Hint founder on overcoming doubts and doubters

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Today I’m talking to Kara Goldin, the founder of Hint, a flavored water I see all over San Francisco.

I invited her here to talk about how she built up the business and a large part of this interview is based on her freaking amazing book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters. I actually don’t believe she really had that many doubts and doubters, but I’ll ask her about that in this interview.

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Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin

Hint

Kara Goldin is the founder of Hint, fruit-infused flavored water.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses and going through offices here in San Francisco. One of the things that I’ve seen is hint, this flavored water.

In fact, I had it at my office and the only reason that I do and bring it here to talk to Kara golden, the founder of hint is because I assumed when I got this big FedEx box full of stuff, that there would be a bottle of it in there. Instead, what I discovered is all this extra stuff. I’ve got sunscreen with.

Hint. I had no idea that they make sunscreen. Now they got sunscreen. I’ve got lip balm. I had no idea. They make lip balm. I have hand sanitizer, nevermind like the plushes and the other stuff that I’ve got, um, from her. She’s clearly expanded, but what I know hint as is the water company with a hint of flavor that does not want to saturate their drink with sugar, even though it probably would increase her sales.

And I invited her here to talk about how she built up the business and a large part of this interview is based on her fan freaking tastic book, undaunted, overcoming doubts and doubters. I actually don’t believe Kara that you have that many doubts and doubters, but we’ll talk about that in and we can do it.

Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors, HostGator hosting websites, and, uh, overpass for hiring salespeople, character to have you here.

Kara: Great.

Andrew: What’s the revenue. Now when the business.

Kara: Well, we’re a private company, so we don’t get too much into that. But what I can share with you is over the last 18 months, we’ve tripled our direct to consumer business and our overall sales have grown over 50%. Um,

Andrew: book says it’s $150 million company. Is that the valuation of the company? Is that the sales? Like what is it? I didn’t

Kara: well, at the time, I mean, uh, at the time of, I guess when I turned in the manuscript, we might’ve been there. So, uh, it’s it’s yeah, it’s changed significantly.

Andrew: Wow. So it’s grown even more and direct to consumer means you’re now selling what water directly to people’s homes on Amazon and places

Kara: Well, it’s interesting. We started on Amazon. I mean, I shared the story with a lot of food and beverage companies. I mean, look, there’s many direct to consumer companies out there, probably food and beverages and perishable items were like the last to actually get online. And, and, uh, we went online with Amazon in, uh, 2012.

And what, I guess I was a quick study coming from tech, understanding that.

I didn’t have the data, uh, that Starbucks had, uh, or sorry, initially, starting with Starbucks. Um, we had, didn’t do direct to consumer, but that’s a whole other story,

Andrew: Oh, we’re going to get into all that.

Kara: what, when we ended up going into Amazon, uh, it was about. A couple of weeks into being on their platform and learning from their buyer that we were doing incredibly well.

Um, and what they really loved about our product was that we crossed categories. And so by that, I mean, people were buying things outside of food and beverage, including, uh, diabetes monitors and kind of healthier.

Andrew: saying that on Amazon people who are buying diabetes, monitors were buying hint, just like people who are buying, say ketchup or also buying hint. And that’s what they mean by going.

Kara: Correct. And so unlike other beverage items that they had on their site, what they loved about hint was that it actually created a profile that was different, like a healthier profile. And so I loved that. Um, obviously I’m sure we’ll get into this, but why I started the company and I, you know, started it to get healthier.

And so what I was seeing from the Sam Amazon buyer was. This healthy halo and this healthy customer that I was so interested in in having conversation with. So I took that information from the buyer, knowing that Jeff Bezos, wasn’t going to give me access to emails. And I launched during camp.com in 20, just the latter part of 2012.

And that business now is about 40% of our overall

Andrew: People buying direct from you or no, of

Kara: And you know, yes, yes. Direct from

Andrew: the direct to consumer 40% is from your website and 60% is from a big category. Big, big stores like

Kara: like Bach. Yeah. So every club, you know, specialty shores, whatever, and about 10%. So about 50 50 split between online and offline sales.

Andrew: What about all these, uh, um, like tech companies and other businesses that buy your, your water and stock it? What percentage of your sales comes from that?

Kara: Well, it’s a, it’s a great question. So, uh, that was about 15% of our overall business. And obviously during the pandemic, when isle offices shut down, it was, uh, you know, a hit to our business. It wasn’t 50% of our business, but it was about 15% of our business. And because we had this direct to consumer business already up and going, frankly, we were able to reallocate, you know, a challenge that was going on in the world and definitely with our own business.

And you know, that, just that, that just escalated our overall business.

Andrew: Got it. All right. I see. Now where this is going. I wanna understand how you got here. You were working before you created hand for, I guess it was AOL, but before, or as part of AOL for something called to market, which was initially called , which is a chess move who named it, who comes up with end persona, even chess players.

Don’t know how to pronounce that. Who came up with that name?

Kara: Yeah.

well, it’s pretty interesting. I mean, it was a project, I didn’t know, work for apple, but it was a project at apple and, and, you know, I’ve been told that it was a Steve jobs idea that it was, uh, it’s pretty, you know, fascinating and I guess really speaks to sort of who Steve was, frankly. But he had this idea where, when he was looking at a problem that existed out there, and this is in the early nineties, uh, where.

Dial up service was, was really the thing. We didn’t have broad band or, you know, any of the other stuff that we talk about today. I mean, it, it, just to give people a little bit of insight who maybe are too young to remember this, but it was, you know, if you wanted to get onto your computer, when your brother was in the other room and wanted to get onto the telephone, you were disconnected from your chat room.

I mean, these were, you know, big problems that were going on during that time. And, but basically the other piece of it was that Steve had this idea that inside of apple, that there were problems with reasons. Why you couldn’t get graphics to actually go across an internet? Cause it was just too slow. And so instead what he thought is if you put the graphics onto a disc and told the consumer to insert the disc, then they would just upgrade.

They would upload those, those graphics onto their own computer. They didn’t need to know anything more than just to keep upgrading, keep

Andrew: price. So basically what emphasize was going to do was. Like an online catalog, except the images were on CD rom and people would dial into some service. No

Kara: No, they’d actually

Andrew: on a CD.

Kara: They get the physical CD and then they would put them into the computer and it would upgrade. And so it was in the district. So you stuck it in and it would, you know, upgrade the computer. And so, but the thing that you talked about pricing, so you could do upgrades with pricing over the disc.

You could also do, um, let’s say LL bean, for

Andrew: But it was a, it was a catalog essentially on CD rom that people would put into their

Kara: And originally a disc originally, one of those square disks.

Andrew: disk and then CD-ROM got it. And so is like, the internet is too slow. We’re going to pass it and take over kind of like, uh, the pawn can pass the POS next to it. Got it. And so that’s what it was.

Here’s what I think you should have named the book on daunted as a good name. Maybe it’s too long to say, I will call any fricking person and make any sale, or at least attempt it. Maybe that’s too long. But I feel like that’s the main message that I got from you. If I had to sum up what it is about you, that’s a big part of it.

And so you talked about meeting mix Mickey Drexler, right in the book.

