🎂 Kara Goldin & Caroline Quick Fireside Chat
2020 marks Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. To celebrate this milestone, we are hosting a series of fireside chats with business and industry leaders all week long.
In this Cloudflare TV segment, Caroline Quick will host a Cloudflare TV segment with Kara Goldin, Founder & CEO of Hint Inc.
Welcome. We have had an incredible line of conversations over the past week to celebrate Cloudflare's 10th birthday week with even more to come and I'm so excited to be here with Kara Goldin.
Welcome, Kara. Hi, how are you? I'm awesome, minus the red sky and craziness that we have going on right now.
It's all really good. I guess it's all relative, right?
But for anyone who has questions during this segment for Kara, please feel free to submit your questions.
There's a link below via email and then we'll try to answer those questions throughout the segment, so feel free to do that anytime.
So for those of you that might not know Kara, she's a founder and CEO of Pint, the makers of this deliciousness, Pint Water, among other products, and she has some pretty amazing accolades under her belt.
She's been named the Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, which is where we met.
You're one of InStyle's badass 50 from 2019.
You're among Fast Company's most creative people in business and one of Fortune's most powerful women entrepreneurs, just to name a few.
On top of all of that, in your free time you've been writing your first book, which is coming out in exactly 19 days, no pressure, called Undaunted.
Yeah, it's awesome.
It's called Undaunted, which is an amazing title. So Kara, you founded Pint in 2005 after working at AOL during some of their craziest times and you had zero experience in the beverage industry, so I would love for you to tell us a little bit about your journey and what that was like.
Yeah, you know, I call myself an accidental entrepreneur because people are constantly asking me, like, did you want to be an entrepreneur or did you know that you were going to start a beverage company and the answer is no.
You know, I was, as you mentioned, in tech prior to this and for me, I was, you know, starting my family in San Francisco and didn't want to travel so much, so I decided there's lots of stuff going on in San Francisco, why not look around for kind of that next opportunity and basically while I was looking, I also really wanted to do something that I felt made a difference and I was looking at a lot of non-profits, was, you know, really excited by lots of different opportunities, but while I was doing that, I was also trying to get myself healthy.
I'd gained a bunch of weight over the course of having lots of kids.
I had also developed this terrible adult acne that I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it and then also just my energy levels were super low, so I decided that I would fix this problem while I was, you know, looking for a job and that's when I had this idea and again really stumbled upon it.
I was, you know, really watching my calories and what I was eating and like I said, buying or I had this acne and I was buying all the stuff and then one day I said, okay, I should really start looking at ingredients and figure out whether or not that is kind of the issue and for some reason I had given a pass to like what I was drinking because it was called diet soda and so I thought, that's fine, I don't even need to look at it and then one day I was staring at this label that had like 30 ingredients and I couldn't figure out what was what and so I put it to the side as just a test, like not really thinking that it would be an issue and that's when after two and a half weeks of swapping out the diet soda for plain water, I lost over 20 pounds.
I mean, it was like, it just like melted off. I mean, it was insane and my acne got better.
It wasn't totally gone but it got better and then my energy levels were up and so again, I was a consumer that was just having this experience and doing my own little test.
I didn't have a nutritionist or a doctor or anybody like weighing in to say, oh, you should really cut out the diet soda.
This was, you know, at this point 16, 17, almost 17 years ago now and so I lived this way for, you know, a year basically looking at, you know, the fact that diet sweetener had actually caused a lot of these issues, not full-fledged soda that had all the sugar in it and so just in casual conversations would share this with friends and nobody thought, you know, that was really the issue, right?
I mean, people doubted, you know, that that was the issue.
They doubted that I was like, you know, that this is all I was doing and that's when one day I, you know, thought, gosh, I would totally do this forever if it actually tasted better and so I sliced up a bunch of fruit and threw it in the water and used to, again, talk about this to friends, the only people that would talk to me about it and didn't at this point even like think about it as a company and then I was shopping at my local Whole Foods that had just opened and I started talking to the guy stocking the shelf, another person that would talk to me, all my friends were all, all my work friends, right?
They're all busy working and so that's when, you know, I realized that no one was doing this, like, product that really got me healthier and, you know, I looked in not just Whole Foods but lots of other stores.
