, you know, everything that I think about today that.
Has really helped me think about direct to consumer, uh, which has over 50% of our business for Hantz. Um, a lot of that stems back to those early learnings of, you know, circulation and subscriptions and loyalty and lifetime value. All of that language was going on in the early nineties, in the magazine industry.
So I’m really grateful and thank fall and. You know, like I said, I just another example where the dots eventually connect you think, you know, I’m here. What the heck am I doing here? How did I get here? And I look back on those years as, uh, you know, really instrumental to what I’m doing today.
Ken: And then, uh, after that you went to CNN for a couple of years.
And, uh, and then after that’s where you ended up at AOL, is that correct?
Kara: Yeah. Well, I, I went, I was recruited out of, out of time to go to CNN and, uh, that was a lot of fun, actually. I didn’t know it than when I was there, but I learned a ton about culture. I mean, going from a very buttoned up, you know, Very blue blood, uh, environment at time to Ivy league, uh, you know, all that was going on to, um, CNN where, uh, the founder was still there and was operating there.
And Ted Turner was still running around the office with a suit and cowboy boots. I had never even seen that in Arizona. And it was, you know, it was wild. It was, it was a lot of fun and a lot of fun to watch. Um, and. A lot to learn as well. And then actually I moved out to Silicon valley because I was engaged and my husband was graduating from law school and he wanted to find a, a firm that was doing technology law.
And this was in New York, you know, early, it was 1994. Um, there were. Some tech companies that we’re talking about, some of the stuff that he was talking about around, you know, who owns the rights to, uh, J crew.com. And it just wasn’t clear back in that 1994 and before. So he was, um, the stuff he was talking about many of the New York firms that he was interviewing with.
Understood. But they. Really also saw that his passion and he knew his passion was really to get into technology law and then IP stuff. But again, nobody was really doing it. So we figured. That we would come out to Silicon valley and, you know, maybe it’s just for a couple of years. And then eventually we end up back in New York and that was 26, a little over 26 years ago.
We’re still in San Francisco. And, uh, but yeah, so we, we came out and, uh, he did. Get a job with a firm and starting out doing technology law. And I was trying to figure out if I was going to stay with CNN or if I was going to do something else. And I had, for me, Silicon valley in the bay area was all about, um, I mean the only person that I sort of associated this part of the country, Been here once prior to actually moving here was the sky Steve jobs I had, as I mentioned earlier, I was a journalism major and I had a Macintosh computer when I was in college, because it was a huge upgrade from those typewriters and the whiteout that I would stick on the, get on the keys and, you know, I’d spend.
A while with my toothbrush, trying to get the white stuff off of, you know, those were the days, right? So I was, uh, I had the Macintosh and they knew he was up here somewhere. And I couldn’t figure out how I was going to actually get a role at an apple, but I stumbled upon. Uh, this little startup that was actually spun out of Apple, that was a Steve jobs idea that was called to market.
And, uh, it had been in project inside of Apple and they were doing this thing called CD rom shopping. And when I was at CNN, people were just starting to talk about broadband. And I mean, we were still on dial up where, you know, for those of you who kind of remember this conversation, I mean, we were lucky if.
Um, you know, the speed of the computer was slow, 9,600 baud modem, maybe. And yeah. And you’d fight with your, uh, brother or sister about like, don’t get on the phone. Cause I’m in a chat room, like you’d get cut off, right? Yeah. What happened? And so those were, those were the days. So basically, uh, this idea.
Was that, that Steve had was to take all these graphics and throw them on a disc and you, uh, put the disc into the computer and then, uh, you know, the consumer doesn’t know that you don’t have the right. Speed on your computer. They just know that they’re supposed to just stick the disc in. And, uh, he said that if the graphics are sitting on a disc and then you tell the consumer to stick it in and upgrade, then you’re your hard drive now.
And you just, as long as you have enough memory, I mean, that’s, that’s the most important thing. So, uh, I was like, that’s really, really interesting. And of course I love catalog shopping. I love in a retail shopping. And so. Wow, that sounds amazing. Maybe I’ll just cold call this little company. And I saw a guy who was their head of marketing.