Kara: Crazy.

Andrew: And then just when, just when you like almost reading my mind, I’m sitting there going, how would this, how’s this woman, who’s basically a, nobody at this point in the story, getting to meet him, you answer, who is he and how did you meet him?

Kara: I, I picked up the phone and reached out to him and, and shared a little bit so on Paisano then went into it, spun out of apple and went into a small company called to market. That’s when I joined and my role was to do business development. So essentially going go out to retailers, the easiest ones to work with were ones that had a backend operation, like a catalog operation set up.

But because I was in San Francisco, I’m going to go to the gap. I mean, who wouldn’t want the gap online, but gap didn’t have like a catalog. I mean, it was definitely a sort of a, you know, a long shot and Mickey was running the company at the time. And so I reached out and said, uh, you know, I’ve been sending you emails.

Um, you know, obviously you guys probably aren’t ready to go on the internet and, uh, you know, you don’t want to hear that as a CEO or you’re you’re, uh, you know, of course you’re ready. You’re this big brand that’s everywhere that everybody

Andrew: Only you kind of prodding him and saying you’re not ready so that he says, of course I am ready. Don’t tell me.

Kara: it wasn’t a little bit, you know, truthful too. Like, I didn’t think he was ready because I mean, that was really the thing that I saw the most of frankly, in the mid nineties with these retailers is that, you know, first of all, you’d run into the CEOs of big retail companies who felt like. They have a retail store on every single corner.

Some of them had catalogs. Why do they need to be online? And so it was, so that was a little bit Mickey. Um,

but in addition, if they didn’t have a backend and operation and you could sort of sniff it out pretty fast by seeing if they had a catalog or not, you know, shipping a shirt to a consumer versus shipping, a pallet of shirts to consumers is a very, very different thing.

And most CEOs back then. Wouldn’t really think about that or realize that our own that. Right. And so anyway, I happened to pick up the phone and happened to just call and Mickey, I thought what’s the worst that can happen. And he picked up the phone and I remember thinking, you know, here I am in my, in my, uh, you know, twenties and, and I’m, I have friends who were working at the gap and they said, how in the world did you get a meeting with Mickey Drexler?

And I said, because he wants to learn, he wants to learn about the internet. And so this was a couple of different meetings that I had with him, a few different meetings. And, you know, it’s a, it’s a story I share in the book about really kind of, maybe you call it ETQ today, but learning who’s on the other side of the table obviously is incredibly bright and successful.

And, but he looked at my computer and said, wait, so is that a television that you have? Like, how are you getting graphics

Andrew: Meaning he saw your computer screen and mistook it for a television because computer screen did not have such beautiful images at the

Kara: Right. And so explaining to him that we were able to take the graphics and put it on a disc and make this a reality. All of a sudden he’s like, ah, Okay.

you’re what you guys are doing is truly different. I mean, at the time you had services, a couple of services outside of America online, that was just kind of getting going that were doing, Uh,

you know, internet.

But it was very text-driven. It was prodigy and CompuServe and a couple of others that were much more, uh, suitable for news. They weren’t really suitable for e-commerce. And so, you know, my role was just to go out and I think frankly, the success of to market, and then we got acquired by a company called America online and ultimately the success of, of America online’s direct to consumer business was that.

We weren’t worried about making money. I think many people who felt better at AOL that, that online sales wouldn’t happen for a while. Instead it was let’s go out and just educate a lot of these people, build the relationships, have that dialogue, let them know when they’re ready. But in many cases, we were also working with a lot of these companies to figure out how to set up a backend operation.

I mean, I remember working with Starbucks back in the early days And, you know, here they are known for selling coffee, but they wanted to sell bags of coffee online. I mean, it seems

Andrew: And, but they had, they had direct to consumer online before. I mean, not online. They had, they had mail order didn’t they?

Kara: It was, it was barely there and it was tiny. And so, so that was the other issue that you’re bringing up. That’s really interesting there. Like how many orders are we going to get? And so maybe they could handle, I mean, it’s like a brand new commerce company that you’re picking and packing out of your home.

I mean, you know, it’s fine. If you have 30, maybe you can go to a hundred a day, but you can’t do a hundred over and over a thousand over and over again.

Andrew: Right.

Kara: And snow in the case of, you know, America online, if you got up on, you know, the pop-up screen at the front, and suddenly you had millions of people wanting to buy, you know, this bag of coffee, that is, that is a limited edition.

Those are thousands of orders. How are you going to manage that? And so if you didn’t have a backend operation set up, you know, with not only picking and packing, but also customer service and all of these issues, I mean, it was just, it was crazy. And in many ways, I mean, as I share, you know, fond memories and people have read the book and said, God, I can’t even believe, like I look back on those times and the history that was created during that time, and nobody really knew what they were doing, but we

Andrew: I didn’t pick up on that only because what overshadowed that whole part of your book on, down on daunted, was she just picking up the phone and talking and she’s picking up the phone and teaching and she’s not making them look stupid for not understanding what the internet is and she’s becoming a resource.

And that was just a big takeaway that you’re picking up the phone, you’re doing this. Then they make you an offer to, I guess they buy you out. You leave, right? You, you have, did you have acne? Is that what it was that made you decide not to drink diet Coke or why’d you give up diet Coke?

Kara: No. So I, so I was at AOL for seven years and, uh, I was running their direct to consumer AOL shopping partnerships, and it was a billion dollars in revenue to AOL. And I thought, you know, I, the United airlines pilots know me a little too well every morning they’re greeting me. When I get on the plane on Monday morning from San Francisco, I thought I’ve got a family, a young family.

I had three kids under the age of four at the time. I said, I want to spend a little time getting to know them and, you know, be a mom and do the things that I really was passionate about. And also the fact that so many companies, tech companies were in Silicon valley and San Francisco. And I thought, yeah, I can probably find it something I want to do here rather than being on the east coast.

And that’s when I just decided to really commit to, um, you know, taking my time to really figure out what was the right thing. And it wasn’t until a couple of years in that I really looked at, okay, while I’m taking this break, this time off, I’m gonna. Get healthy. And I had gained a bunch of weight over the course of my pregnancies.

I had developed terrible adult acne that I met, went to five different dermatologists over and I just didn’t feel good. And that’s when I, I started dieting, I started reading labels. Um, you know, this is 18 years ago. I was a little ahead of where people, uh, were, and, and it was, it was like a, it was a real challenge for me.

I mean, here, I felt like I was smart in many areas and able to do a lot of, you know, hard things. But when it came to actually getting healthy, I didn’t know how to do it. And I felt like this industry. Was really stacked against me and stacked against consumers to really understand how to go out and accomplish something.

And as I was reading labels for my food, that’s when I stumbled upon something in my own house, my, my own routine, every single day, my diet, soda, diet Coke in particular, where I didn’t understand what I was putting into my body. In fact, I had been drinking diet Coke since I was 13 years old, I was a gymnast.

I used to drink lots and lots of diet Coke instead of water, which is what I should have been drinking, but I didn’t drink water because it always bored me. I just didn’t. Wasn’t that excited by it. And so that’s when I decided I’m going to test this. It probably is not the diet soda, but let’s see what happens two and a half weeks later, I shed 24 pounds in two and a half weeks.

