Coffee N5 Podcast - Kara Goldin

Episode 90 – Coffee N.5 – Using Other People’s Doubts to Fuel Your Own Success with Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin is a big believer in not taking “no” for an answer. For her, the question that follows is, “Why not?” And this is part of what drove her to found Hint Water, now a popular brand sharing shelves in supermarkets next to other major players in the beverage industry. 

Kara initially got the idea for Hint Water after she decided to cut out Diet Coke, which she had been drinking since she was in high school. It was hard to do, she said, but she noticed a lot of changes. She says she lost 24 pounds in two and a half weeks. And her skin, which had acne, was starting to clear up. But compared to Diet Coke, water was boring! People want something with more to it. And Kara wanted to provide them with that healthy but tasty alternative. So Kara decided to do something about it, and Hint Water was born. 

She faced many obstacles along the way, including the fact that this was not an industry she was familiar with, and there were naysayers telling her she couldn’t make drinks with real fruit but no preservatives. Yet she proved them wrong, all while pregnant with her fourth child!

In this episode, we talk about Kara’s inspirations, struggles, and what’s needed to start a company from scratch. Learn what Hint almost was called, how Kara’s husband came to join the company, and how her business helped shape her kids’ outlooks and mindsets.

What you’ll learn: 

  • How Hint Water got started 
  • Marketing of diet drinks
  • What’s needed to start a company
  • Sacrifices in business 
  • Women in business 
  • Exacting change and how the next generations are thinking in new ways
  • Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in kids
  • Surrounding yourself with people you can learn from
  • Not taking “no” for an answer
  • How the name Hint came to be

To learn more about Kara check out her InstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn

Also, you can see her website here 

Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

 Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman

Go back to the homepage

Lara Schmoisman  0:00  

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to coffee number five. And remember I told you about my first love was radio. I started doing radio when I was 14. And I fell in love I fought, I fell in love with those voices of radio that you can imagine how they will look. And you had fantasies about them. And I fell in love with a lot of people through radio. And I had a lot of disappointments also when I met them. But anyway, I love the radio. And for me doing a podcast was something that I had to learn again to do it because I was doing it in a different language. You know what so many people told me Don’t do it. Nobody will listen to a podcast that with a woman with an accent. And they said fuck it. And here we are. So today I invited someone that I feel like has a very similar situation in her life. And with a lot of things, Kara Goldin. I’m so honored that you’re here with me today. Thank you so much for coming to have coffee with me.

Kara Goldin  1:02  

Absolutely. I’m excited to that you asked me so.

Lara Schmoisman  1:06  

So people thought you know, I mean you. Let’s tell people who you are you are they founder of hint that drink so they’re fabulous. And is what anyone needs really because water gets tiring and but flavored water never bust. I love flavored water it

Kara Goldin  1:25  

absolutely well, and it’s unsweetened. So it doesn’t have a sweetener in it. And 17 years ago, now I was I I was taking a little bit of a break, I had been a tech executive had built a pretty significant business inside of America Online doing direct to consumer for seven years. And I had started my family had three kids at the time was pregnant with my fourth when I launched hint, but I started really looking at ingredients in first their food, and really seeing that, you know, there was just a lot of crap that was in everything from formula to you know, I couldn’t really understand why I was giving my kids apple juice, you know, when there was so much sugar and and I just thought Why isn’t anyone questioning any of this? I mean, it’s so lovely

Lara Schmoisman  2:21  

those, those just boxes, I always feel like and also with the metallic foil you felt like?

Kara Goldin  2:29  

Yeah, and and again, is that right? Coming from a different industry. And being a consumer, I felt like I was seeing a lot of things that maybe other people weren’t seeing. And so I finally one day looked down at my diet soda and my diet coke in particular. And I thought I am not practicing what I’m preaching for myself. And here I’m telling my kids don’t do this don’t you know, let’s have no preservatives, all of these things. And then that was not how I was living. And so I decided that I needed to make a change. And I never even thought about myself as unhealthy. But I just, you know, I wanted to be around for my family more than anything. And so I thought I’d do a test to see what would happen if I gave up my diet coke. And I have to tell you that it was not easy. I had been drinking diet coke since I was in high school. And so it was my body went through a detox that no one

Lara Schmoisman  3:35  

Oh, I had the same thing I had to give up. It was an addiction.