I saw his name on something, so I said, what the heck? I’m just going to give him a call and see what happens and, and, uh, offered to take him to lunch. So funny. I mean, I remember those days fondly because, uh, I ended up going to lunch with this guy and, and he said, uh, so, you know, what piqued your interest?
And I said, well, I really like shopping. And I’m kind of thinking about the next evolution of, of, you know, cable and how does it merge with computers? And, uh, he, and I said, I used to work at CNN and he is, um, He’s like, what’d you do at CNN? And I mean, you know, still pretty junior there. And I didn’t even matter what I did at both CNN or time.
I mean, it was just the idea that I was working for these iconic brands and which is something that my dad always said. It’s just like jumping in and working for a brand. It can be, you know, An old brand. It can be a new brand that is buzzy, but just the idea of working for a brand it, and, and also having a founder around, um, there’s just a different feel for that and that, and you you’ll have stories about it and people will know it.
And I certainly saw that when I started, you know, Interviewing in the bay area. I mean, they, they want to know what Ted Turner was like. And they’re like, oh really? He wears like halfway bids for the suit. I mean, just silly conversations like that. But then after I was sharing some of my own experiences, they, uh, there was, you know, five guys that had worked at apple and, and who were in this office and they said, would you.
Want to work with us and you could do business development, you could go out to the retailers and the catalogers and talk to them about putting their catalog on, on the disk. And I, I was like me, like what, what would I be doing? I mean, wow. That sounds amazing. Yeah. And they said, sure, like if you think you can contribute, I mean, we’d love to have you.
And, and, uh, so I figured. If it didn’t work out, what’s the worst that can happen? I can always leave. I mean, you know, and eventually, maybe they’ll find me out that I have no idea how to do it. I remember saying I have no real idea about how to do this. And they said, none of us do. We’re all just figuring it out.
We’re writing. The rules, like the lessons for going forward. And I’ve had so many people by the way, reach out to me after reading my book, saying, wow, like history and from 1995 through, you know, 2000, I mean, there was a lot that was done during that time that we can all learn from. So, so that was the, yeah, that was the time.
And basically after a little shy of a couple of years, uh, one of our investors, we were. I was pretty successful at setting up many of these relationships with a lot of the catalogers. And so one of our investors America online said, Hey, can you help us build ours as well? And so I sort of figured they were one of our investors and.
Sure why not. And so, um, eventually they acquired us then and asked me to run this button called shopping. And, uh, I became the youngest vice president at America online and, uh, one of the few females at that level. And it was great. I mean, it was super exciting. I was, uh, the, the one thing that I didn’t like was that I was traveling so much and I had a young family starting in 99.
That was, uh, Then, you know, I miss frankly. And, and it was, um, it was, it was an interesting time because as I shared with so many people while I was really excited that I was, you know, having this great career and it was exciting and I was learning a lot. I. And, you know, the idea that I also wanted to be a mom and I also wanted to spend some time with my family.
And I felt like that piece of my life was a little out of control. I had three kids under the age of four back in San Francisco. The idea of taking a break, I think was. There was a lot of pressure, frankly, from, you know, probably on myself, um, that I put on myself, but also, uh, you know, just friends and colleagues saying, well, what are you doing?
Like, don’t get off the train right now. I mean, this is, you know, this is your time. And I sit there, you know, If you all believe that I did a great job. Why is it so risky that I want to just take a break for a couple of years, I’ll be back. And I really did believe that I was going to get back into tech until I had this idea for a problem that I was solving in my own life that I really cared about.
Ken: Right, right. Yeah. I mean a lot, lots to unpack there, but one of the things that I keep hearing you say is, um, you know, just trying new things, taking the risk, um, you know, from the time that you, uh, you got your job at, uh, at time magazine, um, and then even this, you know, uh, I guess also, I guess also, um, uh, catalog space.
I assume that’s what, that’s what it was that you’re selling, but I guess I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out along the way. Is that, is that kind of been your attitude, you know, from, from when you were a child or do you think that’s something that you’ve developed along the way? Um, just this ability to try new things without really knowing how to do it.