My skin cleared up. I

Andrew: 24 pounds from just giving up. And going to water.

Kara: diet

Andrew: why? Because it

Kara: was crazy. Well,

Andrew: it makes you want to eat other food?

Kara: I think that there’s a couple of different things. So first of all, I wasn’t having full sugar, but I think that what we’ve learned over time about these diets sweeteners is that they do. Make you crave make you hungry, right.

Make you crave sweet. Um, but they also cause insulin resistance. And so more and more, this is coming out about the diet sweeteners. In fact, I would go with people who know me very, very well know that I’m, I’m much more anti diet sweeteners than I am even sugar. Right? Because you can find sugar that is less processed diet sweeteners.

It’s a game that goes on right. Once they reach zero. I mean, when I started drinking diet Coke, it had a lot more calories than even when I stopped drinking diet Coke. They were at 10 calories. The goal was to get it down to zero powers. And unfortunately, you know, this word natural, for example, people say, yeah, but diet, you know, split.

Is a natural sweetener, but the problem is, is while Splenda is a, it’s a leaf and it starts out natural, it’s processed. And they also put things like Aritha tall, which is an alcohol and other things on top of it. Yeah.

Andrew: I’m wondering, why did you decide that you were going to get into this space? Like you talk about you called up, uh, this executive and I think it was Coca-Cola. He called all this stuck up in my head. Was he called you sweetie? And he blew you off. And he basically said people are going to keep drinking soda, even if you disagree with him.

And you think that they’re going to drink water and flavored water. It’s a really competitive space. I think you’ve been talked about this one person who you went to for advice who ran a flower company. And he said, look, there’s only like one other flower company that we’re competing with. You’re going to keep going up against competition.

I wonder, is this a sensible business person? Why did you say this makes sense? It wasn’t just that you wanted to make the world better. Right? You saw a business opportunity. What did you see that? Even I reading the book on down the undaunted looking back makes me think I wouldn’t want to get into space.

What did you see?

Kara: I saw that I could help consumers get healthy because I had figured out how the word diet was encouraging me to put something in my body.

Andrew: But did you also see a business opportunity? Did you see, you didn’t even find from what I can understand, it’s not like you also found a path to consumer that the rest of us hadn’t today. I see direct to consumer businesses. Yes. They want to make people healthy, but they realize that, you know what, they don’t need these bigger, uh, outlets.

They don’t need to go to stores. They see if they could, if they could rock Facebook ads, they could do really well. And their business will flourish. You didn’t see that even right. Because you didn’t figure that out for a long time.

Kara: You know, well, not direct to consumer, but I think what I saw early on, I mean, we started out the business inside of whole foods and I talk a lot. Yeah.

The consumer on the first day who wrote to me in an email, I mean, one thing I’ll back up that we were doing that was really unique coming from a totally different industry into the beverage industry.

We had always at AOL and even at two market, had an email on our bottle or on the disk, and then we brought it onto the bottle. And so the first day that we put it in. On the shelf at whole foods. I had a gentleman who reached out to me and said, I love this water. And, and thank you so much for doing this.

And, you know, just think about that for a minute. I mean, and, and so I reached back out to him. He thought he was talking to this big customer service department. And of course he didn’t know what he was talking to the founder and CEO, who was the only customer service person. And I, I said, Hey, do you, do you mind if I, you know, when you get on the phone with me and I remember hearing his story again, I was always curious, but it was a different story and a different dialogue, but, but in many ways, similar to my own that I wanted to change something in my health.

He had this thing that I had barely ever heard about called type two diabetes. And so he had been looking for a product that didn’t have sweeteners in it because he found that his insulin was. Reacting to these diet sweeteners. And so he had been looking for something without sweeteners and he got exactly what I was doing.

So the energy and the power that was coming from these consumers, even when a year later, uh, when I got connected with this executive at Coca-Cola and he shared his own doubts and said some kind of disparaging, you know, things a little bit calling me, sweetie, as you mentioned when, right? When, when you go back to the stories of how you’re helping somebody and, and I think it.

It’s a powerful thing to unwind to that I often say to entrepreneurs, or, you know, would be entrepreneurs that are starting businesses. If you’re focusing only on, you know, how much money you’re going to make, uh, that you’re, you’re going to get unicorn status or when you’re going to sell it and flip it, and then all these things, and you don’t have purpose, you don’t have why you’re not solving problems for, you know, whether it’s a consumer or a business, then it’s really hard to be successful in scale.

Andrew: Can I, can I say this though? I’m making a lot of observations about you, but I wonder if it’s also. That well, here’s what I’m feeling that you also feel like you could persuade people that from you talk about in your book, right? In the beginning, you, you knew how to persuade your parents. You had this ability, you, you always question, you always want to get to know people, and then you also have this sense that you could sell it.

And I feel like selling is a superpower. Right?

Kara: Well, I think it is, I think, you know, whether you call it selling or whether you, I think it’s, it’s understanding your why too, because even if you are selling Right. the best salespeople are not actually selling. Right. They’re, they’re actually telling

Andrew: you felt that you could persuade that you could show the world the way that, where other people would say they won’t know it, or they’re almost, they could feel walking into a situation like yours with hint that they would be right. Even if they can’t convince people, you feel like from the beginning, I will be right.

And I can show them that this is right, right.

Kara: well, and for me, hell, was it again, if I had to write down on a piece of paper, the hardest things in my life at that point that I couldn’t figure out health was something I couldn’t figure out. So when I figured it out, I wanted to bring this to other people. I not only wanted to, you know, continue to solving it for myself, but also my family, my friends and other people out there.

And I, I think that from a data standpoint, I also looked at how big. These industries were, and it, frankly kind of pissed me off that. I thought there’s really smart people that drink diet soda and are on these, you know, different diets and, you know, they’re, they should be able to figure this out, but they can’t because they’ve got blinders on and they’re, it’s healthy perception versus healthy reality.

And so I think for me, it just seems so clear to me that this is what You needed to do in order to, you know enjoy water was, have a product like hint.

Andrew: You know what also strikes me when I think about, um, soda businesses, how many times I’d read books about entrepreneurs from the seventies and eighties who would pound diet Coke nonstop. I think it was Hugh Hefner whose teeth were rotting from pounding soda so much. Right. Did you hear that?

Kara: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s, it’s nuts and so many people who’ve done science projects with, uh, you know, with sodas. Well,

Andrew: Right?

But I wonder also is it you’re, you’re offering them water, but you’re also taking away the thing that I feel they’re looking for, they’re looking for caffeine, the drug, that’s going to get them a little bit faster, a little bit more, and then eventually they become dependent on you. Weren’t just battling the taste.

How do you deal with that in the beginning? And we’ll get into sales. I want to focus on how you sold a hint in the early days and how you grew it, but how did, what do you think about that?

Kara: just understanding. And frankly, I think it’s something that you understand when you think about building any type of product that you understand the experience. Right. And, you know, as I always share with people, As well that, you know, I wanted, when we decided to go outside of beverages and launch a sunscreen for me, I realized that the experience of a sunscreen, everything from the feel of the sunscreen to, you know, the smell, all of those, like what is the experience for the consumer?