I even had a trip planned to the East Coast and looked all over in stores there thinking, oh, maybe it's just the West Coast doesn't have it yet and so my purpose was never to launch a beverage company.
My purpose was really to help others get healthy because I had seen what it had done to me by just having a water that tasted better that didn't have sweeteners in it and if I could bring that health in, you know, a two dollar product, you know, or less than two dollars, I thought, like, that could actually really help a lot of people and potentially save lives.
Absolutely and I, you know, I've heard, I've heard from friends too that, you know, that don't like water but love Hint because, you know, it just tastes really good and it's just so much better and refreshing and so that's fantastic and so one of my favorite quotes from you that is floating around out there is that if you think you need to know it all to start something, you'll never start.
You need to just know enough and then dive in, you'll figure it out and that quote rings so true to me because, very similar story, you know, I started a modern home furnishings business after the dot-com bust, never having worked retail in my life because my background was all in tech and, you know, I so clearly remember that night of, like, sitting on my bedroom floor with, like, all the pros and cons of this idea written out with my husband and we just kind of, like, overnight closed our eyes and said, all right, we're doing it and then it was born.
So, you know, tell me a little about what that was like for you to make that leap and, you know, what advice you have for people who have that idea kind of simmering in their head and just, you know, are too afraid.
Yeah, I mean, I think that the first step is to actually figure out exactly what you said that, like, why do I have this, like, wall up in front of me that is not allowing me to go forward and I often think when, you know, I talk to, you know, I mentor people along the way who are thinking about getting into, you know, a business or even it could be as simple as changing jobs or doing something personal, I'm always, like, why do you feel that way?
So, I think it's really, like, getting in touch with what your fear is and so you and I talked a little bit about this.
I think that, you know, the entrepreneurs that are the most successful entrepreneurs out there, they definitely have had doubts and doubters and fears, they've had failures, they've had all of the things that maybe you assume they didn't have but the difference is is that they were okay with going on that journey and tackling these things and obviously, you know, being very observant and, you know, understanding that, you know, you don't want to get too far down the road where if you see something failing, hold on to it, you need to be able to adjust as well but I think it really goes to just being able to kind of tackle those fears more than anything and, you know, one of the things that I really hit on in the book is exactly what I said that I'm no different than other people, I don't, you know, I have absolutely had these fears along the way and doubts and doubters but the fact that, or I should say that the easy way for me to go through it was really looking back on my past and some of the challenges that I've had along the way and what I've learned as well along the way which is, you know, confidence in me being able to tackle hard things and get through things and know that I'm going to come out on the other side and it might actually be different than, you know, what I thought and so that's, you know, lots of different stories around that in the book.
And you made a good point that I think that, you know, one of the most important things is to reframe what failure is in your mind because it's an amazing opportunity for learning and growth, right?
And so if you think of it where it just beats you down and, you know, you didn't do it right or you didn't do it well, you actually can change your mindset and really let it be more of a growth mindset based on that experience, you know, that's where true innovation can happen also, right?
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and I think that that is so true whether or not you are trying to figure out if you're going to be an entrepreneur or just deal with life.
I mean, certainly during, you know, this crazy time of 2020, I mean, it's, you know, people have, you know, had many challenges, right?
But I think that the ones that ultimately are able to, you know, lift their head and get out and smile are really the ones that are really thinking about, you know, I've got to go out there and try and I've got to go do something and figure out, you know, I think as it relates to work, like what am I really passionate about and what do I ultimately want to be doing and what have I, you know, like doing and I think is also just a really important thing.
So, yeah, I just, I really, you know, believe that we all have it in us to be able to go and do the things that we want to do, but ultimately it is a mindset.
It is something that, you know, you have to get out of your way.
I think a lot about, I have a niece that played soccer, played pro soccer actually, and she was never, like, thought of as being able to do that when she was younger and had coaches that were telling her you're terrible, you're this, you're this, and ultimately she ended up going to a sports psychologist that actually, like, repaired this in her, I mean, literally, like, started asking her kind of the same things, like, what is it that you're afraid of?