Kara: Yeah. I mean, I think that there was, uh, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, I’ve unpacked it over the years. Um, particularly as I’ve been writing this book, but I think being the youngest of five kids, um, my parents were the oldest of any of my friends, parents. Um, my parents were 40 when they had me. So it was, uh, you know, I think in many ways they were tired and, um, I had brothers and sisters who all were pretty active, wild, however you want to talk about it.
And so I think for me, it was, I really was kind of put in a position where, uh, you know, I, I needed to figure a lot of stuff out and that I would, you know, come and definitely check in with my parents and let them know kind of what I was doing. But I was. Um, you know, mature beyond my years, that’s most like fourth or fifth kids are, I guess, you know, it was just, I, I sorta knew, you know, don’t get in trouble.
Like you, you’ve got to go out and, uh, in our house, like go and get a job. So I was babysitting pretty early or. Setting up my own daycare day camp during the summers. I mean, I always had something going on and I had no idea really what I was doing when I started them. Um, but I, I think more than anything, what I realized is that just by doing something that I was.
Super interested in, and maybe that was an interest of the moment. Um, but it was, that’s really what motivated me that I would, you know, get up in the morning and I’d be thinking about it. And then I would just go and try it and do it. And I think so often people don’t stop and kind of live that way. Um, I, I think I was doing it for a long time because I thought we have a choice, whether, you know, we decide to.
You know, go out and do something that we don’t want to do, or we go out and do something that we can go have fun doing. I, I, I would always find an opt for those things that I would have, you know, at least a little bit of a good time doing. But most of the time I had a really good time doing it.
Ken: Hmm, that’s great. So I want to fast forward to, um, something that you said earlier, w when you had the idea for hint and you started asking yourself the question of, you know, could I, could I start a beverage brand? Um, what, what are some of the things that you did immediately after you, you had that thought, you know, how did you validate that, you know, this is something you could actually produce.
And, um, and that there was a market for it.
Kara: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things that I think about a lot is that if we overthink things, if we, uh, you know, if, if we think, oh, I’m going to go take on big soda or I’m going to go and take on the big guys, then we won’t actually go do ever, right. And, or most of the time, I think that that’s really that we set up our own walls to prevent ourselves from, from going out and doing it.
And I think instead if you. If you, if you kind of stop yourself, even before you overthink things and just go try and take a few steps to actually think if that’s exactly what you want to do on your journey and, and, or not. Right. I think that that’s the most important thing. And if you get those little wins under your belt early, I think it’s very helpful, right?
I was in a situation where I was going into my local whole foods and. Tap somebody on the shoulder. And I said, Hey, do you work here? And, uh, you know, it’s kinda tough in some of these stores, cause it’s not like they’re wearing a uniform or something. Right. And so I, um, you know, as somebody who was working at whole foods, uh, you know, do you work here?
And I said, Hey, I’ve got this idea for a product. It’s an unsweetened flavored water with fruit in it. I’ve been making in my kitchen. How do I get a product on the shelf? And he said, oh, well, We have a program at whole foods that where we is the product produced locally. And I thought, yeah, my kitchen. And, uh, I mean, I had no idea.
And he said, oh, well, yeah. I mean, we have a program where we try and, uh, you know, source from like 10% of our products at at least we’d like them to come from local suppliers and. So I thought, well, I’m local. I mean, that sounds great. And I said, so who do I talk to? And he said, well, you have to develop the product first and you need a UPC number and you need a name.
So it was at that point when I thought, okay, I’m going to write all this. Things down and I’m going to just start moving forward again. I didn’t sit there and like run around and tell everybody I’m starting a beverage. And in fact, most of my friends were, you know, in the tech industry, I knew I had some friends from my kid’s school who were, uh, who were.
You know, not working at the time, but it just was, it just was not, I dunno, it just wasn’t like the conversation that I would bring up with people. Instead when I had some downtime, when my kids were at preschool or they were, you know, with their babysitter, that’s when I thought I’m going to start thinking about it and.
You know, looking on searching around, but then also calling around and trying to see if I could get any traction on it. And so I think like that’s, that’s such an important piece for so many people, because again, if you, if you think too much about the, and you’ll never get past even, you know, the beginning or, or even a couple of steps and really appreciate kind of.
