The Entrepreneur Behind a $90 Million Company Shares How You Can Get Past the Naysayers to Build a Successful Business
'As long as you drown out the negativity around you and believe in your own abilities and intuitions, you can accomplish just about anything,' says Hint's founder Kara Goldin.
Editor's Note: Entrepreneur's "20 Questions" series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Kara Goldin wants to make it easier for everyone to lead a healthier lifestyle. She is the founder and CEO of Hint, a company that makes 25 different varieties of flavored water, all of which are made with no preservatives, no sugar and no artificial sweeteners.
When Hint first launched in 2005, Goldin and her husband Theo, Hint’s COO, would drive around Northern California delivering small batch cases of water to the local San Francisco Whole Foods.
But in the intervening 12 years, the beverage has become a perennial fixture of the break rooms of some of Silicon Valley’s highest profile companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, and it’s widely available across the country at retailers including Fresh Market, Kroger Sprouts, Target and Whole Foods.
This year, Hint expanded beyond water and launched a brand new product, an SPF 30 mist sunscreen in pear, grapefruit and pineapple that is free of oxybenzone and parabens.
Goldin doesn’t only want to make an impact on people’s health -- she wants to help them accomplish their goals as well.
In 2016, Goldin decided she wanted to help other business owners who were just starting out. She launched The Kara Network, a digital hub where entrepreneurs can come together to share the advice and tools that have helped their businesses grow.
“One of the reasons I started The Kara Network was to be a resource and inspiration to other entrepreneurs,” says Goldin. “But I also constantly get inspired by the people I interview and find that speaking with other entrepreneurs from a variety of businesses and backgrounds is a great way to get a fresh perspective that can spark new ideas.”
We caught up with Goldin to ask her 20 Questions and find out what makes her tick.
1. How do you start your day?
I start each day with a 45-minute hike through the Marin hillside with my husband and two dogs. This is an essential part of my morning routine because it allows me to get centered and reset before diving into my day. Exercise is very important to me and starting my day with it ensures I don’t have to worry about fitting it in later. Plus, I feel refreshed, energized and ready to take on any challenge that comes my way.
2. How do you end your day?
I like to have downtime by reading something great. I typically rotate between books about entrepreneurs, thought leadership and fiction. I also like to end my day with a cup of tea or hot mug of peach or mint Hint water to help me relax and unwind.
Every day is different, and I’m often in and out of meetings or at evening functions, so I also use the evening to go through emails I still need to respond to or cross off pending items on my to-do list. I like to go to bed knowing I didn’t leave anything urgent hanging, so I take advantage of this slightly calmer time of day to tie up loose ends. Then I can go to bed with a clear head so I can get a good night’s rest, which is essential for starting the next day refreshed and ready to go.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
The Originals by Adam Grant. It confirmed what I knew and then some: That people aren’t one size fits all, entrepreneurs in particular. For example, just because someone doesn’t quit their day job to launch an idea doesn’t mean that they aren’t serious and the idea won’t be successful.
4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
I have to say The Originals again. It is one of my favorite books, because it’s all about challenging the norm and not being afraid to think outside the box and do things differently.
When I started Hint I thought I needed to bring in people with industry experience, but quickly realized that experience didn’t equate to success in a company that’s disrupting the industry.
This book has incredible stories of people who make surprising decisions that turn out to be the right decision, and it has great lessons on how to pull the best out of yourself.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Find time for yourself every day to do something you love. For me, that’s exercise. It clears my head and allows me to focus on what’s important in the moment.
Also, celebrate your wins. If you focus on three things that you have done well lately it will help you to tell yourself, “you can do it!”
7. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I fluctuated between wanting to be a lawyer and a vet. I was always obsessed with animals. Someone once said to me, and I think it’s true, that you can tell a lot about people’s character by how they treat animals and how animals respond to them. I also thought about being a lawyer, because I always had to fight for what I wanted as the youngest of five kids.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
My worst boss was also my best boss. My first job out of college was working for a woman who had just lost her husband and was struggling with her grief. In my first few months on the job, she went into her office and shut the door for most of the day. What it taught me early was get direction and execute. Ask around if you needed help figuring stuff out. And learn to trust your gut. I also learned to understand her hot buttons. I knew what she expected, and I over delivered. I knew what time she came in and what time she left. I was there all the time she was.
