Kara Goldin is the founder of Hint Water, a game-changing healthy drinks to replace to soda and flavored water. She joins us this week to talk about how she built her business and the lessons she learned along the way. She talks us through her new tell-all book Undaunted and the risks she took to launch Hint and turn it into the successful company it currently is.
- Lessons from Walking the Grand Canyon
- Personal Motivation to Create Hint Water
- How Personal Stories Connect Us
- Sharing Business Lessons Across Multiple Platforms
- Questions About Financing
- Thinking and Doing Outside the Box
- Connecting to Consumers To Become Advocates
Lessons from Walking the Grand Canyon
Mimi: Kara, thank you so much for coming on today. I’m so excited. Hint Water is my kids’ favorite water. Even the other day, they came down there with the little boxes, and then we took your new Hint Sunscreen on vacation with us, and we love that. So thank you for that, but I’m excited to have you on today. I want to start out by saying what I read it in your book, Undaunted about how you compared walking the Grand Canyon to your journey as an entrepreneur and starting a company. I would just love for you to just talk about that because I really thought that was pivotal for anybody who’s thinking about starting a company or in the middle of dealing with building their company.
Kara: Well, first of all, thank you so much. For those of you who are not familiar, I’m the founder and CEO of Hint Water. I have my water here, and we have sunscreen and other products as well. But our core product is the water. People always ask me or label me as this risk taker and fearless entrepreneur, and I’ve always thought about it as inaccurate, right? Because it’s not that I think about myself as this fearless risk taker at all, but instead as somebody who wants to go out and live my life and not be stopped by things that really scare me, and I think if I would have thought about starting a company and even calling myself an entrepreneur, that probably would have stopped me, right?
Instead what I did was I had an idea to actually solve a problem that I was having in my life around diet soda, and I didn’t want to be drinking diet soda anymore when I figured out that it not only was not good for me, but very clearly when I stopped drinking diet soda and started drinking plain water, that’s when I lost over 20 pounds, my skin cleared up from adult acne, and I got my energy back. So I wasn’t going back to the old way, but instead, what I realized was that there was this whole industry out there that is really trying to fool consumers into believing that things are healthier than they are. For me, it was diet soda.
Personal Motivation to Create Hint Water
I always thought I was doing better by having diet versus full-fledged sugar soda, and then when I did the swap, I figured out that that really wasn’t true. And so that’s when I thought that maybe I can actually put this product in a bottle and get it on the shelf. I had come to this realization after realizing that it wasn’t in any stores, an unsweetened flavored water, which seems crazy, even crazy to people that I talked to 16 years ago after launching it today. So that is daunting when you sit there and say, “I’m going to go start a company,” and more than anything, I think it’s just figuring out what are the steps that you take in order to get your product out there?
For me, it was, “Let me actually write a little mini business plan.” I knew how to do that. I was comfortable doing that, and really see what’s in the market. It wasn’t perfect. It was just a couple of sheets of paper. It wasn’t that complicated. And then I literally got in the car and went to Whole Foods and started tapping people on the shoulder saying … who worked there. They looked official. It’s always a little tough in Whole Foods because it’s not like they have a uniform or anything. So I’m tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, how do I get a product on the shelf here?” And that’s how it started.
And so I think when I think about the Grand Canyon, it’s the same thing where, for me, it was I knew I had this fear of heights and it seems scary and daunting to sit there and say, “I’m going to go and launch myself into the Grand Canyon and go hike,” and of course telling your family and friends that you’re going to go do it, too. They’re awesome reminders that you’re afraid of heights and all of these things that you know yourself, but they’re more than willing to back you up because they don’t want you to take risks either. Very similar to being an entrepreneur. And what I really learned about myself is that all the challenging times that you have in business and in your personal life, they just make you more resilient. So then when you really have to go and do something, when you’re caught off guard by the goats jumping over our head or whatever it is, you just figure out, “How do I keep going, and how do I keep doing what I’m doing?”