You know, the journey and the progress along the way. Again, I love learning too. And I felt like I had fallen into, you know, almost this class and how to develop a product. And it was exciting. And I was in control. I was the teacher who was kind of forcing the prompts on, on myself to go and say, okay, these are the steps.
And, you know, and I mean, thinking back on it too, I mean, it was exhilarating, but it was also exhausting. I won’t lie. I mean, it’s, it’s, you know, when you’re learning and even when you’re really excited about it, you just, the most important thing is not only to enjoy it, but also enjoy what you’re learning, but also, you know, You have to be really aware along the way.
Cause maybe you’re going to make a mistake or a misstep and you don’t want to make that twice. Right. Cause that’s kind of a waste of time. So you’re, so you’ve got to, you know, I would catch myself going left and then realizing, okay, well maybe that’s not exactly the right direction. So maybe I veer.
Right. Or maybe I go work on something else and think on this a little bit more and come back. So I started journaling and, and, uh, trying to talk to as many people as possible sometimes, you know, I felt like I would reach out to some beverage executives, to friends of friends would introduce me, and sometimes they’d talk to me, but.
A lot of times they wouldn’t, because I didn’t look like the profile of somebody that you would give time to. So I was a tech executive, never had any experience in the beverage industry, but I also, especially when I launched the product, I had four kids under the age of six. I mean, I was not the profile of the entrepreneur that you wanted to invest any of your time on, but it looked unlikely that I looked like just, you know, this mom with an idea who.
You know, shops at Whole foods. I mean, it just, I was not, you know, that was not the profile of the, of the person that, you know, really anyone would think was going to go out and do it. But, uh, but. I, I was, uh, determined. Um, I think again, that it was, uh, you know, this was a problem that I felt really passionate about.
And so I just would try and tap on any shoulder I could for anybody who seem like, you know, they. Kind of had some sort of possible connection or knowledge for me. And, uh, sometimes that was in the chip aisle. Sometimes it was in the flower aisle and I just kept learning along the way.
Ken: So you mentioned, um, learning from, from some of your mistakes, you know, so that you don’t repeat them. Um, are there any particular mistakes maybe that you made pretty early on that, that you learned some valuable lessons from.
Kara: You know, I think some of the, some of the early mistakes thinking back on them and, and I can’t, I often think about mistakes. As a way, uh, you know, the, the key thing is, is that making mistakes is fine, right?
It’s, it’s making mistakes that maybe cost you a lot of time and money. Um, and if like, that’s the part that, that you really regret. Otherwise, I think that it, I always felt like those mistakes really helped me to learn more, uh, along the way. And we’re really kind of there for some kind of purpose and still do to this day.
Uh, but you know, I think. Listening to when we could get thoughts and advice from industry experts in the beverage industry. Um, I would, you know, hang on every word that they would say, because thinking, well, they have lots of experience. They must know, but the difference between what I was doing and maybe what they had experienced, and while it looked like the same beverage beverage, right. It was. They, I was doing something that most beverage executives hadn’t done, which was not only launching a new product into the market and launching a new company, but also launching an entirely new category. So innovating an entirely new category, which was called unsweetened flavored water. And nobody was doing that.
So here I was. Talking to beverage executives and saying, Hey, I’ve got this idea to, you know, get my product on the shelf, just like yours, but I don’t want any sweeteners in my product and I want to use real stuff. And also it doesn’t have any preservatives and every one of these beverage executives, including, you know, the people that would bottle the product would say.
Uh, that’s impossible. You can’t use like real fruit and then, uh, not use preservatives. I mean, that’s just, that’s just not done. And me coming from a different industry and saying, and, and asking the question, why not was. I mean the number of people who would look at me like, and just say because, and the one thing I remember growing up is that when, you know, my parents used to say, uh, I’d say, Hey, can I go to that party on Friday night?
And they’d say no. And I’d say why. And they’d say because, and I realized, ah, Okay. I got to keep working on this and find another angle. So I kept hearing the same thing in the beverage industry. And that they’d say, well, you can’t do preservatives and you have to do preservatives in your, in your drink.
And I’d say why? And they’d say because, and I’m like, well, that’s not really an answer. Right. That’s, that’s a, an opinion, but that’s not. Uh, that’s not a reason why. And so I kept digging and digging and digging. And, and again, you hear a lot of nos, you hear a lot of people getting annoyed, right. That they’re like, you know, I don’t know something.