Like, why is it that this stuff gets in your way? And I think about that a lot because I don't think it's too dissimilar to, you know, anyone.
You don't have to be a pro athlete in order to, or potential pro athlete in order to think this way.
I think it's the same thing whether you need, you know, a third party or, you know, just a friend or literally talking to yourself about this and say, okay, I may not be able to get to, you know, Z, but what can I do in order to get further to actually challenge myself in some way to not live this way and not be afraid?
Absolutely, and I think one of the things that helps a lot of people through moments like this is a mentor and a strong mentor in your life to help kind of guide you and ask questions and, you know, whether it be someone in your industry or not, but, you know, one of the things that I'm, that I understand is that when you started Hint, you went to some of the major, you know, beverage people to tell them about your idea and they shot you down completely and they said, don't even try, like, forget about it.
Like, that must have been really challenging.
Yeah, well, it's a crazy story. I mean, growing up in tech, I felt like there was, there was this kind of opinion or just temperature out there where everybody was trying, like, nobody had all the answers, but it was a very, at least my experience at AOL, was it was very free-flowing and we knew people at, you know, the other networks and that were out there and subscription services, etc., and I just felt like people, like, even if you were competitors, you were, like, friendly, friendly competitors, right?
Right. And when I got into the beverage industry, I just assumed that every place was like that, and I remember going to my first trade show and showing up and being like, hey, I'm, you know, got this new product Hint and I've never been in the industry, I'd love to sort of get your opinions, and it was like, I don't have time for this.
I mean, literally, like, it was like, it was just not an environment that I was used to, and so, totally, as, you know, as I went on, I ended up, actually, after, you know, a few months of doing Hint, I decided, you know, this is just so hard.
I'm not sure that the environment is the environment that I want to grow up in.
I was, you know, incredibly lonely, too, you know, in the beginning, just, you know, they say, especially as an entrepreneur, and another thing I talk about in the book is, you know, people think that it's this, you know, incredibly sexy, like, you know, oh, you know, being an entrepreneur, it's very lonely.
I mean, like, especially when you've got this vision and, like, you're so much further ahead, and I mean, frankly, Steve Jobs has talked about this in the past, like, it's just, it's hard.
So, anyway, as I was, you know, going along, I finally was sharing with a friend, like, how challenged I was, and she said, oh, I kind of know this person at this, like, large soda company down in Atlanta.
Maybe you should talk to him about it, and so I get on the phone with him, and I didn't even realize I was going to do this, but as I'm talking to him on the phone and sharing how successful we had been in the Bay Area, I said, oh, and by the way, you know, I don't know if I really am interested in doing this anymore, so you can just have the company, and his response back was, you know, sweetie, Americans love sweet, this isn't going anywhere, and I was like, wow, like, I mean, this is just so.
Push me harder. Right, and so I just was, I mean, I was shocked, and what, you know, I've been asked about this a lot, and I've had some entrepreneurs who have said to me, like, because he has so much experience, and he's coming from such a, you know, large company, that I think I would just stop at that point, and I said, I don't know why I had, like, a different reaction, but I remember very distinctly that day thinking, okay, did he just call me sweetie, and why, like, we're on a different, you know, playing field at this point, or vision, or, you know, whatever you want to think about it, and then as I tuned back in, I thought, for maybe for a minute, I kind of doubted myself, and sort of thought, okay, he's got all this experience, whatever, but then it was clear that my focus was always health, and his focus was tricking the consumer to believe that something called diet was actually healthy, and I, I just, it just, I let him keep talking for a while as I realized, like, how, you know, why was I listening to somebody who was on, who had a different mission at the end of the day, and so that was, like, such a major turning point for me, where I got off the phone, and I thought, if I don't do this, like, this seems so clear to me, if I don't do this, no one will, and that's what I did.
I got, I just, like, at that point, I got really serious, and, you know, I, frankly, I'm thankful, you know, for that conversation, because it really set me on the path to know that it was something that I was, like, gifted to, to go and do.
Yeah, I mean, that is such great insight to have during that moment, where, you know, you could have so many different visceral reactions.
Yeah, yeah. That's really great, and so then talking a little bit about your book, you know, you named it Undaunted, which is fantastic, and so I'd love to hear the story around how you came to that title, and just your inspiration in general to write it, and what it means to you.
