The Power of Initiative (Now to Next with Hint Water’s CEO Kara Goldin)



Kara Goldin has been named one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs,” and E.Y. “Entrepreneur of the Year for Northern California.” The Huffington Post listed her as one of six disruptors in business, alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

She is the Founder and CEO of Hint, Inc., a healthy lifestyle brand known for Hint Water, the number one flavored water in the United States. Kara’s autobiographical book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, is on the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list. And, she joined me on my Now to Next podcast to share stories from her book, a business memoir with insights on self-development.

A Life-Changing 30 Days

The youngest of five kids, Kara Goldin, got a degree in journalism from the University of Arizona. Working as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant, she met an experienced product placement executive who worked for Anheuser-Busch. Jokingly, she asked, “Can you get me a job?”

To her surprise, he was happy to help. He got her an interview in Los Angeles. While she was planning her trip to L.A. for the interview, she asked him if any other people in L.A. were looking for entry-level people.

At each interview, she asked the same question, “Do you know any other people looking for hard-working entry-level people whom I should meet?”

This simple question propelled a 30-day journey around the country, interviewing for different jobs and learning each step of the way. She went from L.A. to San Francisco to Chicago to Boston and landed her dream job at Fortune Magazine in New York. How she got that interview is one of the great stories in her book. It should also serve as a reminder to all of us to never hesitate to ask for help, or a connection… even on a job interview!

A Phone Call Becomes a Tech Career

Kara went on to work at CNN and met her husband during her time in New York. Six months before their wedding, he got a job in San Francisco, and they moved.

Busy planning her wedding, Kara wasn’t looking for a new job, but she had been following Steve Jobs for years and loved how he made tech products more beautiful and more straightforward. This was at the beginning of the internet when connections were really slow and mostly made through phone lines.

Kara read in the news about a project in San Mateo to speed up image loading with a disc so businesses could advertise on the internet. She was intrigued, so she took the initiative and called the man quoted in the article. She went to talk with him about the project and wound up with a job. Kara joined the team and became a player in the rise of AOL.

Back to Basics

When Kara was ready to leave AOL, she had three children. She was interviewing with tech companies but was happy to take plenty of time before her next step. Most of the Silicon Valley interviewers wanted her to build something similar to (but better) than AOL. Kara didn’t understand why she would want to set out to destroy something she just spent several years of hard work building.

Years of hustling had also put Kara’s health off-balance. She had gained weight, had acne, and wasn’t feeling the same energy that she did before. In an effort to be more conscious, she developed a new habit of reading food labels. This led her to peruse her beloved can of Diet Coke, a beverage she consumed several times a day. She saw there were about 30 ingredients. She thought of the premium oil she paid extra for to be used in her car and realized she wasn’t holding her own body to the same standard.

So, she stopped drinking Diet Coke, almost cold turkey. Two and a half weeks later, Kara’s face cleared up, her energy levels improved, and her clothes fit differently. She had lost 24 pounds! As you can imagine, people around her were shocked. And it further proved to Kara that she was on the right track, and caring about what she put in her body could make a world of difference.

Pure Initiative

To replace her Diet Coke and motivate herself to drink enough water, Kara added fresh fruit to her glass. She looked for products in the grocery stores that she could drink, but even Vitamin Water contained a lot of sugar. She went to Whole Foods to find some pure flavored waters and only found a carbonated version with too much salt for dieting purposes.

Kara realized people were willing to spend money on diet plans and fancy grocery stores in the hopes of getting healthy, but they were getting fooled by product advertising.

She was fascinated there weren’t bottles of pure, good-tasting water on the shelves and wondered if she should launch her own product. She went back to Whole Foods and asked the stock associate what it would take to get a product on the shelf. Whole Foods had a program where locally produced products with the right packaging and standards could get a spot on the shelves. If people liked it and bought it, it could become a regular product.

Kara ran with her idea. When she shared her initial business plan with her husband, an attorney, he was taken aback. She had three kids under the age of four, was pregnant with her fourth, and was interviewing for tech jobs. Her husband was wondering how she thought she had time to launch a product in an industry she’d never worked in before.

However, Kara was waking up every day and thinking how if more people drank water, they would have fewer health problems. She was connecting the dots between sugar, chemicals, and health. Her excitement eventually won him over, and her husband joined the team. Together they launched Hint Water — pure water with nothing but a hint of fruit flavor.

Kara and her husband dropped off the first cases of Hint Water at Whole Foods the day their youngest son was born. They went from the store to the hospital and were surprised by a call from Whole Foods the next morning. Kara heard them say, “The cases are gone,” and assumed someone stole them! She’d been so focused on producing and packaging the product she hadn’t thought about people actually buying it. But people did, the store sold out…and people wanted more.

These and more amazing stories are in Kara’s book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters.

Build While You Fly

In her book, Kara also talks about the importance of not being afraid to take the first or next step. She says, “Don’t be afraid to build the plane while you’re flying it,” meaning don’t be afraid to just get started and continue from there.

When I hear a story like Kara’s, where now she’s got a company that makes $150 million a year, I always want to bring it back to those first moments when it was just Kara following through on a good idea that excited her.

You’re always going to have room to be better, so you might as well get started.

You can follow Kara on LinkedIn. And again, I recommend Kara’s book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters which is full of great stories and lessons on mindset… so was our interview. To watch the full “Now to Next” episode with Kara you can access it on YouTube or listen in on your favorite podcast platform. And of course, you can always reach out to me directly with any questions you might have! 



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