And so I think that I’ve always had as a consumer, I’ve always had the ability to kind of talk about that and think about that stuff. I don’t know why, but I think if you take that into, you know, if you figure out where the problems are and where the holes are, and again, I think that great entrepreneurs do that and you let your curiosity take you into those places.

And again, no matter what category it is, um, that’s where you are able to solve those problems. Um, you know, I, I think that?

what you touched on though, Some of the things that you mentioned, caffeine. I mean, caffeine is addictive and, but sweet is addictive,

Andrew: Uh, yeah.

Kara: right. And sweet is incredibly addictive. In fact, sweet.

The stuff that, you know, sweet does to our brain is just, I mean, it’s crazy. I mean, one of the things that, you know, many people have studied, many doctors have studied is even things that, you know, typical consumer doesn’t think about many consumers, think about the, the relationship of sweet to diseases like diabetes, but brain health and how much, you know, of a hit like the th the sweeteners and not just sugar hitting the body.

And then, you know, what it actually does to your brain. And so there are many people who have studied Alzheimer’s for example, and, and what. A hit of insulin is doing every time, you know, you’re having this and yet people, you know, go and drink their diet soda, And they don’t think about that. Right.

They’re not really thinking, they’re thinking about it, you know, not gaining weight. They’re thinking

Andrew: And then thinking about the moment the momentary need for it. And I get, and you know what, there were past episodes that I did where I was drinking diet soda, and it was always around when my kids were born and I was up at night and I think it was Joe from Spartan race who saw me drink a diet soda once after my second kid was born.

And I think he offered to come over and smack it out of my hand, if I ever did do it again. And I pulled back, right. Let me talk about, I want to get into the rest of the story here, but first I should say my, my first sponsor is a company called overpass. In fact, I’m gonna introduce them to you as I’m introducing to my audience.

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And frankly, everyone who’s been to a spa has had that first refreshing drink of water with a little bit of a fruit in it. Or you go to a nice restaurant, nice hotel, and they give it to you. I get it. I didn’t realize how hard it was to keep it stable on a shelf and not have those clouds. It was cool to see how, how Theo your husband came up with a solution for that.

I let the audience read that because I want to focus a little bit more on the business part of it. Yeah. The first sale came from whole foods. My understanding was whole foods at the time before they were bought by Amazon wanted to encourage local businesses. Right. And that’s why they opened up to you.

The second sale came from where where’s the next person who said yes, let’s have hint.

Kara: That’s a good question. I mean, we went into stores in the bay area and where we were, so Woodlands was another one. I would Lynch market. For those of you who are familiar with stores in the

Andrew: I don’t know them. Okay.

Kara: Yeah, they’re great. Great little store. They have one in, uh, San Francisco now, but they were mostly in Marin county and.

And that, that was really kind of, the focus was just go and figure out if we can, you know, get it out there. I mean, look, I knew nothing about distribution. I mean, a couple of times the, uh, I felt like whole foods, we were successful in whole foods. And then, you know, I was having a great day and, and then I’d go back into whole foods and then they’d say, okay, well, we can’t have lots of, uh, manufacturers in whole foods because you, know, the whole store would be filled with people, stocking the shelves.

So you gotta get a distributor. And I’m like, okay, where do I find that? And they said on.

Andrew: you personally stocking the shelves.

Kara: Absolutely. I mean, that’s it, that’s how I was doing it. I was stocking the shelves. I mean, I had 10 stores. How many more could I do? I have four kids under the age of six at home. And, you know, I had enlisted my husband to, uh, recruited him to do it.

He’s an intellectual property, Silicon valley lawyer in his spare time, he’s helping me out, you know, thinking that maybe he can convince me to stop doing this, this drink maybe. But, uh, after a while, I think he saw the benefits as well and how we were helping people. And we would run into people in the store, not just consumers, but also people who were working, um, at the, at the store.

And, you know, it was super empowering. And I think like the other thing that was so curious to us too, was when you’re in another industry and you feel like. You’ve grown in that industry. Maybe you’re, uh, you know, sitting in the C-suite now you’re, you’re sort of helping people, mentoring, managing, uh, you know, continuing to, to grow.

Maybe your, your own learnings are kind of leveling off. That was me. And, and when I was checking out, I, I kept thinking that I would go to another company to kind of do the same thing. That that’s what I was getting asked to do and grow a team.

Andrew: Uh, you mean like whatever you were doing at AOL, other companies could use that same skill and you said, well, this is, this is a path I’ve already walked past, walked

Kara: And, and yeah.

Andrew: do the same thing over

Kara: and yet it’s it, it happens all the time to people. It’s like, you know, they want what you’ve done or what you have. And, and for me, it was very hard to articulate in part of what I, why I wanted to write this book was to share with people too, that when you switch industries and you go into something entirely new where, you know, you’re humbled every single day, but all by all, you don’t know, but you’re learning.

And so learning doesn’t have to mean going back to school or taking classes. I mean, or, you know, you can, you can read a lot about learning and do all of that as well. But for me, I was, I was living in this hands-on approach where, you know, I was stocking the shelves. I was, you know, figuring out can I actually go in the back room at the store and, you know, I’d ask permission once or twice, and then.

After a while I just said, well, no, one’s looking, I’ll just go in the back room and I’ll just go see what happens. And, and it, you know, I just felt like there were so many things and sometimes they were easy, but most of the time they were really hard. And so that’s where I was. But it, while it was, you know, impossible, sometimes it was an exhausting, some days it was also energizing

Andrew: Hmm.

Kara: to be learning.

Andrew: It’s gotta be fun to be able to just drop the, I know, and the expectations from other people that, you know, and just go back into, I have to figure it out and to be able to, especially you as a question or your podcast, or right. As a person, who’s a questioner since an early age, to be able to ask questions, how does this work?

How do I get it bottled? What’s what, how do I get a bother? I love how they told you. You’re not looking for a bottle. Are you looking for a co-packer who to know? Why is it called the co-packer co-packers for smaller people bottlers or for something else? Alright, so I love that too. I’m so focused on the tech world that I’m reading a book on, on, we work the cult of we work.

I forget what it’s called. Uh, the author sent me a copy of it. I love it. I’m so deep in it. And then into my life comes as book about a woman who is selling water and I’m loving it. I love that. I get to find out what a co-packer is and all right, so you, then you live in Ross. I live in the bay. I’ve lived here for about 10 years.

I don’t know what Ross is. Where’s Ross and why? It seems like it’s a different type of environment without mailboxes.

Kara: Uh, Yeah.

no mailboxes. It’s uh, about 20 minutes over the golden gate bridge and it’s, Uh, I guess halfway between, uh, the wine country and, and San Francisco and lots of, uh, you know, good public schools. We, I share that story with a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs. I’m living in the city thinking, you know, for, uh, kids, private school education.

It’s uh,

Andrew: We found this great public school in marina in that area. I don’t want to say it out loud in case we ever send our kids there to it. And maybe, you know, but you’re right. It was, we couldn’t believe it’s free and it’s like better than the private schools here. Okay. So you’re living there. You end up going to a party, somebody at the party and it a guy named Julio.