Kara Goldin  3:39  

Yeah. And it was really, you know, I equate it to being an athlete like I could do it. But i i It was hard. It was super, super hard. Two and a half weeks after giving up my diet coke. And I was drinking plain water in exchange for every time I thought about diet coke, I’d have a glass of water. And I kept thinking, This water is so boring. I don’t know what I’m going to do. And two and a half weeks later, all of a sudden it was like this cloud lifted. I had had a problem with weight. Since having my kids I had gained a bunch of weight. I was terrible at losing the weight, but never really viewed it as kind of a health issue. I just figured I was just gaining weight over the course of years. And that was just genetically what was going to happen. Then, I also had developed terrible adult acne that I didn’t even have as a teenager, again, kept thinking about kept thinking that that was about what I was putting on my skin. Never thought about maybe it’s actually what I’m eating that is coming from the inside. Yeah, I just didn’t and again, I’m I’m a very smart person who has built businesses I’ve done as those things I just hadn’t thought about it and hadn’t focused on it. All of a sudden my skin’s clear. I lost 24 pounds in two and a half weeks. I’m crazy. And suddenly I’m like, wait, what? How could this be? The scale is broken. I mean, like, I don’t know what happened to my skin. And then I started to connect the dots, I thought the only significant change that I made was actually shifting the Diet Coke. And I thought, how could this be. And then I started looking around at all of the products on the shelves inside of stores, and how I suddenly saw so clearly that there was healthy perception versus healthy reality, and that there were a lot of people who were drinking diet coke, like me, who I believe thought that they were doing better that and there was also this other product that was the hottest thing that had just hit the shelves called vitamin water. And when I looked at the label on vitamin water, they didn’t even have a diet version of vitamin water. But I would ask some of my friends, why they drink vitamin water, besides the fact that it tasted good to them? And they would say, because it says vitamin and water.

Lara Schmoisman  6:08  

I was about to say, the aftertaste of the drinks. That drove me crazy.

Kara Goldin  6:13  

Yeah. Well, and, and but even before you even got to taste it, there’s a marketing machine that goes on that convinces you and and, you know, definitely I can’t speak for for the vitamin water team. But you know, diet soda in particular, they put a lot of emphasis on targeting high school girls. Why? Because they know that soda is bad for them. Right? They have parents who are saying it’s bad for you. It’s not good, but blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But then the word diet allows them to continue. Yeah. And so you get hooked on it. And then maybe you’re, you know, concerned about how you look how you, you know, what, how much you weigh, whatever those issues are, they know that that high school girl, that’s how they’re thinking about things right or wrong. That’s what’s happening. So they get you. And that was my story. So I started really thinking about all of this. And excited that I got healthy. Of course, I wasn’t going to go back to drinking diet soda. My kids were starting to grow up all of these things. And I thought, while I’m trying to figure out what I really want to do for a career, I thought when I left America Online, I was traveling like crazy. The company was actually based in Virginia, I lived in San Francisco. And I thought, I’m going to find another tech job. But it’s going to be in the Bay Area. And when I started looking around at the different opportunities, I kept coming back to what I was really thinking about what I was really curious about. And that was this industry. And I saw this whole so clearly. And this problem that I I believed that if I could fix this problem, then I could actually help a lot of people get healthy, stay healthy, who aren’t thinking about this at all. So that was my mission from the beginning. I mean, it’s interesting, I’ve been interviewed for for this over the years, and I never thought about starting a beverage company, I’ve met a lot of people who, you know, know the backstory to vitamin water, or Red Bull or whatever it is, and they want to go start a beverage company to That was not me, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It wasn’t for me, it was about helping people realize what I had seen. And if I could help people actually live a life of getting healthy, that that would feel really good to me, selfishly. That’s why I wanted to really go and do what I

Lara Schmoisman  8:55  

that’s beautiful. That’s honestly, that’s really beautiful that you have such a strong core believes that that’s why you started the company. And I feel like it’s so important for every company to have strong beliefs and their core values. Otherwise you cannot create a company from scratch. I see all these entrepreneurs now because after COVID-19 COVID Everyone thought oh, maybe it can be an entrepreneur at some point. And starting with for the wrong reasoning company or trying to do what be one more of the people that are doing the same is not enough. You need to find that market that needs something fine and resolve a problem.

