Interview Replay: Kara on THE IDEALISTS.

Episode 333.9

In this week’s all-new episode of THE IDEALISTS. podcast, host, and entrepreneur, Melissa Kiguwa, speaks with Kara Goldin. Kara is the founder and CEO of Hint, a $220 million beverage producer of fruit-infused waters and lifestyle goods, offering a healthy alternative to sodas and artificially sweetened drinks.

Melissa sits down with the former AOL executive and current “accidental entrepreneur” to glean her insights on what it takes to start a category-changing business from scratch, as well as to learn how other dynamic female executives and would-be entrepreneurs can tap Kara’s pragmatic leadership wisdom.

In this enlightening conversation, Kara and Melissa explore how process, persistence, and the ability to have patience with one’s inner knowing, can help you ultimately make the right decisions.


Kara leads off the conversation with the need for training, process, and stability and what it means when an entrepreneur hasn’t experienced that grounding before building a company. “Process” may sound unsexy but there are so many ways it can prove empowering as you scale. As Kara reminds us, it’s not enough just to be a room full of visionaries.

Next, she relates how a company’s culture is often set from the top and infuses the whole experience not only within the business’s internal culture but also as the organization attempts to build partnerships. People can tell when there’s an alignment of mission and culture.

Building on that, she discusses how getting involved in the PFAS conversation became an unexpected turn into politics and raising awareness around water safety with Congresswoman Jackie Spiers and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Lastly, she shares her parting wish, gained from her time at the Fortune Women’s conference and the Young President’s Organization ( She hopes for younger leaders and would-be entrepreneurs to have greater access to stories, like those in her book, and to c-suite networks—so they can be emboldened to solve their own problems in building their businesses.Join the conversation about THE IDEALISTS. and break*through.

Resources from
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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Today’s episode is a bonus episode. I hope you enjoy it. And please make sure to tune in Monday for a brand new episode of the Kara Goldin show. Enjoy.

You know, where I think experience really comes in is managing people. And I think that if you’ve been in side of a large company, the training programs, and I think that that is something that I’ve been able to see with people who maybe never had that experience, they jumped right into starting their own company, or maybe they worked at an environment where they never really had proper training and processes. I hate process. Right. But it is necessary as you want to. As you look to scale companies. It’s important. And I think it brings stability to people and some predictability. And I think at the end of the day, when you’re leading companies to being able to have employees feel comfortable, right, that no, what’s kind of going to come around the corner, I guess, that that’s where experience does come into play. Because I think that there’s more and more people who are going out and becoming an entrepreneurs, which is great, but I think that they don’t really understand, you know, how to put the processes in place. And, you know, there’s a lot of people who will never be entrepreneurs, but they are willing to support entrepreneurs, but they, they don’t want to work in chaos, right? They want they want some kind of processes. And yet, you know, they won’t necessarily tell you that they want processes, because process sounds like it’s a negative word. Right? And in some ways, for some people, maybe it’s positive, but depending if you go and tell people do you want process, they’re like, they don’t really think about it, but I think people do want to understand there are some lines to some extent, especially if they are do not sort of have the entrepreneur mindset

Melissa Kiguwa 2:54
100%. And two things to I thought about. One is that as you grow, you’re just dealing with different people, you’re just dealing with different personality types. So having a structure within which they all understand what the expectations are of them all. But to also I started my career in media and entertainment. So I mean, I’m talking staff meetings that my boss’s house where he’s rolling a joint, okay. Celebrities superstar, lots of awards, but also, what are we doing here? Right. And so what I know from that, and we’ve seen that in the industry is when we don’t have those processes in place, that’s also where a lot of bad behavior is allowed to happen in those gaps. Right.

Kara Goldin 3:41
Yeah. And I think that’s true. And I think that there’s, there’s this magnet for, whether you’re in the entertainment industry, or whether you’re going into, you know, work for an entrepreneur, they’re energetic people, typically, they are very magnetic. But I think that if they don’t have people around them that are bringing process and some kind of process to it’s hard to keep people it’s hard to recruit people. And you need to be able to do that in order to scale whether it’s your brand, if you’re an individual, or your company, and you could look at it across industries, it’s fact that you’ve got to have those people. You can’t just be a bunch of visionaries, sitting around the table. It’s really fun for a while, and then the world starts to break down.

Melissa Kiguwa 4:28
What are people doing on Monday?