But so often people thinking about launching a company, they come up with five reasons why they can’t. They don’t have experience in an industry, they don’t have the money, they don’t know how to write a business plan, you have a bunch of kids. I had four kids under the age of six. There was no reason why I was supposed to-
Mimi: And you were pregnant, right? You were nine months pregnant or on the way of being-
Kara: Yeah. When I was launching it, and when I was launching my fifth child, Hint, there’s always reasons. There’s never a great time to do anything when you really think about it. But instead, do you want to do something? I always stop people when they say, “Oh, I could never do that.” And I’m more than likely to, when people say that to me, say, “Well, you probably could do it. It’s just whether or not you want to do it.”
Mimi: You want to.
Kara: And that’s really what it boils down to. So I really did want to do this. I really did want to hike the canyon, and I think, again, the experience in either of those cases really boils down to you learning a lot about yourself, and looking backwards is always way more fun, too, right? Because maybe at times you have doubts, you have doubters along the way, but then you realize, “Oh, I actually did do that.” And-
Mimi: And how far you’ve come, right? You almost make it look like it’s so easy right now, and that’s the great thing about all these successful entrepreneurs, because you look and you’re like, “Oh, you make it seem like it’s so easy to happen,” but you started like 2005, so it’s been a long road, a really long road, and you’ve done so much. But it’s not that easy, and people really need to know that it’s not easy, but you can do it.
Kara: Yeah, and I think that definitely people have asked, “How do you balance being a mom and having kids and starting a company,” and you have good days and you have bad days. I wouldn’t say that I’m 100% balanced every single day. You can’t be. And I think that that’s what a lot of people are getting out of this book, too, is that it’s very rare that a female, existing CEO writes a book that actually is a tell-all, right?
How Personal Stories Connect Us
Kara: In many ways that says, “No, it hasn’t been that easy. There were challenging times.” It’s fun to look back and see where you’ve come from, but has it always been easy? No. And I think that those are the stories that people really do need to know, that it’s not as easy as there’s unicorns and there’s failures, right? There’s stuff that goes on in between. There’s categories, for example, during the pandemic where you definitely were more challenged than other categories, for sure. But there’s also this need to hear the stories of how people got through the resilience, or what their resilience was and how they got through those challenging times.
Kara: And I think people just need to hear it, whether or not you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or not. I think you just gain an appreciation for how you think about life just by hearing other people’s stories.
Mimi: Right. But I also liked how you mention in the book how you’ve made your family a part of the process. The first time, when you got your first bottles of Hint Water, your first cases of water, your kids were immediately outside selling the water as sort of a lemonade stand. It became like a Hint Water stand. So you made your family a part of the process. You made them the tasting kitchen, right? That’s your secret weapon, is your kids and your husband.
Kara: Yeah. And they still are. And as I have three in college and one in high school, and they’re tough critics, they’re way tougher than my friends who will come over, who will say, “Oh, it’s pretty good.” My kids will be like, “It sucks. It’s terrible. You should not do this. This is embarrassing,” whatever it is. And it extends beyond the product, too. They’re invested in it. They think about it and they intern, too, along the way as well. It’s interesting. I think that they watch us, right? It’s something that, look, as a parent, I definitely had those days where I’m thinking, “Should I really be doing this?” I think a lot of the reason why I got them involved was to keep them busy along the way. Give them something to do, right? You know that as-
Mimi: Yeah, I definitely do that.
Kara: Right? And so I was doing that, but then you don’t really know how much they’re picking up on it.
Mimi: They are.
Kara: Yeah. They are. Even my 19 year old son, it’s interesting, he hasn’t decided quite yet if he’s going to do this or not, but he really wants to get involved in product development and work on some new ideas that we’ve been thinking about, and last summer he worked on supply chain, and so he wants to go into those places that he doesn’t know anything about, which is something I talk about a lot, that as we grow in our careers, as we grow in life, we tend to gravitate towards being on the wheel, the hamster wheel of doing the same thing day after day versus actually waking up every morning and figuring out, “What do I not know? What am I going to go challenge myself with?” And I think the happiest people are the ones that are going and challenging, are able to laugh at themselves and have failures.
Hint Water Business Lessons
And that’s a lot of what I think the book is bringing for people, too. It’s just that we can’t all be perfect, right? You’re going to have failures. You’re going to have challenges along the way, but instead of actually hiding those things, instead of actually saying, “I’m just this perfect,” why not disclose those things, be your authentic self? And again, your kids pick up on that, too, and want to get that challenge in their life, too.