Yeah, so it was, I was writing for four years, and basically, it all kind of stemmed, it was an accumulation of a few different things, but it stemmed from a lot of talks that I was giving, or entrepreneurs that I would run into, as I mentioned before, would, you know, kind of almost apologize before they would ask me questions, and around, you know, being an entrepreneur, and how they were so different, and that, you know, I was clearly, like, more confident, and had lots more skills, and, you know, did, like, basically was able to go and do this, because I had all this experience, and finally, you know, after saying this so many times in response, like, no, like, just go try, and go see, you know, and again, a lot of these were not even companies in, like, the beverage space, but I saw so many similarities, and so that was, like, when I thought I should just start writing my notes down, and sometimes I would respond with some of the stories that are in the book too, where kind of reasons why I thought that this was the way for them to go, was to ultimately go try, and it's interesting that, in combination with, I've been a part of an organization called YPO for the last 10 years, and it's interesting what that experience brought me was not only kind of hearing from other entrepreneurs, and leaders in their spaces, but also what I learned is that most entrepreneurs don't actually want a prescriptive, here's what you need to do, one, two, three.
In fact, those really aren't entrepreneurs.
They may think that they're entrepreneurs, but they're, those really aren't entrepreneurs.
What entrepreneurs truly want to hear is the stories of how you got through a very challenging situation, so I think that that is, like, such an important thing that, you know, I do in my book, is really speak in the same way that I learned through YPO, which is, through stories, I can tell you, you know, when I failed, and what I think about failing, so, you know, we got into Starbucks, and which was a huge deal, 11,000 locations, it was massive, it was, like, amazing, like, we had a big celebration that night when that happened, and then after a year and a half, we got kicked out of there, and they wanted to put, it was a business decision by Howard Schultz and his executive team to put higher margin business in the food case, and so they needed to make room, and so they took our product out, had nothing to do with sales, it had everything to do with them, you know, getting a higher ring and higher margin businesses, and so that was a bad day.
I, you know, was trying to figure out with our six months of inventory that we had that was going to go bad, and that was even worse, because I would have to go back to my investors and talk to them about that, and then I got an email and a phone call from somebody at Amazon, and they were launching their grocery business, and I thought, you know, I'm not sure if this is going to work or not, but it's going to solve my problem around having inventory in the warehouse that they're going to be able to take on and hopefully sell, and very quickly we became one of the number one products in grocery for Amazon and a subscription business, etc., and from that relationship, we actually launched our direct-to-consumer business, which is now almost 55 percent of our overall business, so I go back to the Starbucks story, and was that a failure?
I mean, Amazon told me that they buy it at Starbucks all the time, and that's why they actually called us to get in there, and when I think about Amazon and our direct-to-consumer business, I'm not sure I would have actually tested our direct-to-consumer business.
Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't, but because it was working so well and I wasn't getting the data primarily from Amazon that I wanted, and I wanted to launch everything that we did, I go back to, you know, that is one experience that that wasn't a failure at Starbucks, that was the journey, right?
That was the journey to allowing me to have control of my overall business, and something I, you know, always believe too, just in life, is that when things are really bad and, you know, like you just have to believe that they'll get better, and you have to take steps towards making things better, and, you know, if you can put out a fire here with, you know, getting rid of your inventory that is going to be a problem, you've made progress towards making things a little bit better, and that's always, you know, really been my mindset, and frankly, as I, you know, have more experience, get older, however you want to think about it, I can sit there and talk about those types of, you know, situations, and hopefully entrepreneurs will actually look at them as, oh, that's interesting, like when that failure happened in my life, then that actually opened a door to something else, and I think it's such a big thing that, you know, everybody should really look at, again, not only in their business life, but also their personal life, so that's really what I try to do with Undaunted, and very similar to Hints and the other products that we make, I mean, I wrote it primarily because I wanted to help people, and I wanted to mentor a lot more people on a larger scale, and I felt like a lot of these stories are stories that I think really could address some of the problems that people come to me with.