And so I should kick her out of the office. They didn’t really kick me out, but you know what I mean? Like they were, they were like, okay, when she leaves, we’ll never invite her back again. But then there were a few people who would. Really kind of catch their words and say, gosh, I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me that question.
Wow. Did you know, did you used to work at Pepsi or Coke? And I’d say no, I’m, I mean, I’m a tech executive. That’s why I’m asking you all these questions. And they said, oh, that’s really interesting. And so again, I think that the biggest mistake I made early on was thinking that. Somebody with lots of experience would solve all my problems.
Right. But they would know all the answers when instead the people, I think that actually come up with the answers are the ones that think differently are the ones that are coming from a different industry that are willing to be vulnerable and show that they don’t have all the answers. And so they’re asking questions because they’re curious and inquisitive and all of that.
In order to really grow. And that was, that was me.
Ken: Yeah, that’s interesting. I mean, it outlines the, the, some of the, the benefits or some of the advantages of being an ally outsider and being totally new to an industry. And then, you know, you also reminded me of something that I hear a lot of, uh, Silicon valley tech executives saying a lot right now, which is thinking from first principles.
Right. So instead of just accepting the status quo, you know, really kind of digging in and asking you some of those same questions, you know, why, why is it this way, you know, has it ever been done in a different way? Um, but that’s really interesting. Um, so you, you got into this program, I presume with, uh, with whole foods, uh, early on, um, was that how you got some of your initial traction, uh, did that program kind of launch you or what, what happened after he did that?
Kara: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. It wasn’t really like an official program. Like they never said, oh, you know, you’re number eight in our program or anything, but we did get in. And that’s probably how we got in. I don’t know, since the acquisition from Amazon, whether or not whole foods even has that program anymore.
Um, but we. But that’s how we, I think we initially sort of slid in there. It was a little, um, you know, frankly, it was, uh, it, it, you know, looking back on it, I mean, there were, it was pretty bare bones and, you know, the, the early days of, of even whole foods, some of the products that were launched on the shelf were probably made in somebody’s kitchen, not just hints, you know, it was like, it was pretty interesting.
Some of the, uh, things that were almost straight out of a farmer’s market and sometimes. You know, that’s just fine. Other times, you know, it’s a, it’s a little sketch, but it’s, uh, it’s definitely, um, you know, our story and, and I think people always ask me and like, how. Uh, how great was your product when, when you launched?
I mean, it tasted good. Did it have problems? You bet. I mean, you know, it was, it was definitely not perfect. Um, something else that I often share with aspiring entrepreneurs is, you know, perfect perfection is overrated and, you know, it’s very rare that your product will be perfect. Even if you think that it’s awesome and excellent.
And you get it on the shelf. Things like, you know, once it’s for sale and you actually get it on the shelf, things like the lighting in the store, or maybe in our case, we were placed next to a brightly colored vitamin water that, you know, really, really diminished the consumer’s ability to actually see our product.
We had a clear label when we first launched that we thought, oh, that whole drink is clear. Everything’s gotta be clear. It’ll be great. And, you know, once we. Change to white labels. It was like game-changing, um, for sales because the consumer could see it. So again, I think that was also a big, you know, epiphany, I mean, just a reminder coming from tech, I had never.
Dealt with, I guess there are some tech products that are physical products, but I had never dealt with a physical product. I was always dealing in bits and bytes and even in media, right. Like I was never really dealing with a physical product and dealing with the physical product. Again, I had, I didn’t overthink it.
I just decided to go do it. But as I’ve shared with so many entrepreneurs, it’s, it’s really different. I mean, it, it is, uh, You know, definitely something that you can’t underestimate actually, you know, getting a physical good from point a to point B and you know, in many cases, dealing with retailers to not just downloading, you know, software or something like that.
So it’s, it was, uh, If I would’ve, over-thought it, I think I probably wouldn’t have done it, but instead I just decided, let me just go forward. And, you know, going back to something that I talked about earlier, you know, when I was taking a break to be a parent, I, I just kept thinking, you know, what is the worst that can happen?