Mimi: And you had mentioned you also have a podcast, The Kara Goldin Show, and the one question you ask everybody at every show is,
“What makes you unstoppable?”
So I would love to know your answer, and I would love to know if there is a common theme that you have found in the different people that you have. And I know it’s not just women. You also do male, and not just entrepreneurs. You do a lot of influential people. So has there been a common them of the answer?
Kara: It’s interesting. I don’t do it for everyone anymore because I don’t know if you know who Guy Kawasaki is. If you go back to look at his podcast, he’s hysterical, and he’s been definitely an influence on me for years. I know him quite well, and I’ve been obsessed with the fact that he worked closely with Steve Jobs. Anyway, I asked him that question and he said, “I actually am stoppable.” And I said, “What? This is not supposed to …” And so we got into this whole conversation around Steve Jobs. He was like, “He was stoppable. He took a stop, and then maybe he would start back up again to rethink things.” And so I think it really goes back to, “Do you want to do something, and do you not want to do something?” Right? We’re all stoppable, but I think it really does boil down to whether or not you really care enough to do something-
Mimi: That’s true.
Kara: … and can you figure out another way? And so often when hurdles and challenges come in our route, I think it’s just a matter of really stopping and taking a look. We call it pivoting now, trying to figure out is there another way? I think that that is my super power, that I have a huge issue with just stopping, and complacency, as I always say, will kill you. And even during the pandemic, it clearly, as we start to hopefully come out of the pandemic and you look around at companies that were killed, even ones who were in terrible industries, the restaurant industry, whatever, you can’t stop. You couldn’t stop. You had to figure out what could you do?
And I usually interview founders and CEOs for the podcast, but I had a friend of mine, Alison Levine, who has climbed Everest a few times, and she talks about the exact same thing, that you cannot stop when you’re on Everest. You have to keep going, and talked about a really incredible situation where she almost had giant blades of ice come down on her, and it was at that moment when she said to her team that she was guiding, “Complacency will kill you.” And it will, whether it’s in business or in life. You have to keep going. You can slow down, but you just can’t stop.
Questions About Financing
Mimi: No, it is so true. And one thing I really appreciate with your story, and just to divert for a second, is your financing. You’ve kept this still, as big as you are, it is still privately held, but I have a lot of respect. You had mentioned in the book about when you finally were going outside and getting VC funding, I think it was the first time, which is, I think, so unlike most CEOs at the time, you really protected your original founders and their investment. And I think that’s really unusual, as an angel investor. I just had this conversation with my husband because we’ve done a lot of deals and we’ve had some really good ones that have worked out and not so other ones. But I was just saying, “I don’t understand why the founders and the friends and families aren’t protected more later on in the deal. As a CEO, why wouldn’t they protect the original investors that were there when nobody else believed in them?” Right?
And I know why, because a VC is like flex arm. But the fact that you put your own equity up on the line to protect your friends and family and the original people that believed in you, I had a lot of respect for you and I would just for you to talk about that because that’s not usual.
Kara: Yeah. Well, and I think it really boils down to, so often, founders are not … They don’t have a great attorney that really coaches them on, “Here’s what could happen.” And so this is something that I always say to founders, because I’ve seen so many disasters and some of them even them thinking about what they’ve done, and sometimes they’re doing it to their parents, or they’re … It’s not even a person that they are five degrees separation away from, and they just didn’t know. And I think that asking those questions of a great attorney, like, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I think is such a critical thing. And again, can you live with yourself and how much integrity do you have? All these things.