What happens with Julio?

Kara: Julia.

Andrew: Julio. Oh, he pronounced a Julio.

Kara: Yeah. So Julio is, uh, you know, he’s the parent of a kid at our school that was, uh, in the same grade as my daughter. And, and, uh, he, uh, knew we were new in town and he was being very nice. I think pouring me a glass of wine. It was, the party was at his house and he, uh, said, you know, where did you, are you working down?

He was working in Silicon valley, which is a heck of a commute for Marin to be able to work down at Google where he was working. And I said, oh, I love Google. It’s great. And he said, oh, have you ever been to the offices? And I said, I have. No. We actually said, what do you do that you would be coming to the Google offices?

And I think he was as surprised as I was that he actually knew what it was. I said, we actually have our, our product in there. And he said, assuming it was a software or I don’t know something tech-related. And I said, uh, it’s a, it’s a drink. It’s called hint. And he said, wait, hint water. You’re the hint water people.

I can’t believe it. He was so excited. And he was like, you know, w what did you do before? And I said, oh, I was at this company called America online. And he said, get outta here. This is, this is crazy. You went from tech into this, how’d you do that? You know, how how’d you switch industries? I mean,

Andrew: Yeah.

Kara: He said at the end of the party, he said, by the way, I do some angel investing, if you’re ever interested and, uh, taking on angel investors, we hadn’t taken on any investors yet.

And he said, if you’re ever interested, let me know. And so he actually called me the next day, because when he got back to the office, there was a guy who was actually his boss and he happened to come in Monday morning and he said, Okay.

this is so funny. I’m at this party, I meet this woman, uh, Kara. And she used to be at AOL and he said, I know Kara, her husband Theo he’s I used to work with me at Netscape and she, and he said, so you know about hint.

And he said, Yeah.

that’s how, That’s how they got in Google care. I was trying to hire Kara and Theo to come and work at Google. And, and, uh,

Andrew: how you got in Google and you were known for being a Google.

Kara: For Amit and Ameda, I mean, it was funny because when we’ve looked at sort of forgotten that he had, you know, made the first entree, I mean, I had sat down with him at lunch at this Italian restaurant in Palo Alto and, you know, he couldn’t hire me and he said, what are you doing?

Assuming I was going to someplace else. And I said, no, I’m, I’m starting this beverage company. And I pull out the bottle out of my purse and he started laughing. He was like, wait, you’re starting a beverage company. What are you doing? And I said, I know it’s crazy, but there’s no good time to do this. And I I’m really, I really feel like I can make a dent in health and help people and kind of clean up this beverage industry.

And he said, well, I don’t know about that, but we have this, this new initiative at Google where we just hired chefs to kind of cook for our employees and, and call this guy, Charlie, because he’s the chef and at, at Google and you know, maybe he needs some drinks, I don’t know. And so I call them more than anything, just, you know, to come.

I had committed to, to, and he was a good guy and I said, Hey, Charlie, Amit wanted me to call you. I, it was funny because it’s the same dialogue. Every time I’ve run into somebody from tech, they, you know, it was the same thing. I mean, Charlie said to me, wait, you were in tech, you start at beverage company. I don’t get it.

Like what? Okay. Drop off some cases. I like a meet a lot. And, and, you know, you said, if it doesn’t work, then you gotta pull the cases out. But you know, it was funny because Google became our number one customer overall in our company. I mean, Yeah. I mean, it was nuts. Like we went from 10 cases to 300 cases in a couple of weeks.

And at some point I called Charlie and I said, do you have any estimates on how much you guys are gonna order? Because I gotta get some more product here. And that was really at the point when we decided we needed to raise money to, because not because we thought, oh, this is going to be a billion dollar business, but we really thought.

You know, we’ve got to be able to make the product and, and, you know, make it happen. So, but I think, you know, uh, Mead and for really making that introduction. And then, uh, and then, you know, so many stories. I mean, when Cheryl left Google and she went to Facebook, she had her assistant call me and say that she wanted to get hint into Facebook.

She didn’t even know it was a female founded company. I mean, she just liked the product, you know, it was just, and she liked, she missed it because she used to have it at Google all the time. And so she said, is there any way that you guys would stock it at Facebook and you know, my answer, I mean, of course.

And, and so that’s how all those businesses first. So we became the, number one beverage in Silicon valley to all these tech firms, which

Andrew: all the, is it all the other ones that wanted to identify, like they were copying the best of Google culture and this was part of it, is that it copying the best of show?

Kara: Yeah. And I think, you know, in many ways, I mean, I remember getting calls from engineers that were starting, you know, in, in a little room in south park. And I don’t even know that they really thought about culture. They just miss the product. And it was a way, right. That they just, they said, wait, somebody told me that you guys, when, when the company is small, that you’ll just deliver.

And that was always our theory. And still is our theory today that a competitive advantage for us versus these other big, big, big beverage companies is to act small, right? No matter how big you get service, the

Andrew: So if it’s, if it’s not Kara, because the company’s bigger delivering it to someone’s office, somebody else will deliver to the office the way they care would have when it was just,

Kara: Yeah. Or if you can’t get a distributor to go and make it happen, but make it happen. Right. Because so often you can make something happen, but people don’t because you get So, big that there’s

Andrew: so I was walking into this conversation trying to understand how did you become the Greinke of the bay area? And part of it is that Omid was trying to hire you. And why don’t you try to hire you in Theo? What was, I didn’t even realize you came as a pair. What was he trying to get you to do? Cause he’s a lawyer.

You’re your sales

Kara: Totally separate. Well Ameed actually was, was more in a role like me when he was at, at Netscape and he, uh, and his lawyer was Theo at Netscape. We had Theo was in-house counsel at Netscape and, you know, they did a lot of deals together.

Andrew: just general recruiting. It wasn’t that he was trying to get a package. Who’s got it. That’s one of the beauties of, of San Francisco, the bay area. And, um, we’re going to move out of here, but I’m going to miss that. The, even you go to a kid’s birthday party, the person who’s throwing the party or the person who’s helping to clean up because their kids at the party is somebody who’s doing this amazing thing somewhere else.

And the connections happen. Okay. I see. Now how it happens. How about into Starbucks? How did you get into Starbucks?

Kara: Yeah. So that was one where, you know, we really felt like it was a way to get our drink across America. And obviously they’re outside of America too, but we really felt like. It was a, it was a beautiful business because people were going into Starbucks all the time. They were on almost every corner. Uh, we worked at it for a while.

We finally got the phone call to be able to get in to Starbucks?

And, you know, I share that story in the book and also with a lot of entrepreneurs, because sometimes things can happen and you can do the best job you possibly can. You can meet all these goals and people change strategies and it socks, right when people change strategies, but it happens.

And the only thing that you can do is not have all your eggs in that basket because when that happens and you’re not prepared, it really hurts. And,

Andrew: of what you’re saying is that Starbucks let you in and then suddenly Starbucks at a moment’s notice said, sorry, we’re not going to be able to work with you. Right. That’s the

Kara: we felt like we, you know, oftentimes people might get into a relationship and then. You know, maybe the less savvy business people decide that they don’t ask for like the goals they don’t ask for what a success we asked. When will you be happy? What is success? Because we want to know internally, like, when is this a good relationship?