Kara Goldin 4:32
And I think that it’s I think, you know, it’s it’s really true, you know, and I think it’s also true for customers. I won’t name the company, but I’ll never forget, a few years ago, a major major company, I walked in the door and we were looking at doing a partnership with them with hands and there were four people in the room, and they were all high as a kite. You know, and I was, I mean, it was really interesting because I just figured it out after, you know, a few minutes. It’s not my thing, but I’m not a complete prude to the whatever. But it was in the middle of the day. And I really started to like think, is anybody even gonna remember what we’re talking about? So I sort of thought that it was like a waste of my time, right? And then I exited a meeting, I was just like, Okay, well, let’s follow up on this, or whatever. They walked out to the parking lot with me. Two of them did. And then they lit ended up lighting a joint when when they walked out the door, like it was just normal. I mean, it was California. And I was thinking, wow, I mean, it’s like, I don’t know, I just thought it was it was pretty open and kind of laughed about it, there was a guy with me who saw my team is, you know, in his 20s, he just couldn’t believe it. I was like, I can’t believe it either. I mean, I just don’t get any ideas. But I also just thought, it’s the beginning of the, it’s kind of the beginning of sort of, you’ll see it and I won’t say the name of the company, but it’s it really is kind of, like you can see it, there’s just little clues like that. And again, I think it’s a story of it starts at the top. And I’m sure that behavior of the person at the top, I know that they do that as well. And so the rest of the team thinks it’s fine. And there’s a creating a culture, which I think also just speaks to culture to that the why culture is so important. I mean, I think so many people today think culture is diversity. And absolutely, it is that but I think it’s also it’s kind of about respecting the company and the rest of the individuals. And the individuals are not just the people, your coworkers, but also the consumer around you and is something acceptable, I think. And for me, it was less about it was less about sitting there watching these people smoke weed in the middle of the day right in front of me, even though it’s legal, and all of that it was more of a I thought they were wasting my time. And I think that is culture as well.

Melissa Kiguwa 7:17
That is absolutely culture. And it’s interesting, because when I think back to my experience in that environment, I don’t smoke but had nothing against others who do. But I’d literally be in my meeting and watch this person become paranoid over the course of an hour, because they’re investing in this and I’m not. And I’m like, How does this get us to where we need to go. But that was also culture, right? Because it meant that I didn’t fit. And so of course, inevitably, that couldn’t have worked out long term, because you’re not participating in this. So it’s both it lets you know, if you want to be in but it also, you’ll find your way out inevitably, right.

Kara Goldin 7:57
It’s funny just thinking about this. I haven’t talked about this, but I remember I was talking to a gentleman who gotten to know a little bit. And he had reached out to me and was talking to me about wanting to get my thoughts on the on a job. He’s a chief marketing officer. And he wanted to know, like, what I thought about this company, and I asked him what his hesitation was. And he told me about this interview that he was interviewing with the founders. And the founders asked him, you know what he does like for fun, which is not, you know, that’s a question people just kind of want to understand, are you a big runner? Or like, what do you do? And he said, Well, you know, I’ve got two young kids, and I’m really enjoying that part of my life. Like, I never thought I’d enjoy being a father. I like, never really thought about it. And so he said, what, what do you enjoy doing? And the two founders said, Well, we like going out and drinking a lot. And so I said, Well, what else do they say? And he said, Well, that was kind of it. Yeah. See? And I said, there’s your answer. You’re in a different chapter. And it doesn’t. And again, like it sounds like they’re really young. And you should trust your gut. Yeah, because you’re going to be in a senior level role dealing with that. And that was assigned

Melissa Kiguwa 9:33
100%. I guess this goes into, I spent the week reading your book, which was absolutely lovely, undaunted. And there’s so much in there because you’ve experienced the arc of company building. I mean, literally, you know. And so, I would like to go into what are the core values that you feel are important for building a company for you in terms of what has allowed him to become what it is you mentioned initially that it’s not necessarily experience but it is passion, a core alignment around mission. No sugar drink water.

Yeah. So talk to

me about how you think through the values you have now and how they have evolved, as you’ve just learned