It's absolutely true, and it's so interesting because there's, you know, consistently when you look back on life, you see that things happen, like there's a chain reaction that happens, and you know, the way that you treat people, the way that you treat businesses, the decisions you make, like everything kind of, you know, comes to inform the next, and so being able to see how things worked out for you and seeing that story, you know, is definitely interesting, and you know, exactly what you said, like one of those aha moments for people, and then you went on to expand, like you mentioned, you know, your line to include sunscreens, which I was so excited about because they came out at a time when sunscreen application was a huge challenge for me in my house with my kids, and then we got these amazing scents that they loved, and we felt good about the fact that, you know, it was also around the time that all the stories were coming out around the chemicals and the sunscreens, and so it was great that, you know, a trusted brand where, you know, your whole story was around the purity of ingredients, and then came out to do that at that time just was great, so thanks for making that a little bit easier for us.
Yeah, no, definitely, and it's, you know, it's interesting with the sunscreen.
I think that the key thing that we were trying to do there too is, you know, that was my story.
I had skin cancer on my nose, and so I was trying to figure out, like, why I didn't wear sunscreen, and I had a lot of trust in SPF and makeup, and then I learned that I probably shouldn't have so much trust in a lot of these makeup products that I was wearing, and they could actually exasperate the pre-cancer cells, so one ingredient in particular that I was trying to avoid was oxybenzone, and it's fascinating because when we came out with our sunscreen, and we said, you know, no oxybenzone in it, shortly after that, some very large sunscreen brands were coming out with products and saying no oxybenzone, so in addition to leading the consumer towards health, I really feel like our purpose in developing Hint is also to lead these larger companies towards doing better, so I was so excited to actually see, like, potential competitors copying what we were doing, because I was like, what else can I do that actually makes things better, so I was grabbing a few minutes ago, these are hot off the press, our hand sanitizer, so while I've been sitting inside and, like, going to stores through this whole time, and, like, found myself fearful of so much of the hand sanitizers, like, it would either be, like, too much alcohol or literally, I had one in San Francisco when I was visiting my friend a month ago, and I did the pump, and I was like, oh my god, it smells like tequila, and the guy told me it was tequila, it was bad tequila, and I'm like, you put tequila in this?
This is, like, out of control, and so, yeah, so many of your kids walking around smelling like tequila.
Can you imagine? I was just crazy, and so anyway, I was like, god, we could do hand sanitizers so much better, so these just went live on our site, like, two weeks ago, and they're, I mean, I'm fearful that we're actually going to run out, because there's a, we're running it actually with, I mean, this was another piece, we're running it with a distillery up in Sonoma, and so they were really, you know, kind of challenged by this time husband and wife team, and so, you know, I had met them through a friend, and anyway, they ended up running it for us, and, you know, doing well, but they're just, you know, they're a small operation, and so I'm like, oh my god, but anyway, I felt like we were also helping people by doing something where, you know, we could actually give them some business during a time as well, so anyway, it's, yeah, it's a great product, so.
Well, we have a question, and we only have about a minute, 30 seconds left, so I want to make sure we have a chance to get to it, and this is an interesting one, because considering the state of the world, and how sustainability and climate change has become a huge, you know, focus at the forefront of a lot of conversations, the question is, what steps is Hint taking to combat plastic waste?
Would love to hear if Hint has any sustainability goals.
Yeah, so I'll try and do it in a minute, but so you can go to hintgreen.com and see a little bit more of how we're tackling this.
We've definitely, you know, for us, it's not only just about the packaging, but it's also about where we're actually producing our product, which a lot of these products are actually, you know, ones that are calling themselves sustainable, are getting their products from Asia and shipping, so there's, it's not just about what goes on here, but also like what happens in terms of getting it from from another country, but, you know, the we've reduced the plastic by 40 percent since we originally came out with the product.
We use PET plastic, which again is like the most recycled plastic that's out there.
The ultimate goal, though, is actually to get cities to recycle and turn into other products, including t-shirts and and bags and fences and decks and lots of other stuff, because PET plastic is recyclable.
Great, well, thank you so much for joining us today.
It's been a fantastic conversation. Hopefully we can have another one soon.
So good to see you. Yeah, good to see you too. Thank you all for tuning in.