People start with thinking that they do, but then they just don’t really go through the details because they don’t think it’s going to happen to them. And I always tell people, “You should really look for an attorney that is actually going to be equipped enough, not just get something done and drop paperwork, but actually say what is the worst that can happen here?” And I think it’s helpful my husband was a very good intellectual property attorney and had dealt with a lot of deals prior to coming on board with us as their chief operating officer. But I think that it can be done, but it’s definitely …
People are investments and essential
For us, I think it really boils down to recognizing that in order to have a successful company, you have to have a great product or service, but you also have to value the people. And the people are not just your employees and your customers, but also your investors. And I think that it’s something that we haven’t gone the traditional route of doing VCs and private equity. Part of the reason is, is that the devil’s in the details, right? And we’ve looked at those things and we read them, and not just my husband an attorney, but I read them, too. And I think that that’s the thing. You’ve got to dig in. None of this is brain surgery, and you have to really understand what you’re doing. And then I think that just also builds friendships, too. I think when the pandemic hit for us, too, I had investors reaching out, not saying, “How is my investment?” but instead saying, “What can we do to help you?”
Mimi: Yeah, that’s great.
Kara: Very different relationship, right? And saying, “I know you guys were an essential product.” So we were hitting this … It’s a longer story, but we’re not just regulated by the state as bottled water companies are, but we’re also regulated by the FDA because we use fruit in our product, and so when the country went into pandemic status, national emergency, being an essential product, we actually had a switch flipped that we had never seen before because we had never been through a pandemic. So our plants needed to run 24 hours a day, we had many people who were experiencing, many grocery stores experiencing empty shelves, and so it was our responsibility to keep the shelves.
Mimi: Which is better, right? Because you could stay open, whereas a lot of businesses had to shut.
Kara: Yeah. It was also a time when my team is hearing, “Shelter in place,” and I’m saying, “Here’s [crosstalk 00:18:22].”
Mimi: No, you’re an essential.
Kara: Right. “You’re an essential, and here’s your mask leftover from the fires that we had in Northern California. It’s so great that I have them in the warehouse and the gloves and hand sanitizers and everything. And here you go, you’re going to be working.” And so-
Mimi: And they’re like, “Wait.”
Kara: That was-
Mimi: Because we didn’t know at that point. You were afraid. You didn’t want to leave the house.
Kara: Yeah. And that’s a whole other story of stuff that I’ve talked about, that I didn’t know how to manage, and the only way that I knew how to manage was actually to … My team was afraid, right? They didn’t want to go out there, and the only way that I knew how to manage was to put on my jacket and my Hint Lululemon pants, and I took on a route in Marin County where I lived, and so I was working through the entire thing, and people said, “Wait, you’re working?” And I said, “Yeah, I want to make sure that I am out there with my team. I want to make sure it’s really safe.”
Thinking and Doing Outside the Box
But what I was able to figure out, really just living in a strategic world was when I went into Target, for example, they didn’t open until 7:00. I went and talked to the managers, and I said, “Hey, do you mind if I come in before people get here at 6:30?” And the managers were like, “No, not at all.” So then I tell my entire Salesforce across the country, “Look, no one’s been in the stores all night. It’s way better. There’s no people in there. Just go and talk to the manager and get in there at 6:30 in the morning.” It was amazing to me that more food and beverage companies weren’t doing this. I was one of the only people in the city.
Kara: Right? I didn’t have to put makeup on. I just threw my hair in a ponytail and I just ran out and did my job, but I think the team seeing me go in there also just leading to … I’m a parent, right? When you see your kids scared, when you see your friends scared, you jump in, and you don’t sit there in your office or your home office-
Mimi: Right. You’re not above them. You rolled up your sleeves and you’re like, “If you’re going to do it, I’m going to do it.” Yeah.
Kara: Right. So that was my world that I was living in over the last year, and in the meantime, my team was saying, “Wait, you’re not going back to doing your old job. You’re staying out here with us because you’re helping us get more space.” I was signing bottles with the managers at Target stores and-
Mimi: That’s great.
Kara: Yeah. They were like, “Wait, what happened to our guy, Ben?” And I’m like, “Oh, he’s here. I’m just trying to make his territory smaller.” And people are like, “Well, what do you do? Are you taking his job away?” And I’m like, “No, no, no, it’s all good.” I was like, “Don’t worry.” And they were like, “Okay. Well, we’ve never seen you before.”
Mimi: They didn’t know who you were?
Kara: No, they didn’t know who I was. And then I said, “Don’t worry, I’ve worked here a long time,” and then finally it was getting annoying, and I said, “I’m the founder. Don’t worry. I’m all good.” And then they were like, “No way. You’re the founder? Oh my God. Will you sign my bottle? Will you sign this picture.”