Kara Goldin 10:20
along your journey, I always share with people that your own experiences and dealing and challenging time sort of form, how you think about everything, your company, your culture, your management, whatever it is. But I think actually having a reason for doing something never really changes, right. And I think that being an entrepreneur is so incredibly hard that nobody in their right mind would actually go in willingly unless they had a reason that they thought they could actually change the world, change a category change an industry in some way. And I think that, for me, that’s how I viewed hint. And 17 years later, still view it that way today that I never really thought I was going to be able to get people everyone to drink water, because I knew for my self that water was super boring. But I thought if people actually knew that you could throw fruit and water, then you could not only get people to enjoy water, but you could actually change their health. I started hearing that from people, I just wanted to drink more water. But people would come to me and say, Hey, I started throwing fruit and water, and I lost weight, my skin cleared up. And I started really seeing how the connection between if you had a product or service that actually really helped people, then they would actually continue to use it. And I would look at like the diet industry overall. And how many of my friends had been on different diets over the years, and most of them didn’t work. And so then people would just give up on these diets. And they would spend a lot of money doing it. And I thought it was really sad to that. Why can’t it just be pretty simple? Why can’t you just drink water with just like some fruit in it. And the big reason is, is that it’s hassle. Like, you’ve got to go to the store water with fruit in it in a pitcher in the frigerator only lasts like a day and a half before it sort of tastes nasty. And you know, the fruit doesn’t look right after a while it starts to not look good. And I couldn’t believe that a product like this wasn’t out there. You know, I wanted to bring a product like this into the market. But I think, you know, what I’ve learned is that just because it’s it’s your idea and your mission and your purpose when you start building your company. Over the years, most of the people, the best employees, and the best people that we’ve had are the people that really, they get the mission. Having said that, I always say this to other founders and entrepreneurs, no one is going to work as hard as you. Because when you home grow this mission and this purpose, and you live and breathe it, you can pay people more money than you, they’re not going to do it. Because it’s not theirs. They don’t own it. They don’t fully own it. It’s the way it is right. And the best you can do is hope that people are going to join you and be key contributors, right? Because they’re employees, and they want to be treated well, and all of those things and work in a great culture and all of that. But I think that that’s probably the most important thing that I’ve learned. I mean, you

Melissa Kiguwa 13:53
can have a co founder who doesn’t even work as hard as you write. Yeah.

Kara Goldin 13:57
And in fact, I remember, you know, in terms of like, things that I heard early on, my husband joined me and I recruited him to deliver cases to Whole Foods, talk about it in the book. You know, he was really doing it because he wasn’t at the time. Like I wouldn’t say he was passionate about it. But he was passionate about me. And he saw me working my tail off and I was pregnant, and had just delivered my fourth child. And so he didn’t want to see me in an insane asylum. So he was like, you know, wanting to be helpful. But then what he really started seeing was that if you could actually deliver a product like him that actually helped people, a lot of people, you could actually change disease, like you could change. You could change the pharmaceutical industry. I mean, you could actually have the amount of insulin that is sold right could go down if you actually got P bowled to drink more water and get off of these sweeteners. Maybe it could actually change an industry for the better. And I believe we have done that over the last 17 years, I never thought that, you know, he would actually stick with it as long as he did. He’s an intellectual property attorney, but his own passion. And kind of his journey he grew up in a house with his father is now retired, but a doctor in New York City for years, and he was passionate about health and passionate about helping people. And so it was his journey that he grew up in. And he thought, Gosh, he had seen his father for years, try and help people and help people with gastrointestinal and he was an internist. And, you know, he used to say, when they go home, I tell them the here’s what you need to do. But whether or not they do it, I don’t know whether or not they do it. But he said if part of it was part of the frustration was that it just wasn’t easy. If you could actually produce a product like hint, and it was making it easier for people and less prescriptive, but just part of their life and fun and simple, then you could actually change people’s health, and they won’t need to have a prescription, they won’t need to have some of the things and some of the frustrations that you know, great doctors have with with their patients. And so I think that that’s where he got really passionate about it. And that if you could actually, and frankly, it’s it’s part of what has kept stirring the hardest days, you know, to keep going when you actually have consumers that say just that, that like I tried everything, and then all of a sudden, I just started drinking water with fruit in it, and had your product as well. And it really helped me to do it. But what I was gonna say just before I went off on that tangent was that so many people had said, working with your husband, that just won’t work. We had people early on when we were looking for investment money, actually tell us that they wouldn’t invest because it’s a husband and wife team. And I’ll never forget, my husband said to one of the investors, just out of curiosity, like name a couple name a husband and wife team, where the company was actually not going to work because of the husband and wife. And that, you know, just for whatever reason, talking about co founders, it just wasn’t going to work out. And he said, Well, I can’t really name any but husband and wife teams just don’t really work. And so Theo, my husband said, Well, that’s interesting, I’m not doubting you. You’ve invested in a lot of companies, but I’m just curious, like, so I can like look at it. And he said, Well, I can’t really think of any right now. But and so I always tell. I mean, that sort of leads to a whole other conversation I always share with with founders is like when you’re raising money. And people tell you something like that, like we’re not going to invest because you’re married to your co founder, or you don’t have the right sort of experience. Maybe you have red hair, right? Who knows what they’re saying, you never really know why people aren’t investing, they’re just grabbing on to something in order to leave the meeting. And you never really know and doesn’t really matter. They’re not doing it and move on. But I think that actually, in hindsight, when I look back on founding and scaling a company with with my husband, you know, we have each other’s backs. And I think that that’s an and we also have the companies, we’re always looking out, actually, we’re looking out for two things for our family, and for our business. And I think when you have two co founders who aren’t married, they each have a family or maybe one has a family, one doesn’t have a family, and then they have the business. And there’s always challenges that exist with that. So there’s not one way, I guess is is the moral of the story, the more important thing is, are you passionate, and do you care? Do you both care so much? And do you have different skill sets?