I mean, if I. Go and try and launch a product at whole foods. I mean, maybe a few people would want to have me over for a dinner party and I could share my story and everybody would get a laugh and they’d learn a few things and that I could go back into tech or I would have a huge appreciation for, you know, Like my, my tech career as well and how I had been in this crazy, other thing that I was trying to do.
And, and also an appreciation for actually running a company. I mean, at every step along the way, I kept thinking, okay, this is really hard. Maybe it’s not going to work, but. You know, I’m going to learn a lot in this process. And I have, I mean, last 16 years are, are just, you know, priceless in terms of what I’ve learned.
Good and bad. I mean, it it’s, and lots of things about myself, a lot of things that I, you know, definitely appreciate just going through a journey of discovery on, you know, what. I think so many people think of themselves as a tech executive or, you know, a wall street executive, or even a founder. And I think that there are just so many different aspects on, you know, all of those spectrums to where, you know, what are you really like about certain things and what are you capable of?
I think that you really learn, especially when you don’t, you know, don’t have anybody to kind of, uh, answer to, but yourself. Especially in those early days
Ken: as we get we’re ready to wrap here. I care. I wanted to dig in a little bit more about your book. Um, so you wrote undaunted, um, and you released that one in September. Is that right?
Kara: Uh, October end of October.
Ken: Okay. And, um, you know, I want to understand just a little bit about why you wrote this book. Um, it’s called overcoming, you know, doubts and doubters, um, and, uh, you know, why, why this subject and why, why did you write it?
Kara: Yeah. So I wrote the book because I really felt through speaking to entrepreneurs and frankly, over the last five years, I was doing a ton of public speaking in the Q and a at the end of the session would really, those would almost be my prompts for what I would.
Ultimately go write about, but I, I started journaling and in those, you know, journals, I would, I would force myself when people would ask me questions, particularly ones that I had never been asked before, I would write like three examples and I would just sit there and write and write and write. And I felt like when I would share those stories with audiences or, you know, as I said, one-on-one with entrepreneurs that.
There was inspiration and power from those stories and the, the, uh, more challenging, um, what I had been through, uh, the better people felt, I guess, to some extent, misery is company, right. It’s just, you know, people would hear, okay, well, she’s still smiling. She got through it and here’s how she navigated it.
Um, and so I thought if I could actually. Get these notes out to people. Maybe there’s people that don’t get to go to these, you know, places that I’m speaking out or inside corporations that have asked me to come and talk and you know, maybe I could actually get something out. I never even called it a book.
In fact, I have a few friends who are authors and I was asking one how I bind my notes together. I wasn’t even calling it a book. And she said, do you mean write a book, publish a book? And I said, No, I don’t have time to publish a book. I’m in, I’m a CEO of a company. I mean, when would I have time? And when she saw that I had 600 pages in the journal that I had written, she said, uh, you know, You actually have a book here, maybe you have two books and you just need an editor.
Who’s going to help you kind of take it down a bit. And, uh, but you know, I think that the greatest thing for me about this book is look, if you’re an entrepreneur, it definitely has a lot for you. If you’re a female entrepreneur, if you’re a, you know, food or beverage entrepreneur, I mean, there’s. There’s tons in there.
The most exciting thing for me personally, about this book and probably the most surprising is the number of people who have read the book who have never been an entrepreneur who have, you know, many of them are sitting in C-suite roles or even some of them retired where when they’re reading my story and they’re hearing about, you know, in their mind, the risk that I took, the fun that I had, they’re thinking why the heck didn’t I do that?
Why didn’t I go and do something that I was really passionate about that maybe I thought I had an idea to go solve a problem. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen. And I think that. If I can actually help people to go and learn and take chances and really, you know, live life and, and have a more fulfilling journey, very similar to what I’ve done with Hint by helping people to live a healthier lifestyle and drink more water, or have better sunscreen.
If I can help people to kind of get on stock. Two, maybe no, that you can break down the walls. You can go over the walls to, you know, figure out what those things that you’re really afraid of. That maybe you’re thinking I’m not going to do that. Cause that’s too scary. I don’t have the right experience, whatever it is that, you know, If I can do it, they can do it too.