Kara Goldin  9:40  

Totally. And I think to your point about everybody was telling me no, I mean something I think a lot about and I try and share this with my audience and also with other entrepreneurs is we spend the most amount of time talking to ourselves every single day. Right and it And the people that also we respect our family, our friends, colleagues, you know, we’re excited about our idea. But but when you are actually coming from a different industry, when you don’t have the right experience, when you have three kids under the age of five, and one on the way, there are a million people who are showing up to tell you up on the

Lara Schmoisman  10:27  

opinions. Oh, my God, everyone has their opinion on how you need to raise your kids, what do you need to do them pregnancy?

Kara Goldin  10:34  

Right. And it’s hard because you it’s some level you think inside your head, I probably shouldn’t do this. I don’t have the experience. I have too many kids to start this. They’re too young, or whatever it is. So it’s hard. Right. And so that’s one of the things that I talked about in my book, that the book is called undaunted, overcoming doubts. Yeah,

Lara Schmoisman  10:57  

I have it here, of course, here we go.

Kara Goldin  11:03  

And it’s because I really wanted to share with people over the years that it’s not all about, you know, snapping your fingers and going and creating a company, I think that it there are so few people that actually find success, that will say that it was a straight line, right, there’s a zigzag that goes on their stuff that they regret, there are failures, there are challenges along the way, there’s stuff that they thought was going to be huge, and then it wasn’t, and your ability to actually, I felt like my ability to talk about those things and think about those things. I started journaling. And so this book was a journal, and it was about 600 pages. And I would do a lot of talks and get interviewed for, you know, by different publications. And then I would get off of the interview, and I would start talking about it. And I would almost prompt myself from their questions to say, How else would I can’t answer it the same way? How else would I talk about it, and I found myself thinking about stories that I had had along the way, my husband, who’s been the Chief Operating Officer, has said, we would have made a lot more money if we would have just run the video cameras over the years and so many stories, right? That we’re just Sure,

Lara Schmoisman  12:25  

sure. But I mean, a lot of people feel like success is easy to be successful. And no success comes with a price. Rise. I mean, I feel like even over the years, and this I’m sure happened to you as a mother to like a lot of people that we meet in the way is circumstantial, because they’re friends of the kids, you form your relationships that they are. But then when you become this business woman, and you will become this person that you’re thinking about their business, you have a team, you have responsibilities, which is not only there in your team is mentoring your team, growing your team, creating this work culture, there’s so many things that you have to do, your views change, and you don’t have the time to do other things. So you sacrifice things in your life too.

Kara Goldin  13:15  

But I will also say one of the chapters in the book where I talk about this, that was, you know, a real aha moment for me that I was never, I was, I guess, a member of the PTA. Or I was the person that was, you know, really trying to hold it together most of the time, especially when my kids were in school. And they were younger. When my son was 12 years old. One day, we were sitting in the kitchen, and he’s my third child, and he plays a ton of tennis, which we’ll get to in a minute, but he was watching Sheryl Sandberg on television talking about leaning in. And and it was kind of in the background for me. And Cheryl said there is a such a small percentage of women who are CEOs of companies and you know, talking about why she felt that way why it was the way that it was. And my son, my 12 year old said, Mom, I didn’t realize that there aren’t very many of you that I’ve been watching you run a company, my whole life. And and so I’m thinking where’s he going with this right like this? Now I have to talk to him about like women being CEOs, etc. And he said, I think you’ve done a great job. So why aren’t there more female CEOs? And I thought, what a nice thing to say. I thought we were done with that conversation. The next day he came home from tennis, and he said, Mom, why are there girls too? teams and their boys teams on the tennis team. And I said, you know, here’s a few different reasons that I can think of. And he said that the girls, there are many girls that are better than the boys. And I would rather have them, why can’t we have a co Ed team. And he said, I’m going to go and talk to the head of the tennis group that he’s a part of, and see if we can’t make that happen. So I thought at this moment, first of all, he has respect for women. He sees women differently. But then he also has that entrepreneurial spirit in me that says, I can write that there are things that are in place that may not be right, with the times,