Melissa Kiguwa 19:31
Yeah, I like that. I like that a lot.

Kara Goldin 19:34
Hey, Kara, here. We are thrilled you’re listening with us and I hope you’re enjoying this episode. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing so many amazing guests over the past few years and there are so many more to come. I cannot wait and my focus is on entrepreneurs and CEOs, real innovators and leaders who are making a difference. That’s what I’m looking forward to bringing you on One of the reasons I enjoy interviewing many of my guests is that I get to learn, we all need to hear stories that teach us to be better inspire us and help us get through those challenging moments. I can’t remember the last time I had a guest that didn’t leave me feeling like a major hurdle had been overcome. We just don’t hear these stories enough. And when we do, we learn to be smarter, and stronger. Don’t you agree? Episodes are concise, but packed with amazing info that you will surely be inspired by, do me a favor and send me a DM and tell me what you think about each interview that you get a chance to be inspired by. And if you are so inclined, please leave one of those five star reviews for the Kara Goldin show on one of your favorite podcast platforms as well. Reviews really, really help. Now, let’s get back to this episode.

Melissa Kiguwa 20:57
I’m curious, something that I thought about while reading the book. And this also helps me understand your mind more. So we’re getting people to drink water, right? Which should feel like such a simple birthright sort of thing, right? Like we should have access to water. And yet we know we can look at the developing world, we can look at the global South, we can even look at some parts of the United States people do not have access to clean water. What I thought was so interesting is you don’t get political about it. Is that intentional? Or is that part of your personality? I was wondering that where the line between a righteous sense of injustice comes in? Or whether you’re like, No, we just we found something that counters this problem. And that’s really fantastic. And let’s do it to the best of our ability?

Kara Goldin 21:43
Well, you know, it’s interesting, I think it really points to kind of another thing that I’ve really seen along the way is that you can’t solve every problem. And I think one of the things that I touch on actually in the book towards the end of the book is clean water. I’ve become really passionate about clean water. In fact, somebody just DM me on on social yesterday about pee fast. I was like the first person to talk to them about pee fast. And pee fast is a I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. It’s a chemical that is in water. There was a movie made a few years ago called dark waters with Anne Hathaway, I encourage everybody to watch it to get sort of a glimpse on what goes on. But the interesting thing that I’ve learned about water, since actually, being in this in this industry that I never knew anything about is that water is regulated by states. It’s not regulated by sort of a national, it’s not, you know, regulated by the EPA, the EPA only gets involved when there is some sort of health problem with water. So you know, if you’ve got an issue, like what happened in Flint, where they were actually seeing that it was very closely tied to poisoning of some sort, and people are dying, which takes a long time for that to happen. What they don’t look at is what happens when you have something like pee fast, and you know rates of cancer, and certain areas because the water is actually tainted, and when you don’t test for pee fast in the water, which is what is coming up more and more than you’re not going to see it, you’re not going to see the problem. What I thought was fascinating is that pee fast is actually regulated in the cattle industry. Yet it is not regulated in our drinking water. Water is also used for things like crops, like strawberries, and lettuce and things that and, you know, why are isn’t it regulated? If it’s regulated in one industry, in the cattle industry? Why isn’t it regulated in the drinking water as well as in crops? And I mean, in terms of regulations. What I mean by that, too, is that if you actually have pee fast in your cattle, then you’re done. Basically like the land that those cattle are being raised on. You’re not going to be able to sell it, you’re not going to be able to it’s a disaster. So any cattle rancher that would be listening to this podcast, they know what I’m talking about. Yet people don’t even know about it who are looking at kind of just drinking water they assume that if they turn on the tap their waters just fine. So anyway, I did get involved at the national level. Not intentionally, but started asking the question I actually went to As a California Congresswoman, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, that I asked her the question, I said, I looked at it, I have eight plants across the country, we look at it, we have to remove all pee fast from water before we put fruit into the water, otherwise it will grow things. But that’s tap water. I mean, what happens once it actually hits somebody’s faucet? Because you guys aren’t using reverse osmosis. They’re not using all these and she was, I mean, I adore Jackie. But Jackie was like, Whoa, like, I have no idea. And she’s incredibly smart. Like, if Jackie doesn’t know about it, and hadn’t heard about this, it was fascinating to me. So she’s like, Are you a scientist? Are you a lobbyist? Are you you know, we’re Nope, I just run them a little water company out of San Francisco. And it’s called hint or nationwide, etc. So anyway, I ended up talking to Vice President Kamala Harris before she was Vice President to talk to her about it was amazing to me how many people knew nothing about this, and about, you know, the state regulations and etc. I mean, they knew that it was all regulated by the state, but they didn’t know why. So I think just me just raising awareness about this, we ended up was right before Biden came in into office and some there, there’s some stuff going on. But I think like the frustration is, is that it just takes a long time. There’s been a lot going on in our world for the last couple of years. And so a lot of things sort of halted, having said that the DSM that was sent to me yesterday was that it was actually just passed in California, that they’re going to make pee fast illegal in California. Now, the question is, how are they testing for it? Right, because it’s one thing to actually say that P fast is illegal. But if people don’t actually know they have it. So I haven’t seen that part of it. But again, like, I think that that’s the piece that, that I’ve looked at with hand, I didn’t plan on being the one to sort of bring this to the PA or, you know, raise awareness around it. But I think that, you know, goes along the lines of if you see something, say something, and you never know where it’s going to go. And the more meetings that I started getting into and raising awareness around it, it piqued other people’s curiosity. They didn’t have the answer as to like, why are we regulating it? Why is the FDA regulating it in the cattle industry? Versus in the water industry? Well, the FDA isn’t touching the water. Unless there’s a problem. The EPA doesn’t touch it either. And so again, like, I didn’t have a solution, but if but just bringing it to people, I think like that’s what I feel, you know, good about. It’s work in progress. I don’t think we solve the problem. But I definitely felt like we raise more awareness and around.

