As a child, she was a competitive gymnast.
As an adult, she grew AOL’s ecommerce revenue to $1B … as their youngest executive in company history.
She’s on Forbes List of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs.
She’s on Huffington Post’s list of 6 disruptors in business, next to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
She’s a wife to one, a mom to four, and an activist to many.
She’s the owner of Hint — a $100M business built from offering fruit-flavored water, with 0 calories and 0 diet sweeteners.
She sat down with us on our Cannonball Mindset podcast and told us all about changing the beverage industry — She let us in on conversations with her kids, why she started her company, her first sale, and how her experience from silicon valley made her an outsider in the beverage space. Hint: It was a good thing.
‘I Woke Up to What We Now Call 9/11’
Kara’s story unfolds a bit like a movie — She was VP of ecommerce at AOL for seven years. By the time she left in 2001, she had grown their ecommerce business to over $1B.
She wasn’t sure what to do next. She had taken a maternity leave after her second child was born. While on maternity leave, she became pregnant with their third. “I’m not sure how that happens, but it did,” laughed Kara.
<“Imagine if you could influence people to actually enjoy water again; you wouldn’t even be talking about expensive healthcare.” — Kara Goldin >
She started looking around at various other companies. She had plenty of offers from leading tech companies, but nothing really fit.
Then she woke up to what we all now call 9/11.
That was the game-changer for her. She started thinking about her legacy.
So she started checking out non-profits. She found many causes that she cared for deeply, but she really didn’t own one passion as many of the nonprofit leaders did. Also, the nonprofit world moved in slow motion for her — she was used to the fast-paced environment of tech, where you break rules, fail fast, and move on.
Health Problems = Healthy Water = New Company
By now, her lawyer husband Theo had just sold a medical start-up in a fire sale, and she was pregnant with child number 4. She was still interviewing, but feeling disoriented. Because of her 9/11 epiphany she really wanted to wait for the right move.
During this time, she had been experiencing health issues, and the doctors couldn’t figure out what the issues were — she had adult acne, which she had never had, even as a teenager. She was 55 lbs overweight, which was also an anomaly; she was a competitive gymnast growing up, and she was still working out every day.
She started researching her diet. Nothing seemed abnormal, except maybe her diet soda consumption — which was over 8 cans a day.
She started diving into research and discovered that the diet sweeteners she was consuming weren’t necessarily “healthy.”
She quit cold turkey, and started drinking water.
This was an uphill battle — a glass full of bland tasteless substance.
Determined, she went went to Whole Foods to find some healthy flavored, sugar-free, diet sweetener-free water. There was none. She was shocked.
Determined to stay off the diet soda, she started chopping up her favorite fruits and adding them to her water.
She liked the water, her family and friends like the water. …
Guess what’s next?
Need a hint?
A C-Section, Whole Foods, & FedEx Created Their $100M Co.
<“I had no business starting this company. ” — Kara Goldin>
Not really thinking she’d found anything too serious, she asked Whole Foods if she could drop off a few boxes.
On her way to have her c-section (yes, you read that right), she dropped off ten cases at the Whole Foods.
She gets a call the next morning, still in newborn baby mode: “It’s all gone.”
Since she was with the baby, her husband ran to drop off more drinks. He figured at this point he should stop by FedEx to print off some business cards, just so he looked legit.
“What’s my title?”
“How about COO?”
Theo hung up the phone, and quickly printed off some business cards with “COO” at the top.
He has been Chief Operating Officer ever since.
Kara Was an Outsider to the Beverage Industry. Turns Out, That’s Exactly What Was Needed
You probably can’t imagine how different the beverage industry is compared to silicon valley. Or maybe you can.
Kara was used to collaboration — in tech, whenever there was an problem a team couldn’t solve, somebody had a friend who was an expert.
Collaboration abounded, and problems were solved quickly. There was no such thing as “impossible,” only “hasn’t been done yet.”
Not true in the beverage world.
“Everyone kept telling me: ‘That’s impossible,’” Kara said. “In tech, I had never heard that.”
<“In tech, I had never heard ‘that’s impossible.’” — Kara Goldin>
Maybe that’s why no one had tried what Kara was doing.
Sometimes, it takes an outsider to create something original.
Kara gives keynotes on this subject today: If you’re facing an insurmountable task, ask someone who’s not in your industry — they won’t think like you.
And that’s exactly what you need.
Oh, She’s Also a Rockstar Mom
Today, hint is $100M business. Besides their water beverages, they are now selling a natural sunscreen. But Kara’s still a mom of 4.
I asked her how she does it.
She laughs at balance — It’s not that simple she says. If your kid’s sick, that dictates your day. “Balance” will go straight out the window. Same is true if you’re locked out from your office. Balance is little more than an illusion.
She believes in diving into everything, and improving lives around her, and that her company actually complements her skill as a mom. This was fascinating to me, so I pressed her on it, and she let us see behind the curtain of the Goldin family life:
Her 16-year-old son asked to hop on a run with her recently. She was elated. Along the way, he began asking questions about women in business. He was confused, because he was researching the glass ceiling and the disenfranchisement of women.
He saw its negative effects all around him, but his mom didn’t seem to be stopped by it.
I would have to agree with your son, Kara.
Nothing seems to stop you.
If you want to keep up with Kara Goldin, her Twitter handle is @karagoldin.
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