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Why One Founder Says It's Crucial to Question Assumptions and Constantly Improve

Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of flavored-water company Hint, says she celebrates small wins but doesn't grow complacent and always digs deeper.
Why One Founder Says It's Crucial to Question Assumptions and Constantly Improve
Image credit: Courtesy of Hint, Inc.
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Kara Goldin had a fizz problem. When the founder and CEO of flavored-water company Hint launched her line of carbonated beverages, Hint Fizz, in 2011, she wanted to sell it in glass bottles, as plastic bottles don’t seal as tightly as glass ones, causing fizzy drinks to go flat over time. Plus, in Goldin’s opinion, drinking sparkling water out of an ice-cold glass bottle just tastes better.

She also believed glass was better for the environment, too, and aligned with the company’s mission of providing healthy, safe and natural consumer products.

Related: Beware of These 6 Assumptions in Your Startup

Goldin decided Hint could blow its own glass bottles in the U.S., right at its production plant. However, it didn’t take long to realize a whole set of problems. Not only were the new glass bottles not accepted at most bottle-return recycling facilities, but blowing glass bottles took three times the energy as plastic bottles. They were also susceptible to breakage, which was an expense for the company. And, because glass bottles are heavier than plastic, and U.S. freeways have weight restrictions for vehicles, each truck would hold approximately 5,800 fewer glass bottles than plastic bottles. More truckloads would come at a cost to the company and the environment.

After all of that information bubbled up, Hint switched its Fizz packaging to plastic. But the company didn’t stop there. In 2016, Hint reduced the amount of plastic in its bottles by 30 percent, and Goldin says the company is working to remove even more this year. Hint also hopes to soon offer its products in cans -- but not before it successfully creates one that is both BPA- and styrene-free.

Entrepreneur caught up with Goldin about what this process taught her and what advice she has for other well-intentioned entrepreneurs.

This conversation has been edited.

What have you learned about growth while doing good?
Today, consumers really want to understand what things are made of. So many companies hide behind the FDA and say, “Well, it’s safe, and that should be good enough for you.” But why can’t you ask more questions about it? The companies that are transparent about how they’ve built their products will be so much further ahead.

Related: Challenge Assumptions. Don't Be Afraid of Taking a Different Tack.

We’ve run into issues along the way that no one really talks about. Glass bottles are just one example of something everybody thinks is better. But now I tell people, “Name three reasons why anything’s better that you’re going to tell me is better.” It’s really important to constantly be thinking about how you can do things better. Don’t take things for face value.

What have you learned about culture while doing good?
We’ve been a lot more hands-on in producing this product than maybe a lot of other manufacturers of brands. We didn’t come in with a set of rules or guidelines. We didn’t work at one of the large soda companies that has a preconceived idea of “This is what better.” Where we came from, with a focus on health and wanting to do better, allowed us to think differently about things like packaging, too.

What advice do you have for other businesses looking to do good?
Every day, being an entrepreneur is about the small wins. You’ve got to celebrate those wins. With the wins come challenges. Some days you’ll move one step forward and two steps back. Other days you’ll move two steps forward and one step back.

Related: What 'The Dress' Teaches About Seeing Things From Different Perspectives

I always tell entrepreneurs, keep a journal. On your bad days, get your journal out and remember, “Three months ago, I had this win.” One day things are not going your way, or things are not so terrific, then you’ll see maybe a week later, “That’s why I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing.”

Edition: May 2017

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