When is this a good product? After six months, we reached that goal. So that the goal that they gave us was one and a half bottles per store, per day. And there are thousands of locations. And so we, we achieved that goal six months into the relationship. Every day I would look at the numbers and I would see what our sell-through was.

And by the end of a year and a half, I mean, I was, I was sitting pretty right. I was surpassing. Now we were doing almost three times.

Andrew: What were you doing to, to sell more?

Kara: Nothing. The consumer was just drinking more?

and more of it.

And frankly, we weren’t in stores outside of, you know, New York and San Francisco at the time. I mean, we didn’t have anything in the middle of the country. And so Starbucks was the place that you discovered our product. So anyway, that, uh, then that email came about a year and a half in, from the new buyer at Starbucks.

And she said, I’ve heard a lot about you guys and you know, it’s been great and it’s been wonderful. And unfortunately, we’re discontinuing you. And I said, you must have. The wrong vendor, because we’re killing it with you guys, like what, what is going on? And, and she said, unfortunately, it came down from, you know, Howard’s office there, we’re changing strategy and we’re going to put food in the case.

And I said, that’s, we go great with food. And, and she said, unfortunately, higher margin, higher ring, all of these things. And we need to make space. We don’t, we can’t change the case. This is what we’re doing. So I ran out of, uh, sales arguments to, to keep us in there and, and, uh, you know, hung up the phone.

And I think more than anything I mentioned, you know, having all your eggs in one basket, I mean, 40% of our business was.

Andrew: realize that.

Kara: Starbucks. And so when 40% of your business, I mentioned at the top of the hour, that that tech business for us was 15% of our business at the beginning of the pandemic that hurt.

But wasn’t 40, like 40% of your business is just like, ah, you know, that, that really hurts. And I had product that was going to go bad sitting in the warehouse. I had millions of dollars of product. I was banking on this with my investors, my board, that, you know, this product, I didn’t have any answer for where this product was going to go and it was going to go bad.

And, and so while I was trying to figure out exactly what was going to happen, though, I started to mention this earlier that that’s when I got an email, from Amazon and Amazon, uh, the first thing he said, when we got on the phone, he said, Yeah. I said, how did you know about hint? And he said, you know, it’s interesting.

I go to Starbucks every morning. And, uh, I, with my espresso, I grab a bottle of Blackberry hint and I, and I said, oh, that’s great. And thinking in my head, do I tell them that we’ve been discontinued from Starbucks or do I just roll with it? So I left that piece out and I said, well, you know, if you, if you need the product right. away, we have a bunch in our warehouse. Uh, that was an overrun. And if you want to just wire me the money, then you know, that’d be great. And so that’s, that’s what happened. But I guess the moral of the story, I mean, there’s so many stories in there as well. From all your challenges, pick up the things, go back and look at like, what was good about even the most challenging times.

And for me, you know, that buyer very clearly said that he, you know, saw it for the first time at Starbucks. Um, you know, Starbucks paid us on time. They, you know, gave us access to lots of consumers and places where we wouldn’t have been. Um, but the biggest problem that I had when I went back and looked and after dealing with, you know, Amazon was not having that relationship with the consumer, if I would have been discontinued, canceled and Starbucks and had emails and had a

Andrew: have email, right.

Kara: I didn’t and you know, Starbucks would argue that, you know, a lot of people pay cash anyway, they don’t maybe today, maybe that’s different. But back then, I mean, they were paying, you know, a lot of people paid cash. Maybe they paid by credit card, but so maybe, or maybe not ha they would have access to the

Andrew: I don’t, I don’t know any product that I could buy at a store. That’s done a good job or figured out how to connect with me outside of the store. There’s nothing that I buy at a store from a retailer where I have a direct connection with the company that makes it, and that’s disappointing. So I wouldn’t have known that hint came out with

Kara: right.

Well, it’s interesting because, and so that was the thing that, you know, we realized even at the beginning of the pandemic, that was really unique to, you know, our business, at least in our industry, was that we had a database of over a million customers who had bought on drink, hint.com. And so when.

You know, store shelves were empty, right? People were hoarding and, and, you know, huge. Out-of-stocks not just with toilet paper and paper towels and bleach, but also with water and hint, we reached out to our consumer and we said, obviously not you, because maybe you hadn’t signed up or found the drinking.com.

But the people who had bought on drinkin.com, we said, Hey, I I’ve been in stores and I get it. I I’m a real, I’m a consumer just like you. And if you, we have plenty in our warehouse. And if you want to order on drink, hint.com, we’ll ship it out today. And it was crazy. I mean, over 80% of our database just hit collect, right?

Because it was at a time remember March of 2020 when people were scared, right. People were trying to figure out how do I get stuff in? I mean, store shelves were empty.

Andrew: So you had a direct relationship. So here’s, here’s the puzzle that I was coming into this interview to figure out. Number one, how did you get into stores? And that’s because like you mentioned Starbucks, you said in the, in the book, I had a dialogue with the buyer at Starbucks, and then you also said Theo would call it a monologue.

It was basically you calling in following up. I get that. Then how did you get into, into tech companies? It’s the relationship that you build with people here in the bay area? And you were, you were early to have this direct consumer good. That happened to beat not happened, but that, that intrinsically is healthy.

And they happened to finally be at a time when they were ready to give healthy food to their people. The last part is how did you sell directly to people in the beginning to consumers? Most people don’t say I need to get bottled water or any kind of drink. I’m going to look for the website. They go to the grocery store.

I imagine. What did, what did you do to get people to come to your site to drink hen.com.

Kara: Yeah.

Well, we had people calling our office because you know, the challenge when you’re selling through third party is that you’re sort of at the mercy of these buyers who are, uh, picking the flavors that they like right. To put on the shelf. So let’s say that you like our cherry and the buyer has decided that they don’t like cherries.

Right? And so they’re not going to order cherries to put it on their store shelves. And so consumers would reach out to us and they’d say, Hey, is there any way to buy a case? And, and so I started thinking. You know, if nothing else, there’s this opportunity to, you know, sell those flavors that, that local store didn’t want to stock on their shelves.

But I had no idea how big it could actually be. Again, I had run this direct to consumer business before, but, you know, I had also lived through a situation where, you know, watching, I didn’t work for the company, but web van, I mean, perishable items. And, you know, it’s just hard. It’s still hard today, but it was just something that I think I give Amazon a ton of credit because I think Amazon really, you know, figured out how to make it happen.

And, and, but I think I believed, and I had already seen early cues that, you know, people would. Some people didn’t want to buy from Amazon. For whatever reason, I buy a ton from Amazon, but there’s people that don’t want to buy from Amazon for whatever reason. And particularly in the bay area, there were sort of, I had heard people’s like voice about why they wouldn’t buy from Amazon.

So I thought, you know, we’re just going to create this other option for people, but I had no idea. In fact, that’s one of the things I talk about in the book too, that I, I wanted, I, I think he figured out your purpose for doing stuff. Like you don’t figure out how big something’s going to be, because if you figure out how you’re going to solve problems for people, um, you know, consumers, then I think the rest comes with it.

