Founder and CEO, Hint Inc.
The water aisle at the supermarket is more crowded than ever. So many choices, so many incomprehensible, polysyllabic ingredients that seem awfully processed.
What’s the Real Deal
Here’s a hint. Look for the one that says, “drink water, not sugar.” Its all-natural ingredients are water plus the pure essence of your favorite fruit, veggie or herb – no sweeteners, preservatives, calories or artificial anything. Oh, and it’s the one named Hint water.
Your Nutritionist Would Approve
Kara Goldin launched San Francisco-based Hint in 2005 because she couldn’t find something flavorful, simple and sugar-free in the water aisle for herself and her children.
Hint is sold at specialty markets, grocery stores, fine spas, hotels and online at www.drinkhint.com. Sales are anticipated in the $3-5 million range this year.
What I learned from Kara: It’s hard to change consumers’ old (and unhealthy) habits. If you’re passionate about something, you just have to go for it. Don’t drown a dream in focus groups, what-ifs and self-doubt.
Just Chilling Out
“One day during the summer of 2004, my husband poured me a bottle of water and squeezed fresh lime into it. Then our daughter Kaitlin opened the refrigerator and started to reach for a juice box. I gave her my glass of water instead and she drank half of it. In that moment, I knew we were on to something that could appeal to both children and adults.”
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…
“I grew up as TV dinners were gaining popularity. My father thought the convenience was good but the food was gross. He went on to create the original Healthy Choice line. His goal was to use real food with understandable ingredients. I was interested in his work and always wanted to give it a try. Creating Hint was my opportunity to go for it.”
Diet Coke to Water
“At one point in my life, I drank a lot of Diet Cokes. I decided I didn’t want to live that way, so I went cold turkey and started drinking water. I became a huge water drinker. In the beginning, I experimented with sugary waters. Then I decided I wanted something flavorful, simple and healthy.”
Before Taking a Hint
“I used to head America Online’s electronic commerce group. Then I took some time off to start a family. I began to develop Hint in 2004. I was pregnant with my fourth child while I was writing my business plan. So, in a way, I was incubating ‘twins,’ my baby and my business.”
Dropping a Hint to Consumers
“The hardest part of going to market was getting people to realize that sugary water drinks don’t keep you hydrated. Hint is pure water for real hydration. Because its ingredients are so simple and healthy, you don’t have to read the label and wonder what you’re drinking.”
“I get 50-75 emails a day saying people love our product. We’re the national water sponsor for AIDS WALK LA and New York, the San Francisco Marathon and other walks and fun runs. We work with Cure Autism Now, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, children’s museums and we donate to a lot of school events.”
Shelf Space”It’s one thing to get consumers to taste the product. We’re now challenged to try to get the product on more store shelves. We’re competing against giants for shelf space.”
Show Me the… Demand
“Our focus groups are friends, family and individual customers. I’m a big believer in just launching the product and getting it to market as opposed to doing elaborate focus groups. Get your product out there and show demand to impress investors.”
Dealing with Disney
“Disney approached us and asked us to help their audience understand their options. We work with them to brand their movies on our products. The most recent example is Ratatouille this summer, which we featured on a special version of our strawberry-kiwi water. We developed a product with Disney in six weeks, which they said was record time. I had my ’skeptical glasses’ on the whole time, but it worked out well. It’s all good. A lot of the studios are calling us. We offer a healthy product they can brag about. We’re also really fast to make decisions.”
“You have to take chances. You just have to do things and try them. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. I would have regretted not taking the chance to create Hint. It’s totally exciting. We produce a product we see people carrying and enjoying. How fulfilling is that?”
Watch and Learn
“I get my best ideas when I’m watching my family and the way they’re living. I learn from their frustration when they don’t understand something. I try to bring out the simplicity in things.”
Lessons from a Children’s Book
“My recommended reading is a children’s book by Belle Yang called Hannah is My Name. I love this book! It tells the story, entirely from the child’s point of view, about the obstacles faced as a Taiwanese family adapts to a new way of life in San Francisco and anxiously waits for green cards to avoid deportation. No matter what your age, you can appreciate Hannah and her family’s situation. I love that it teaches kids about what others go through to live in this country. It makes you realize how lucky we are.”
Advice to Launchers
“If you have an idea, just go for it. Launch in a small local market, even among friends at work and school. Ask for honest opinions of your test products. It’s better to under produce slightly if you know you can produce quickly, especially if your product has a shelf life.”
I Care Most About…
“… a simple, healthy lifestyle.”
Most Rewarding Business Moment
“Seeing someone carrying and enjoying a bottle of Hint.”
My Business Wouldn’t Have Happened If…
“I got bogged down in focus groups and didn’t just take a chance!”
This featured lady was profiled by Andrea Adleman, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.