Right. That is what people are getting out of the book and not just women, men as well. That, that is really, I think, you know, so motivating for me and, uh, very, very exciting.
Ken: Well, one of the, the reasons that we, uh, we do this podcast is because we, we agree that, that, you know, more people should take some of these risks.
More people have great ideas for products, physical products in their head that they just need to bring out there and share with the world. And I think that there’s just never been a better time. Uh, to, to launch a physical product. Um, there’s just lots of, lots of advantages to doing it now. Um, so let’s, let’s just, uh, start wrapping up here.
What what’s new for hit, you know what, what’s something that’s on the horizon that you are excited about, that that you’d love to share with us.
Kara: Well, it’s, you know, it’s been a Netty year for everybody, but we had already launched our direct to consumer business. Um, you know, a little over eight years ago now initially through Amazon.
And then, uh, we launched our own site when we really wanted that relationship, that direct relationship with the consumer and, you know, being able to look at data and really have that relationship, even bigger relationship with the consumer. And when. Uh, when the pandemic hit that’s when we really realized that there were, um, huge opportunities that, that we had to be able to service this consumer.
So that business tripled in the last, uh, what, 15 months and. It was, um, it was big already, but it tripled and, you know, the overall business, we just went in, actually at the beginning of the pandemic, we went into Walmart and Sam’s club and all D um, which any beverage executive would tell you that it’s crazy to take on all three of those giants and, you know, at the same time and, and really try and, um, you know, fulfill orders on those cars that will end badly, but we did it.
We did it successfully, even at the beginning of the pandemic. And then we got a phone call from Costco, uh, that asked us to go chain-wide. They were, they recognized that they had met with us many times over the years. We had. Done a few little things with them, but, um, but anyway, they, they were really interested in us because our entire supply chain is in the us.
And many of the beverage companies that they were dealing with were, uh, you know, challenged because they were T they were not getting their aluminum cans that they export from China or whatever. So their shelves were empty because they were. You know, dealing with supplier issues. And so we ended up going chain wide and Costco, and so huge growth for the company because of the relationships with so many of those retailers.
But I think, you know, for us, I think we’re, we’re taking a breath at the moment and, and really kind of looking at. Frankly, how else we can get better and, and on, you know, the supply chain on just, I think that that’s something that tech really frankly taught me, um, that it doesn’t stop. When you’re good, right?
It’s, it’s actually, that’s the time that you should be stopping and saying, how can we actually get better? What can we do in all aspects of the company to grow, but also just operate more efficiently. And so, um, So that’s what, what we’re doing right now. And it’s a, it’s a good exercise for sure.
Ken: Well, that’s awesome. So I’ve got four concluding questions. This is a quick fire round. So just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Um, what’s what’s one tool or resource that you feel has been very helpful to you. Yeah, I think everybody would say that, although we’re all kind of sick of it too. So what is, uh, what is a book that you could recommend to people besides your own, besides your own.
Kara: Oh, uh, actually I just finished a book that was quite good called Superman’s not coming, um, by Erin Brockovich. Um, and it’s, uh, about something that is near and dear to my heart, which is the, uh, the crisis in the us, around our water supply and, uh, around. Not having clean water supply. And so things like pee fast and some of the other things that are going on, and I’ve been doing some work in Washington around this topic, but she’s been actually doing some work, um, at more of the local level.
So I was particularly interested in it. And clearly it’s something that no matter what industry you’re in as a human, you should know more about what’s in your water and what you’re putting into your own body and your family’s body.
Ken: What is the one piece of advice that you would give to your 21 year old self?
Kara: I would say no, that things happen for a reason. And sometimes you have to trust the journey and recognize that there are things that are out of your control and you do the best you can and keep moving forward.
Ken: And then last, um, who’s one person in your field of work that you would love to take to lunch. Somebody that maybe you look up to,
Kara: to take to lunch. I’ve had lots of opportunities to do that more than I’ve ever been able to imagine. Um, yeah. And
Ken: maybe somebody that you’ve already taken to lunch, you know, that might be a good one.