Melissa Kiguwa 28:05
Thank you for all of that. So, so much, so much to think about. This is something else that struck me while I was reading, so much testing and so much work in terms of getting should I call it the Venn diagram of good water, clean water, tasting water, right? As you’re adamant take on not using preservatives and making sure that it had a certain level of naturalness to it. And so I’d love for you to talk to us about that just the process of getting a product that again, we think of water as like I just get it from my tap what what’s all this right, but I was so struck while reading your your book about the amount of work I mean, you would even say, years of developing essences or developing certain things to make sure that the filtering process so it’s a whole thing hot filter to cold filled director, hot filter, changing then the packaging that it would have to come on, when you change how you process and filter the water. And then getting into what what’s in the water and not even being able to trust the water that was coming from some of these places. So talk to us about that the evolution of your understanding of waters. It’s very deep.

Kara Goldin 29:24
Yeah, I mean, I think that initially, I’d seen it in my own house that I was the backstory was I was trying to get off of diet soda, and I knew that after I got off of diet soda, I needed an alternative. Otherwise, I would go back to drinking diet soda. Of course, I knew that I was supposed to be drinking eight glasses of water. Plus, I’d been hearing that for years and I never did. I grew up in Arizona, where I should have been drinking a lot more water, but I just never did. So when I asked myself the question, why don’t I drink water? I thought that it was boring. And that’s why it was very easy for me to answer that question. I wasn’t one that I had sort of been asked for years. But I thought, you know, if you’re not doing something that you know, you should be doing, there’s usually a reason. And that was my reason. So I had figured out how to change that and make water more interesting. Now, I thought that there were clearly people who enjoyed water. And that wasn’t my audience necessarily, it ends up actually that. Hence, audience is those people, they may not be like the people that are having as much hint, but they’re not offended by it. Somebody who’s drinking tons of water, but you handed them coke. They’d be like, I’m not gonna have coke. But they would have a hint. But our audience in the in the market that I really went after, was the people that were drinking, diet drinks, and diet drinks 17 years ago, was an it’s still a big market, but it was a very big market. And I felt like there are the majority of those people who are drinking diet, who are fooled. When I would ask people, why do you like diet soda? They would say, because it’s healthier for me. If you were to call Pepsi or Coke on the phone and say, Is diet better? For me, they’re very careful about saying it has less calories. The average consumer believes that less calories means better for you. Yet you talk to doctors about that. They’re like, not necessarily. And it ends up now that many of these diet sweeteners actually trick the brain into producing more insulin. So is it better for you? Probably not. I didn’t even know that I was an entrepreneur. I mean, I had worked for many, many entrepreneurs, but I didn’t. I mean, talking about different, whether you should have a co founder or whether or not, you should be married to a co founder or whatever. For me, I just wanted to get this product on the shelf to help people. And then I people started saying, Oh, that’s so cool. You’re an entrepreneur, I’m like, me, I am. I’m just like trying to sell a product on whole foods shelf. Because I think it’d be just really funny. And if I didn’t work, and I actually did think about that, I thought, while I was taking time off from my role in TAC, which is how I viewed my life at that point, having young kids, I had this, this image of being in a dinner party, and people would say, What have you been doing for the last couple of years, and I would just make them laugh by saying I launched products, and it didn’t work out. It failed. But it was a lot of fun. Here’s what I learned along the way. And I just didn’t take it very seriously. And I mean, I think this goes to something I’ve talked about in the book is sometimes if you think too much about the end, you’ll never get past the beginning. So many people think I’m going to write a business plan, we definitely had a business plan, but I didn’t sit there and say, Okay, I’m going to sell the company in two years, I’m going to make lots of money. I mean, those are the plans that usually don’t work. Instead, it’s like, why are you doing this? Are you solving a problem? How big is the market that you’re solving for? And are people do they want to once they try it? Are they purchasing it again? Are they subscribing I guess is you know, depending on how you’re going to measure this, I think like that type of that, for me was was the big piece of it. I think little Do people know, or think about, especially the people who are thinking they want to get in and out quickly. And they want to make a lot of money and they want to be whatever the next Facebook or the Nexus. I mean, there’s just a lot, there are very few companies where it’s an overnight success. There’s usually failures, there’s usually all kinds of things that happened in between. And I try and lay those all out in the book to the book was actually my journal, and turned it into chapters, like pulled a lot of the stuff out because some of the stuff was just so crazy, that we would run into that I would share these I like laugh with my husband about some of these stories. Because he was the only one that I could even talk to about it was friends of mine that were going up the ranks in tech. And they weren’t founders, they wouldn’t even they wouldn’t understand that we were going to the plant at 11 o’clock at night and bringing our sleeping bags. You know, they were like wait, why? Why would you do that? Yeah, why wouldn’t you do that? I just thought it was an experience and it was fun and and you know, just like it was crazy and there’s still so many crazy stories