Andrew: So I went to SEMrush the traffic analysis tool to see there is where’s drinkin.com, getting traffic. One of the things that stands out to me is a site called MyPoints. I guess they’re giving, do you know this? I’m looking at your face to see if there’s any recognition or if this is not a part of your day to day, it’s not.

Okay. So I thought maybe you were using like a point system to bring people in. And then I looked to see where you’re sending traffic. You’re sending traffic to a site called recharge payments. I’m trying to figure out what recharge payments.com is. It’s their whole thing is to turn transactions into relationships.

It seems like what they do is create subscriptions. And so you’re also offering subscriptions for water. Is that it? So someone comes in for one case and then they get an ongoing relationship. Is that part of I’m trying to, I’m trying to

Kara: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, well, you know, it’s, it. it’s another piece, probably a longer conversation. But another thing that we offered as a benefit for consumers that, you know, the, the average consumer who was drinking water at Google was drinking anywhere from six to 10 bottles a day. Now think about that for a second, six to 10 bottles a day.

If you talk to an executive at Coke, Pepsi, and you said, would you like a consumer. The drink

Andrew: right.

Kara: a day.

Andrew: their consumers don’t

Kara: I mean, it’s crazy. And again, not every employee at Google was drinking hint, but it, but the ones that were, were drinking a lot of it. And so when we started selling online at Amazon, what we noticed was that there were people who were ordering cases, but they, they had started this Amazon prime business and then they wouldn’t allow the consumer to actually.

Dictate exactly how many times per month, like it was basically once a month you get an order and that was it. And they, for some reason, didn’t have this, you know, system where you could change the date yet. And so we thought, well, why don’t we put that into our system? Because we’ve got people who, you know, share with us that many of them living in urban environments at the time, they wouldn’t have a lot of storage space.

So again, thinking like the consumer. So, I mean, It’s something that I share with people who are thinking about, can I actually have a decent business online? I mean, I think that the low hanging fruit, in terms of what products will, can be big businesses are the ones that have a stickiness with the consumer that you have multiple times per day.

So you mentioned ketchup before, you know, how many bottles of ketchup are you going to go through in a day? Right? Probably not.

Andrew: every two months.

Kara: Right. And even if you have catch-up every single day, you’re not going to have it. Right. And so you think about that. And, and I think like that, to me, that’s something that I learned through my America online days about, you know, the products that would just sell a lot of it and things that, you know, maybe

Andrew: Okay.

Kara: are occasion gifts, like a flowers or something like that, you know, that does really well as well.

Cause you’ve got super high margins, but again, really thinking all about all of those aspects of the business and what were the holes and what were the differences. And so, you know, today, I mean our business, our direct to consumer business, about 60% of the people who order are buying you know, into a loyalty program and that, you know, a subscription. program, but also, you know, and, and very rarely canceling

Andrew: are buying a

Kara: crazy.

Andrew: Okay. All right. And so then finally going into, why do I have all these other products? You kind of talked about it in the book, you found a dry skin on your nose. It was biopsied, right? And then you started to think about, well, well, first of all, how did that turn out?

Was everything okay.

Kara: Yeah. Basal cell skin cancer, not the worst skin cancer to have, but it’s still skin cancer,

Andrew: it could be removed. And then you started thinking about sunscreen. And I have not been thinking about sunscreen because I tend not to wear it, but now I started thinking about it this week. My kid’s school sent us an email saying, make sure your kid comes into school with sunscreen.

I thought now what happens? There was a period in my life where I was allergic to sunscreen. It was just making me break out. And I have to think about, what am I going to put on my kid’s skin every single day? Do I have to do this? But if I don’t, then this happens. And so now I’m starting to think of what goes in and you’re right.

Hint is a brand I trust for some reason, I trust you. I think it’s because I heard your voice for years. I’ve seen people who have no reason to promote you like Google, right? Talk, uh, talk and, and, uh, and refer your, uh, your stuff. So I trust you and you understood that hint can make this leap into the product.

It’s because of what Amazon was telling you, that people who don’t ordinarily buy groceries are buying it with things that don’t usually go along with groceries. And that’s where this happened.

Kara: Well, I, I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s interesting too. When, when I launched sunscreen, I didn’t look at it or think about it as a brand extension. So maybe I’m a unique entrepreneur that I’m not constantly thinking about, you know, what else can I do to make this really big? For me, it was a personal experience around health.

Uh, and I decided to create my own sunscreens because I couldn’t find a sunscreen that I really wanted to wear. And to your point, I used to break out at a lot of, I’d get a reaction on my skin. It ends up that I’m allergic to zinc. And a lot of people aren’t full on allergic like Anna Filactic, but they, you know, it makes them itch.

And for me, zinc always made me itch. And so these, you know, mineral based sunscreens that that’s the mineral zinc that people are wearing.

Andrew: supposed to be better because minerals have physical blocker from the sun, right?

Kara: Correct. And a lot of people are allergic to it. I mean, you can talk to your dermatologist about that, but I’ve heard it over and over again. So I, I finally found in my dermatology office, when I had the scare with skin cancer, that I knew I was going to wear sunscreen and I finally found the sunscreen.

That was, you know, I wanted, I was okay wearing, I wasn’t in love with it, but I wasn’t in love with it because it didn’t smell great. And it, and it also, it was expensive. That was the other thing that I noticed too, that it was, you know, sunscreen in dermatologist’s office was like 60% to $70. I mean, the margins are just insane and I thought, you know, it’s again like the consumer.

It loses in this battle because they have to wear sunscreen. Somebody like me, who’s had the scare and what if they can afford 60 to $70? So what if they can afford it, but should they really have to pay that much for quality sunscreen? And so I went home and I ordered all the ingredients. Doesn’t everybody do that?

Like I just decided I’m just to get I’m busy in my day job with hint water, but I’m going to order all the ingredients and make my own. And a friend of mine who used to work at L’Oreal, uh, said to me, you know, you have to get that approved by the FDA before you launch it on hint. And I said, this, how do you get a product approved by the FDA?

And so I went online, I figured it out and they needed a company name. And I said, I’ll just stick it in there. All eventually changed the name once we get the approval. Um, but when we got the approval. You know, the, the interesting thing is, is that we got the approval in January and we had our online store.

It wasn’t, you know, a million customers, but it was decent. It was started at least. And I said, let’s just throw the product up there and just see what happens. We didn’t go and spray people on a beach. We didn’t, you know, go to Miami and handed out samples to people. We just said, Hey, I had skin cancer. I decided to launch this product, let me know what you think and what was crazy.

It was 20 bucks a bottle, and nobody had tried it. And I mean, that was another one that almost 60% of our database and our database of small, but it was still 60% bought, bought the brand people

Andrew: of people who gave you their email address from drink, hint,

Kara: the wall.

Andrew: the water ended up buying.

Kara: Yeah, for 20 bucks. And so, and so what was people ask me all the time? When did you know that you had a brand? That to me was when I knew that I had a brand, when that trust that with they had bought another category, a totally different thing, and they were just going to go in and pay $20. Again, I wasn’t giving it to them for free.