Lara Schmoisman  15:46  

you can make a change. And you can even think about the change, maybe things around you that are not set for that change immediately. But you can start the conversation.

Kara Goldin  15:57  

So by doing what I did, every single day, as a parent, he was living his life, I was living my life being his mom being trying to do what I was doing. But I also saw, or he also saw how passionate about what I was doing. And there were times when he was in carpools, where people would say, you know, where’s your mom, and he said, Oh, she’s fighting big soda. She’s off, like me, you know, he would have these like stock answers. And in his mind, that was really what I was doing. So while I had beaten myself up for so many years, while I had felt like there’s trade offs, what I realized later on in life, and you know, he’s now 19 years old, is that he the way he lives life is significantly different than maybe other people live their life. But he also saw a role model that was strong, he saw us, his dad, working with me, over the years as well, which is just unique. He never thought of it as any different. But he also saw it as a way to really understand how do you how do you disrupt? How do you create change? And, you know, I think the great thing about Gen Z that I’ve shared with so many people is that they really want the backstories, they want to understand the whys of companies, good and bad, they won’t buy from companies that don’t have, you know, two core values.

Lara Schmoisman  17:35  

So I have a 17 and a 15. Also, and I see it all the time that they they really want to know more about those core beliefs, they are not necessarily into organic or not organic, they believe more in what their why, why they do what they do.

Kara Goldin  17:51  

Totally. And it can backfire. I mean, you know, I’ve seen it over over the years with WeWork. And yeah, you know, with Theranos, with some of that they know those stories, and they carry those stories. So I think being able to be a child of something. And while I had beaten my myself up for so many years, I was thankful that I actually had that moment where I thought we’re teaching, just by living just by doing. And

Lara Schmoisman  18:20  

that’s part of being a leader. I mean, you’re a leader of your family, or you’re leading by example, and someone that you’re mentoring, and they’re growing up to see what they can be. And the possibilities are not I have big issues with education, I feel like they are taught me to work in a cubicle, who is out the window, that those are the expectations. And I taught my kids to think outside the box, and they got in a lot of trouble for that. But I believe that it’s gonna pay off because they are looking beyond that cubicle.

Kara Goldin  18:52  

It’s so it’s really, really smart. And And again, like sometimes, like so many other things in life, when you have fears when you have doubts about what you’re doing, or, you know, Steve Jobs used to say, eventually, the dots connect, I think, for me, the most important thing is that I was doing something that I love doing while I was raising my children. And how many people maybe are not working, for example, and they’re not enjoying that. Right? They regret it. They’re around their children, their children, they see that right, or they’re working in a job that they don’t like, right, but they feel like it’s stable. They feel like it’s whatever that is. I think everybody’s got to make their own decisions. But I think that even though starting a company, starting an entirely new industry, or or category in an industry, all of those things. There were a lot of lessons that he learned that he wouldn’t have learned in school.

Lara Schmoisman  19:54  

Absolutely. Starting a company is hard in your case So you had something unique, different. And as you told us in some of your stories you want to mentor so people that they were in the industry already that you go through connections, and you ask them for advice. And you got that that no or don’t try not don’t do it. And how do you deal with that? Because it’s hard. It’s hard to say, no, but I do it anyway.