Kara: You know, somebody who’s kind of become a mentor to me actually that I, I. Didn’t get lunch with them. Actually I’ve had lunch with them, but I didn’t go to lunch with them, but I actually met him sitting next to him at a dinner. And I asked my husband said you’re probably the only one in the America in the world that didn’t know who this person was. But, uh, Jamie diamond from JP Morgan chase.
And, uh, and he has been a huge mentor. To me and on many, many levels. And, uh, and I think what I’ve really appreciated about him, obviously, he’s just, you know, probably pretty much running the money in the world. I mean, as, as I always think, you know, and he just really understands it. And I, I love sitting down with people who just.
Create a ying and yang, right. Where they’re not, we’re not all talking about the same thing. We’re not all, you know, feeling like, uh, Feeling like we’re talking to each other, right. That there’s a, um, that there’s definitely learning going on. So I think maybe I’m a little different in some ways than that.
I really try and surround myself with people that are, um, that I’m gonna learn something from. And sometimes that can be a little scary. Cause you sort of put yourself in. People are like, oh my God, weren’t you freaked out. Like the first time that you started talking to him, people are human. Right. And I think that the more, um, You know, they, they can get to know you and you can be vulnerable.
Then what you realize is that, you know, there’s an appreciation cause you’re also probably not somebody that they get to talk to that, you know, as, as much. And, you know, I think that that would be somebody that I’d love to sit down with, with everything going on in the world. I think he’s probably got some interesting perspectives, particularly around, you know, the markets and business and what comes next.
Ken: Right. No, that’s a great one. Well, um, we’re at the end here, I just wanted to give you an opportunity to give any partying, um, advice to those that may be grinding it out right now in the world of physical products. Um, and maybe even those that, that, like you were unsure, whether they want to start a physical product brand, you know, maybe they’ve got an idea and they want to go to market.
What advice could you, could you give to somebody in that position?
Kara: I think trying to figure out. How you can stay scrappy and, and really kind of prove out the concept. If you think about it like a puzzle and, you know, try and figure out what you can do. I, I’m always about, even when you have a little more money to play with, like how can you really prove it all out?
Like on the cheap, right. And not go and spend a ton of money to go and figure out, like, is this actually gonna work? Um, because I feel like. You learn a lot along the way. Um, and, and again, you may end up, you know, going in a little bit other direction, but it’s almost like it’s recognizing that it’s not as risky.
Right? If you go and just take a few steps, right. You can always go back to what you were doing before, or, you know, if you’re just starting out too, I mean, why not go and take these risks now to go and learn, you know, Aspects of what you might want to do. And then, you know, there’s no clear direction that.
People used to say, go start at a big company and then go to, you know, a small company and do your own thing. Now, I think, you know, it really is an individual decision and I think there’s no one answer to go do it. You could go, I know people who have gone and done startups and then decided that, you know, they sort of miss the skills, the mentorship, whatever, and then they went and knocked direction.
So again, I think you just have to. Move forward and don’t stay complacent. I think that that would be my biggest advice. Is that figure out how do you take a few steps forward and do something.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah, that’s very good. Um, well, uh, Kara, I appreciate it. Um, you have been been a great guest and I love your story.
And I think that you’ve given us a lot of great wisdom here. If somebody wanted to connect with you or follow you, what’s the best place for them to do that.
Kara: Yeah, all over social at Cara golden with an eye. I also have a podcast called the Kara golden show, um, which, uh, I bring on other founders and CEOs and get their stories.
Uh, so it’s, uh, I hope you’ll come and have a listen. There’s some great ones on there and, uh, hopefully you’ll get a chance to grab my book, undaunted, overcoming doubts and doubters, and maybe even. Uh, grab a case, a hint too, if you haven’t tried it or order from us online and, uh, yeah. Lots of different activity in my direction.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s great. We’ll make sure to link to all of that. Um, so appreciate it. Thank you for joining us today.
Kara: Thanks for having me.
Ken: All right. We’ll see ya. Physical product movement podcast is brought to you by fiddle to find out more about fiddle and how our industry leading inventory ops platform is giving modern brands and manufacturers full visibility into their inventory and operations.
Visit fiddle.io, and then make sure to search for physical product movement in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, or anywhere else, podcasts are found. Make sure to click subscribe. So you don’t miss any future episodes on behalf of the team here at Fiddle. Thanks for listening.