Melissa Kiguwa 35:02
doing at the plant, though what? Why did you bring your sleeping bag?

Kara Goldin 35:05
Well, because they wouldn’t you know, when you’re walking into an industry where you don’t have the experience that people think you should have, it didn’t matter that I was, you know, one of the only women in tech get sort of my levels that I had grown to be a vice president and America Online. I was, you know, one of the youngest VPS, as well, all of that didn’t matter. When I was launching a beverage company, I would call these co packers and try and get them to like, run my product. And they didn’t want to run it because they thought it was a waste of time. I mean, even paying up front for trying to get samples and try and get a product on. People didn’t want to work with me, because they thought that I was clueless that I had here I was calling and saying, hey, I want fruit and water and no preservatives, no one was doing that. Everybody wanted to produce a product that had preservatives in it because it was easy. And that was the industry standard. I mean, we not only produced a product and produced or created an entirely new category, unsweetened flavored water, but we created a way to actually do water, with no preservatives in it. But in order to do that, we had to find a plant that was willing to do things differently. And when you come from outside of the industry, and you’re trying to get somebody to basically invest in you, and try things out, it’s hard. Here I was like people would say, Oh, well, what were you doing before? I worked at America Online? Way I didn’t know America Online had beverages. Oh, they don’t. So that was the conversation. And then people would hear like, one of my babies crying in the background. And they’re like, this lady’s super crazy. Like, she’s like, Oh, how many kids do you have? For under the age of five? They’re like, I mean, they wouldn’t invest in me at all. So I think that that was sort of the early days of hint. And I love running into some of those people now where they actually describe the exact same story that I’m describing to you. But they own the fact that they didn’t think that I was going to be able to pull this off. And you know, I’m like, I love that you own that. Because I think I felt that you were doubting me as well. But guess what?

Melissa Kiguwa 37:43
But why were you taking your sleeping bag to the to

Kara Goldin 37:46
the Oh, sorry. So many of these people said no. But a couple of these people said, we’ll do it but not like, at a normal time, because they were all really busy. We ended up going down to one of the plants in Watsonville, California, which is just outside of Santa Cruz. And the only time that he could do it was 11 o’clock at night. And he’s like, bring your sleeping bag because it’s really cold in here. And I may not be able to even start to work with you until one o’clock in the morning. And of course, my husband was like, You’re not going there by yourself. You’re going to be in a plant and what? Here you are, like we get a babysitter to go down there. I’m like, Oh, it’ll be fun. I’m fine. Don’t worry. He’s like, No, I’m coming with you. So we went and he’s like, Wait, you’re bringing a sleeping bag? I’m like, oh, yeah, bring two of them. They’re in the garage. So we so we did. And, you know, we look back. There’s so many of these stories, that it’s just hysterical.

Melissa Kiguwa 38:47
It’s a wonder. I still want to hear more about you. The evolution of like the water because that was the key thing. You know, for the whole thing. It was like how do we get? How do we extend the shelf life of this water if it doesn’t have preservatives in it? Right. And that was your sort of like golden sort of Oh, everyone said it couldn’t be done. You spoke to someone at Coca Cola. They’re like girl, sweetie, now, you can’t, sweetie. But the other thing too is like that you kept. There was something in you that just said like, no, we’ll figure it out.