They were actually paying money to go and try it. And so, you know, no different than how I started this company. I wanted to help people and I wanted to disrupt categories. And that’s still our, our purpose today. I mean, we’ve launched deodorant during the pandemic project

Andrew: I’ve got that right here. The odorant I got hand sanitizer. I got lip balm, and now that’s what it is. I feel like a large part of your brand is the name is so freaking good. You talk about how you came up with the name, the shape of the bottle is good. The simplicity of it is good. I think you also have a great reputation in the tech space and it comes from things like I told you, I interviewed you onstage in, uh, Nevada at Frank Gruber’s event, um, to cocktail.

I wonder why, why do you do that? You’re on Mashable. Is there, it seems like such a small audience for you to have gone after. Is it because you realize you’re shaking your head? No, it’s not

Kara: no. I mean, it’s where our, it’s where our customers are. And so, I mean, This was, uh, actually I was counseling, Uh,

an entrepreneur last week in a totally different space in the payments space with a startup. And I was, she was telling me that she had gone to these conferences and she was speaking at these payments conferences.

And I said, why, why are you speaking at payments conferences? And she said, because I’m in the payments industry. And I said, but aren’t you speaking to a bunch of payments people, why do you want to speak to them? Why don’t you figure out who your customers are? Where do you want to sell your product? Well, you know, she sells 40% of her product into small medical offices today. I said, don’t, you want to spend more time with people who are going to buy your product?

Andrew: I see what it is. Got it. And so you realize there’s something about the tech space. They they’re attracted to hint. I’m going to be there. I’m going to show up at the conferences. I’ll let them write the articles. Andrew wants to do a podcast. Fantastic. We’ll send them a box. All right. I’ve learned a lot from you.

I learned so much from you that I forgot to run my second ad HostGator. I’m sorry. I will not, I will not charge you for that ad. Uh, even the HostGator is a great site, a great tool for hosting websites. Instead, I’ll end by saying, this is a good book. You got to feel proud of it, right on down undaunted.

Kara: Thank you. I appreciate it. Hopefully you, you got some, uh, tools in there and some inspiration and learn something new from it. And.

Andrew: read. It feels, it feels fun. It’s a good story. And then what I do is I see what really is stands out for me. I don’t try to take obsessive notes on, on biographical stories like this. And like I said, there are certain things that stand out there is this sense of, I like talking to people that comes from you.

I like telling them about my product. I’m going to stick with it. Um, and then there’s an obsession about how do I make it right? The way that I want it, by the way I interviewed, uh, honesty, his whole book was about how he doesn’t want to have sugar in his tea. I told him I’ve got your tea right here.

There’s sugar in the tea.

Kara: I know

Andrew: He blew it off with something, but I always had never sat right with me that he then switched to sugar in his tea. It was basically blowing it off. Like I was like, I was wrong for bringing it up and being a little bit petty. He wasn’t rude about it, but the way that he did it made me feel like, I don’t know, maybe I’m pushing too much.

Maybe I’m being too anal about it, but his whole thing is we’re not going to be the sugary thing, but then they eventually become the sugary thing. Right?

Kara: Yeah. well, and even more so when they were sold to Coke.

Andrew: It’s a, it’s a great story. Great drink. I do feel that they ended up going sugary and I would like him to explain it. Even if he were to say to me, Andrew, we discovered that people like sugar, we’re going to have less sugar than other companies.

Here’s anyway, you didn’t do that.

Kara: No. And in fact, when people have said to us, you know, along the way they’ve asked, various people have said, Hey, can you add a little Stevia or, or sugar to your product? And I, I’m the first person to say, we can’t be everything to everybody. And if you want a sweet product, we’re not. I mean we’re and I think that’s an important lesson for entrepreneurs is just to figure out what stakes are you putting in the ground and, you know, and, and sticking with those things.

And I think it, your reaction is, is interesting because I think that, you know, whether it’s Seth and honest or it’s, you know, something in any category, it’s that when you leave the consumer confused about when they entered and then you changed and you don’t come back and discuss it, there’s, there’s an issue.

And there’s a trust issue that goes on that I think, you know, happens for for many. And I think, unfortunately, when you sell the company, um, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got a reason, right.

But when it happens beforehand, where, you know, ingredients are. Our, uh, change. I mean, my personal, um, I, there’s a preservative that’s used in a lot of, uh, soaps that has a sulfur in it.

And, uh, I’ve, I’ve found that I’m very sensitive to sulfur. It’ll, you know, I’ll get sort of not heavy rashes, but kind of light rashes. And it’s just not a great, um, thing. And a lot of hand soaps put it.

in and you know, and a lot of people frankly break out from this product. And yet, you know, we’ve, it’s a natural preservative.

And so a lot of people hide behind it. Well, they don’t start off as a good soap company doing this. And then they add this preserve. That method is the one in particular that I’m talking about. I know the founders of method. Yeah. They’ve added this preservative to their product.

Andrew: I feel like they’ve checked out. Yeah. They’ve checked out. They even, I think before they even sold out, they, at some point didn’t lose their ethics. It just kind of, they checked out, they had it, they were

Kara: Yeah. And unfortunately, when you reformulate products, um, particularly in the U S you don’t actually have to go back and tell the consumer that you’ve done that. And I think that oftentimes even if you’re regulated by the FDA, you know, you just don’t get caught. And I, and I think it’s just, it, it just really bums me out again from a consumer perspective, because I think it’s, it’s just, it’s just not so honest.

Andrew: I agree. I think at some point it almost becomes. I don’t know. I’m looking at you as we’re talking to see, is she tired of telling the story? There’ve been stories that I asked you several times. I’m so glad we kept the video on. Cause I could see you fully went into the stories even about the AOL days.

And I could see when I would bring up things like, uh, adding sugar or something, your face did this like disgusted. Look at me like if

Kara: No, I’m not, I’m not tired about it. I mean, you know, I think it’s, it’s, it’s funny even like 16 years later, it’s just, I feel like, you know, I’m, I’m still always learning and I’m still always hearing, you know, even learning about other companies and hearing your perspective as a consumer. I mean, not just as an interviewer, but you know, I see it on your face too.

That that’s the stuff that, that, again, I think it, it just makes you better, right? As a company, you can only do what you can do. Um, you know, as a CEO of a company, but I think it’s the, there stories like that that make me, you know, validate how I already feel about stuff. And I think just paying attention to that as you’re building out your company, again, whether you’re a B2B company or a B to C, it’s just not a good, it’s just not a good way to.

Andrew: All right. The website is drink, hint.com. And if you’re like into, e-commerce take a look at the radio buttons, it’s called radio buttons, radio boxes. You know what I’m talking about. If you’re in, e-commerce above the add to cart, I think you’ll get a sense of some of the magic of the site. Number two, the book is called undaunted and I really like it.

Kara: Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you. And I want to thank, uh, my sponsors, if you know what, in fact, why don’t we just not even charge anyone for this? I just went over because this was fascinating. Thank you. Uh, for overpass, overpass.com/mixergy and HostGator, we’ll make it up by everyone.

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