Kara Goldin  20:27  

Yeah, you know, I think going back to being an athlete, I think I was a competitive gymnast growing up. And I think, I think back on that experience of working on a team, I, I never wanted to be on a team where I was the best one, right? Because I felt like if I was the best one, that first of all, there was a lot of pressure. And then also, I wouldn’t be learning. And I spent a lot of I was very proud of having people who were better than me, so that I could actually admire and look up and be able, and that is a really tough concept for a lot of people to to understand. But I think when you are okay, with feedback, right, I would go to the coaches say, why aren’t you putting me in or whatever it was? They’d say, Well, you still have to get to this point. And I’d say, okay, so so for me “no”, we’re always Ill get there. It’s never going to be no, it’s going to be here are the reasons. And I think in many ways, that also helped me when I was producing this product, because I kept hearing from people that you can’t produce a product using real fruit, that that doesn’t have preservatives in it. And I’d say why? And they’d say, Well, we don’t know. And they say, What industry? Were you in before? And I’d say I was in tech, you shouldn’t even be producing a product, you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m like, you’re probably right. But why is it that you have to use preservatives in the product? And I was amazed at how many people who were producing millions of bottles or cans every single year did not know the reason. That’s surprising.

Lara Schmoisman  22:23  

That’s what like, I mean, what I feel is like, why I mean, those people are working in those industries. And they don’t know the reason that’s something that worries me that we’re not going to the most elemental, factors, water and fruit.

Kara Goldin  22:39  

And I grew up in a house, in addition to having coaches where I was allowed to say, one way, and I might not like the answer. I you know, it wasn’t immediate gratification in many, many cases. But I was allowed to say why. And sometimes it would make my dad crazy, because I’d be like, I’d say, I want to go to a party on Friday night. And he’d say no. And I’d say why? And he said, because your brother’s gotten a lot of trouble. I’m not my brother, but okay, but go keep going. And have these dialogues. And, you know, sometimes I would win, and sometimes I wouldn’t, but for being able to ask why. I think oftentimes people stop, and they won’t, especially as you get older, especially as you have more experience, because you feel like it’s showing you’re, you know, you’re vulnerable, right? You’re showing, and especially women, women don’t want to be generally the, you know, the stupidest person in the room, right? They feel like just by not having knowledge, they’re not going to, and this is this goes true for holds true for men as well. But I think for me, I felt like if I could ask why. And somebody has a dialogue with me, I might not like their answer. But still, maybe just by talking through things, then I’ll get I’ll find the answer.

Lara Schmoisman  24:04  

I always feel like I never know everything. And I just want to know more. I feel like never is enough. I’m a Constant Learner. So I just always want to ask questions. My husband tells me I’m too nosy because I when I meet something, what do you do? And what do you do? And how do you do it?

Kara Goldin  24:19  

 You’re curious. And that’s a good thing. And I think that people, I hope they remain curious there.

Lara Schmoisman  24:30  

And what I found out is that people love to talk about themselves and what they do, and act by explaining themselves for what they do also read this discover part of them that many times people they don’t talk about themselves.

Kara Goldin  24:45  

Yeah, no, absolutely. And understanding their why and understanding all of those things. I think that the more that they start to go back through that story to is is they understand things about themselves that they didn’t even really realize like how I got there. And so I absolutely agree.

Lara Schmoisman  25:03  

So what was your mom? And the moment that you realize, oh my god, this is really happening. I got the formula, I got the way to do this water with flavor. No preservatives, and I have to get a bottle. I mean, how many things you had to put together? And did you know ahead of time that you will need to do all this? Did you have a plan? Or were you going okay, and now I do this?