Kara Goldin 39:20
Yeah, well, there’s two things. I mean, I give my husband full credit for actually figuring out how to create the product without preservatives in it. And he not just happened really by having an espresso maker in our house and he was thinking about how do they do it and about temperature and about you know, once it’s actually opened the little capsule and then you’ve got the hot water in there. And I think he was really kind of geeking out on how the process there aren’t very many people that think about those details, they just want the end product. But he was really interested. And I mean, we were at a point when the company was going to shut down if we couldn’t figure it out, because we could produce a product that had a short shelf life. But there was only so much time that some of the, you know, partners, the grocery buyers that we were working with, like at Whole Foods, they just didn’t want they wanted a product that wasn’t gonna go bad, right, because if they had so many products in their stores that had short shelf lives, it’s just really hard to like manage. So I think like that was the thing that we saw early on, was really going to be kind of our Vietnam was that we were able to like buy time saying, No, we’re working on it, we’ve moved from three months to like six months, but it at some point, you know, we recognize how painful it was. And also in order to scale, to have a short shelf life, we’d have to hire a lot of people going and checking on the inventory to make sure that it wasn’t going to go bad. All of these things like it just, it wouldn’t net out from a business standpoint, until we could actually extend the shelf life to longer. So once we did that, we felt like, Oh, my God, like we figured it out. And we were going to be able to scale it. And then all kinds of other problems come along, in the course of building a company where, again, I wanted to talk about it in the book, everything from the operation side to dealing with the financial crisis in 2007 2008, when, you know, the world was falling apart, and we had grocery stores that were saying, just give us the product for free because we need to stay alive. And you know, there was no consideration or concern for us as as founders, they were like, well, this is an investment for you. We we need to stay alive, everybody, you know, and I’m thinking you’re bigger than us, shouldn’t you be taking care of us? Now, it’s not the way it works. So very, very quick business lessons, you know, along the way. And I think there’s many, many stories, like I said, that weren’t included in the book, but things like trust your gut, it’s definitely no matter what industry you’re in, I think jumping into an industry are jumping into a partnership where you don’t think it’s necessarily going to be for the right reason, or it’s going to work out, then you probably shouldn’t, because you have to believe that it’s going to work from the start. And if it’s like, this just isn’t right, because the partnership isn’t right. Or maybe your customer isn’t there, you should not do it or, or delay it in some way. I always tell entrepreneurs, we didn’t go into Walmart until the beginning of 2020. And primarily because not because we were snobby in any way. I mean, we knew that Walmart was a big company and had, you know, lots of great things about it. And we’re in locations that you know, we weren’t in. So we wanted to give people access to better tasting water unsweetened better tasting water. But we just didn’t believe that the consumer really understood what we were talking about yet. And the trade off was we didn’t have money to sort of market to those consumers to let them know that we were there. So to build awareness. And then the other piece of it was that Walmart, at the time, I when we spoke to him for many, many years about partnerships, we had influencers that we were talking to that we potentially were going to do partnerships with that could have gotten us in but until Walmart was willing to like invest and give us the proper placement, we thought we would be an afterthought. And I was almost laughed out of the building multiple times because they were like, we’re giving you an opportunity. And I’m like, I know. But if you’re only giving us two facings on the shelf, and we’re sitting right next to somebody with 30 facings. We look like you know, this like afterthought, or that it’s about to go out of business, and it’s just not going to work. So we’d rather not do it until you’re going to give us like a big space and we waited. I kept thinking maybe it’s the wrong decision. But you know, now we’re in there and Sam’s Club and like we do great. So it was the right decision, but you have to sometimes trust your God, I couldn’t really nail down exactly why I was making that decision, but it was definitely the right decision.

Melissa Kiguwa 44:42
Yeah. What a great story. I’m curious about your inner world. What bolsters you What do you believe about yourself in the world that helps you through really challenging things?

Kara Goldin 44:55
You know, I think I enjoy life. A lot. And I think that if I’m in a place where it’s challenging, I constantly like want to be in a place where I’m back enjoying things, I think the majority of my life, I really, really enjoy. And I feel like I make progress. And I definitely view myself as a builder. And when you are a builder you run into, you put yourself into challenges. I’m used to that. But I think that I’m always looking for the light, and the positive, where I get myself to a point where it’s like, very comfortable, where things are growing where everything’s good, but I find myself, almost like pushing myself into territories where, okay, let’s go start. Let’s go build again, let’s go figure something else, Howard, where I know, I’m gonna get into challenging spots. So I think like, that is something that is very consistent throughout my career. You know, I was a competitive gymnast and a runner. And I constantly do that, like, wait, you just got here? Can’t you just like relax and celebrate for a little while? No, I need to figure out how to now do my roundoff back handspring back handspring. Because I like, how hard could it be, you have to just keep challenging yourself. And, you know, used to drive my parents crazy, because I was like, they’re like, you cannot sit still. And I think it’s the same in business. Like I’m constantly looking, I’m creating my own challenges. And, and I think that that is like a consistent throughout amongst my life.

