Wednesday Wisdom from Kara Goldin, Founder & CEO of hint inc.

We’re halfway through the week, and it’s time for a boost of inspiration to keep us going. Our #WednesdayWisdom blog series taps into the minds of industry leaders and disruptive visionaries who are working to build the future of entrepreneurship.

We sat down with Kara Goldin, Founder and CEO at hint inc., pure water with nothing but natural fruit oils and essences, to discuss her brand and her advice in navigating fundraising hurdles, how to find the right investors, and the importance of storytelling in brand building.

What inspired you to start Hint Water?
I first realized that I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be when I took some time off after AOL. I had helped build a $1 billion business for them, running the shopping and ecommerce partnerships and was looking for a new career that would get me really excited. While I was interviewing, I was working out, eating right and still feeling and looking not my best. After seeing a few different doctors to rule out any major issues, I decided to look at everything I was consuming to see if that was the issue. Diet Coke was my best friend and I decided to eliminate it from my life — just to see. Two and a half weeks later, I had lost over 20 pounds, my skin no longer had adult acne and I had a lot more energy. I questioned what I had been putting into my body for so many years based on the results that I was seeing and realized that the word DIET had not been creating as much health for me as I thought. I exchanged my Diet Coke for drinking water but realized that water was so boring for me. So I started cutting up fruit and putting it in water for taste. I soon recognized that I wanted to buy a product like this, ready made in a bottle using real fruit, no sweeteners and no preservatives. Shockingly, it wasn’t available at any stores. So I decided to make it!

When did you know you had a product worth creating?
My first store was Whole Foods in San Francisco. We gave them a few cases (prior to delivering my fourth child that day) and the next day (while I was in the hospital) they called to say that the product was sold out. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t just me who wanted to drink more water but also water with real fruit, no sweeteners and no preservatives that tastes great!

What were some of our biggest hurdles fundraising for Hint Water?
I definitely heard a lot of “no’s” especially in the beginning. And I was definitely ahead of many as it relates to recognizing that sweeteners were bad for people. I think the key thing for anyone fundraising is do as much as you can first as it relates to sales and growing your company prior to going out and doing a raise. And learn from your “no’s” and naysayers. Sometimes it may be that someone is saying “it’s not worth investing in or it’s a bad idea” because they haven’t been trained to think outside of the box either. So find your audience that gets it and blow them away with results all along the way!

What are some strategies for identifying which investors to pitch to?
Kind of touched on this above but don’t expect to raise from dudes on Sand Hill Road (Silicon Valley) if they have never invested in your industry or don’t do your investment needed (seed, Series A, etc). Also, remember, the most valuable thing you have as an entrepreneur is your time. Some investors will continue to ask for information and meetings and turn cycles of your time. Know when to cut the cord on those types of investors, too.

What role has storytelling played in the building of your brand?
Storytelling is a way for investors and consumers to find meaning in your product, brand, company. HUGE! If you don’t have a story or a “why” you did it, it’s not impossible but it’s a lot harder to get the word out.

What advice do you have for startup founders around using their story to grow their business?
Write and tell your story as much as you can to get your story out there. Social Media is obviously huge but speaking at events is also huge. You never know who might be reading your story or sitting in the audience listening.

For an extra dose of #WednesdayWisdom, read our interview with Dayna Grayson, a partner at New Enterprise Associates, one of the world’s largest and most active venture capital firms, to discuss her current projects, plans to invest, and the future of voice recognition software.