Kara Goldin  25:27  

No. In fact, I often say like, sometimes if you think too much about the end, you’ll never get past the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. And I think having been successful in another industry helped me to know that if I failed, if this wasn’t going to work out, I could go back to tech. I mean, I didn’t tell a lot of my friends, most of my friends that were not in, in sort of the moms of my kids in from preschool, were intact. And so I wasn’t going to tell them that I’m starting a beverage company. I mean, it wasn’t even a company. To me, I just thought it was a lot of fun for me to go and get a product on the shelf and Whole Foods. I had no idea how to distribute the product. I didn’t even know how to make the product. I was just, I was willing to invest money, I took $50,000 out of my bank account. And that’s when I decided I should really tell my husband, we live in California, it’s community property. Like I think I should probably tell him that I’m doing this. And, you know, he didn’t argue with me about taking money out of our bank account, because I had made some money. But he didn’t think it was a great idea. He was like I think, and what does he think now? Well, it’s interesting, because, you know, he’s been the chief operating officer for the last 16 and a half years, he was an intellectual property attorney in Silicon Valley. And he left, he was at Netscape and then actually went to a little startup that he was recruited out of by a friend of his father, who was a doctor who was doing something in healthcare, and he was really passionate about health care. He felt like, the world should have access to basic health care, and it shouldn’t be based on where you live, or how much you could afford or anyway. And so suddenly, I come along, he’s seen the changes that I’ve made in myself, just by paying attention to ingredients. And when I came along and said, Okay, I’m gonna start a beverage company. And I think I can get it into Whole Foods. I don’t know for sure. But I think I can. I’ve been talking to the guy there. And he said, what’s the name of this company? And I said, it’s called Wawa. And he said, don’t no, no, no, no, don’t call it Wawa here. I had been, you know, a mom, like a little kid said, telling my kids drink Wawa, and any such don’t call it while also because he grew up in New York City where they’re actually in Pennsylvania, there’s a chain of stores called Wawa. Oh, and again, the lawyer in him was like, the, you know, if you ever get traction with this company, they’ll sue you. You can’t get that trademark for it. So he wasn’t my favorite person at the moment, because I thought I had, you know, this rock star name. And then I, I said, he said, just keep thinking of other names and running by me. And I finally said hints. Like, we’re giving people hints, hints, a hint of flavor all of a sudden, and he said, it’s a four letter word, you’ll never get it trademarked. And that was the moment when I said, Well, I have something else to tell you. And he said, what I said, we’re pregnant with our fourth. And this was all in the same conversation. He said, you’re starting a company in a new industry. And I said, Yeah, and I took $50,000, out of our bank account, and I’m meeting with a bottler in Chicago. He’s like, Oh, my gosh, like on so many levels, and he said, Can I at least come with you to the factory? And I said, Yeah, but you need to try and trademark the name hence. And he said, I will try but it is never going to happen. PS, we have global trademark rights on on hands. So don’t always listen to your lawyer, or your husband or your husband. When we went to the bottler in Chicago, when he saw the bottles coming off the line, that’s we were doing this test run. He said, Yeah, I get it now. Like you’ve been working in bits and bytes. Now you’ve got a physical product. That’s what’s really exciting. And I said, That’s not what’s exciting at all. And he said, What do you mean and I said, what I’m trying to do is actually offer people an affordable way to get healthy because I realized that it wasn’t that maybe some things that I thought were actually healthier and better for We, under the word diet, we’re actually doing more harm than good. And if we can actually get people to enjoy a great tasting product, they will then achieve health. I believed it. And if we can do that throughout the world, selfishly, like, that’s my legacy. And he looked at me and he said, I’m in, like, you’ve sold me, I get it.

Lara Schmoisman  30:24  

Why? That’s why and that’s why you’ll get your audience to believe in you. Because you have a very strong story and a very strong, why behind your brand.

Kara Goldin  30:34  

Thank you. Well, and it was at that moment that he said, I’ll help you. And I said, What would you do? You’re a lawyer, like, you can’t help me. And he said, just let me help you deliver cases you’re pregnant. Like, I mean, how are you going to do that? And he did. I mean, he. And then, you know, as we started getting busier, he stayed, he stayed, and he, you know, has just been phenomenal at making, you know, really running supply chain and operations and doing everything, you know, to get our company to where, where it is today. So,

Lara Schmoisman  31:08  

that’s an incredible story. Kara, thank you so much. I’m so grateful on for you being here and sharing coffee with me and this time and your story is an inspiration for all my audience. So

Kara Goldin  31:22  

thank you. Thank you.

Lara Schmoisman  31:25  

And to you guys. I will see you next week with more coffee number five


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