Melissa Kiguwa 46:33
Quite a number of our listeners, founders, especially isolation is that something that you dealt with, is that something that you felt over the course of trying to build something even despite having your husband be your co founder? You know,

Kara Goldin 46:47
I think having a husband, but also a co founder, and a partner that has totally different skill sets, I think has been really, really helpful, I would say that being able to sort of understand what somebody is going through or sort of what they’re hearing, it probably makes it less lonely to some extent, because I think that the challenge with founders, no matter what industry they’re in, is that the spikes of the highs and lows are so real. And I think when you hear doubters that are coming at you, and saying, oh, that’s never going to happen, you can’t do this after a while, the sheer volume of those doubts, it’s not one, it’s a lot of them, it gets to you. And I think being able to have somebody who helps you get back up again, is really helpful. Because I think that that’s sort of where co founders come into play to where, if you’re just a sole founder, I, you know, I have many friends who have done that. And it’s just really tough. I’m such a big believer and have such a big community of people that I can reach out to and call that they may not understand the specific issues, but they understand sort of the the spikes that I’m talking about, versus the people that have worked inside of a big company, they know that the lights will still come on tomorrow, if they don’t go into the office today kind of thing. Like that’s a very, very different work environment than somebody who has built a startup from zero to a couple 100 million as we have. It’s a very different mentality. And I think it’s something that not very many people have done, and not very many people can say they’ve been through, but I think being able to find that community around you is critical.

Melissa Kiguwa 48:39
And how did you find that community? Have you cultivated it?

Kara Goldin 48:43
You know, I think just meeting people actually, it’s funny I was I was just with a group of women that a friend of mine is now running the US Patent Office, Kathy Fidel, and I met Kathy, I don’t know, maybe 15 years ago, at a fortune conference. Anyway, Patty sellers who founded the fortune Most Powerful Women was interviewing me at this conference. And I was laughing with her. Because when you go to these conferences, and there’s men at these conferences, I think it’s kind of a, I don’t know, maybe it is maybe it isn’t, but when there’s just a bunch of women at the conference, and they’re all pretty accomplished. It’s exciting to meet these people for like a minute. But then you find that the connections and sort of what these people have done and what their network, it really is the network, that that comes into play. And I think women who get access to those communities benefit and part of what the US trade, Patent and Trademark Office is trying to build right now is Cathy is trying to bring those communities to everyone because people like me have been lucky to be able to be in the C suite and be able to be invited to those things. things but everyone should have access to those communities where, you know, they go in and network and meet people that will be helpful to them to try and solve problems and build businesses. And I think like that, that is something that I’m, you know, really hopeful, we’ll be able to come to be for everybody, because I feel like people can figure a lot of stuff out, if they actually talk it through one thing, I’m been part of a group called YPO, for years. And one thing that I learned in YPO, is that when you’re in these forum groups, they call which is sort of like mini groups where they put people together and you sort of storytel around challenges that you’re going through, they won’t allow you to actually say, Hey, here’s how you should go solve your problem. Instead, you have to talk about your own experiences, which the first time you hear it, you’re kind of like, wait, I just gave my problem? Why are you telling me your problem. But the idea is that you have to talk about your own experience, and how you got through something that in your mind is kind of similar to what that person is going through. And I think that the big learning that I’ve learned is that people ultimately don’t want somebody to solve problems for them. It’s nice if they can, but typically, that doesn’t happen anyway, they have to solve their own problem. But they just don’t know how to break through, or they don’t have access to people that can help them kind of think through how to get through some kind of barrier. So I think more and more about that. If things are just easier for people to figure out how to do that. People are smart, and they want to go and do that. They just need to know how to do it or know that somebody else has done that. And frankly, that was the other reason why I wanted to write my book, too, that I feel like if people read my book and see that I can do it. Maybe they can do it, too. I love that. I

Melissa Kiguwa 52:02
love that.

Kara Goldin 52:03
I talk a lot about my journey on social on Kara Goldin and I’m pretty open book. So if there’s anything that people want to know, that would be awesome.

Melissa Kiguwa 52:15
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Kara, for your time. so appreciative.

Kara Goldin 52:19
Absolutely. Well, thank you. I really, really appreciate it. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. And 2023 And goodbye for now.