Throughout my career I’ve encountered numerous people who’ve told me that something can’t be done, but I’ve learned that not only can those things be done, they’re usually the things that need to be done. If you really believe in something and trust your instincts then go for it and don’t take no for an answer. You are your own worst enemy so don’t let self-doubt get in your way. Hearing naysayers around you can often make you doubt yourself, which is something I’ve experienced many times. But as long as you drown out the negativity around you and believe in your own abilities and intuitions, you can accomplish just about anything.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
Someone who I’ve always admired is Steve Jobs. I love that he always focused on the consumer experience and built a product that was seemingly simple in design and functionality. At the same time, he was always innovating and doing things in ways that have never been done before.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
Our last big trip was Alaska. The beauty in the landscape and the wildlife is so memorable. Probably the most important things in each of my trips is seeing my kids grow]their level of independence, thinking for themselves and trusting themselves. Seeing that no matter what they choose to do, they will have confidence in themselves.
10. What inspires you?
One of the reasons I love to travel is because I find new inspiration in each trip I take. When you travel you not only encounter so many different cultures and ways of life, but you also meet so many new and interesting people who can teach you completely unexpected life lessons and be the inspiration for your next great idea. I’ve often come back from a trip with a completely fresh perspective on my business, and it helps me ensure we’re always innovating and being creative.
I’m also incredibly inspired by other entrepreneurs. I started The Kara Network to be a resource to other entrepreneurs, and it’s become an incredible resource for myself as well. Every entrepreneur I interview has such a unique and inspiring story, and I’m often shocked by how much I learn from the people I meet.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
When I started my career, I wanted to be in publishing and starting my own business never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I left AOL and really started thinking about what I wanted to do next and how I wanted to live my life that the idea for Hint came about. Originally it was just something I made for myself and my family and friends to get healthy, but once people started responding and I saw that there was a huge hole in the market that this product would fill, it hit me that this was a business I had to start.
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
Early in my career I worked in advertising at CNN and was very interested in how advertising and shopping would work online. I started having a ton of informational interviews to get a sense of where the industry was going, and eventually met with a startup called 2Market that was building a marketplace on CD-ROM. I set up a meeting and started asking lots of questions about their shopping product, and by the end of the meeting they offered me a job as national sales manager.
Turns out they didn’t have all the answers and I was asking the right questions. In that job, I spent a lot of time learning about people’s businesses and 2Market became a trusted consultant before eventually getting bought by AOL. That job taught me that it’s important to get to know your customers and their needs and really listen to what’s important to them, rather than pitching what you think is important.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
The best advice I ever took was to not be afraid to build the plane while you’re flying it. When it comes to starting a business in an unfamiliar industry there are going to be so many unanswered questions. At the end of the day you’re never going to have every problem solved from the beginning and you just need to start with what you have, do the best you can and figure the rest out as you go.
If I hadn’t taken that advice I never would have founded Hint. When we launched the product, it had just a three-month shelf life, but along the way figured out how to expand it to 18 months. There’s a lot you learn on the job. As scary as that can be, you sometimes have to trust your gut, take that leap of faith and believe that you’ll be able to make it work.
14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
Hire people with experience. Let’s just say that I think passion trumps experience.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Make the most of every moment, even if it’s taking advantage of a 15-minute window in your day to answer a few emails, so you can cross them off your list. However, if you’re hitting a wall, allow yourself to take a break, whether it’s to take a walk around the block, grab a coffee or just chat with someone you work with. Sometimes just allowing yourself that moment to step away gives you the refresh you need to dive back into work.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
When there is so much to accomplish each day it’s important to take a moment every now and then to breathe and be mindful. I recently discovered the app Headspace and it’s been a great way for me to fit in bite size moments of meditation to help me stay focused and clear my head.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
Making time for physical activity and exercise as well as quality time with family and friends. Since my husband also works at Hint as COO our work and home life are extremely integrated, which works for us because we love what we do, and it’s such a big part of our life.
That said, I’m a mother of four and I value quality time with my kids that doesn’t revolve around work. I also love to travel, so one of my favorite ways to make sure our family gets quality time together is with family trips.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
Exercise really helps me stay energized and focused. It’s my time, which is essential when there are so many demands on my time every day.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy toget innovating?
Talking to people always helps me see things in a new light, whether that’s my husband, my staff or someone new that I meet completely outside of my business.
20. What are you learning now?
To enjoy life. To experience as much as I can now. Live my life with passion.
Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.