Mimi: Aw, that’s awesome.
Kara: I know. It was hysterical.
Women as Badass CEOs and entrepreneurs
Mimi: That’s awesome. I think with your book and what you’re doing, you’re getting at the same thing I’ve been trying to do with them, the bad-ass CEO, which is staggering, only 1.7% of women’s companies ever reach a million dollars of sales. Right? And only five percent of women ever reached C-suite or CEO status, which is mind blowing to me because we’re a 50/50 workforce, and so it’s like, “What do you think the reason is?” Not to put you on the spot, but if you were to name a couple of reasons why you think that is, what would you say they are?
Kara: I think that women have tons and tons of ideas, but I think they allow themselves to get in their own way. Right? They’re very, very smart, and then they decide … And the more educated you are, the worse it is, right? Because you can always come up with 10 reasons why something won’t work. And as you get older, you get really good at this. Right? Remember as a kid, you’ll just go try stuff because you just don’t know any better, and then as you get older, you’re like, “I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to look stupid. There’s a million other things that I should be doing,” whatever it is, you get in your own way.
Then I think there’s the capital discussion, which is an issue, but as I’ve always said, and as you know from reading the book, it’s not just about VCs and private equity firms. It really is about knowing that there’s lots of other options out there. There’s options I hear about all day. Every week, I hear about a new option and a new fund that’s coming out there. So is it harder to raise money as a female? Absolutely. But I think that you have to figure out a way. It’s really about putting that sentence in front of you, “What can I do?” And then I think that the other thing is, too, those statistics scare people, when they see those statistics. So I read them and I’m like, “It’s not helpful.” Right? If somebody says, “Your chance of failure is extremely high,” that’s not helpful to tell people that. Right?
Mimi: That’s true.
Kara: And I think it’s also, when I look at the VC firms, too, when we’re actually staying and highlighting, “You should be investing in more women and you should be doing this,” I’m not sure that that’s actually helpful either. Right? I think instead you have to figure out how to have a conversation to make people who don’t typically invest in women more comfortable and have a great idea. Right? It’s just understanding the EQ of the whole situation versus actually alienating people. And I think it’s fascinating, even when I look at the book, when I took the book out to find a publisher, that the thinking was, “Oh, well, female founding books, female founder books don’t actually sell, and the market will be a bunch of female people buying books. And there aren’t enough entrepreneurs out there. So therefore, your book won’t be a success.”
I know nothing about the publishing industry. So I’m like, “Really? Okay. It sounds like, you know what you’re talking about. I have no idea.” And what’s fascinating, fast forward after getting it out there, is, first of all, it’s not just for entrepreneurs. I’ve heard from a bunch of CEOs who are questioning themselves on why don’t they go take risks because they’ve been sitting in this very successful role, and this book has helped them to rethink that. The pandemic probably helped in some ways as well, but I’ve had so many men, actually, who are reading the book and who are following me on LinkedIn, too, who are really rethinking a lot of what they are investing in and how, actually, running a company that you’re passionate about, that typically is what women are really great at coming up with those ideas for that.
Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Connecting to Consumers To Become Advocates
Kara: Again, I think the more of the stories that get out there, and a lot of reason why I do my podcast as well is really to share a lot of those founder stories because I think that they’re out there. It’s just that they haven’t had the same exposure as maybe others have.
Mimi: Right. And look at your story. If you actually knew what you know now, 15 years ago, when you were starting it, you probably wouldn’t have started it. But by being naive about the industry-
Mimi: Right? You were going up against a giant, right? It was kind of crazy to be doing that, but you almost didn’t know what you didn’t know. So it was better.
Kara: That’s 100% right. Right? People said, “Did you know you were going up against these multi-billion dollar companies?” Of course I knew how big they were, but I think for me, too, and I still think about our company this way, it wasn’t really about another product. It was about servicing a customer and about helping consumers because I believe that there was this audience out there that was very much like me, that saw the beverage aisle, never turned down that aisle because they were tired of the stuff, and they knew about plain water and they knew about diet soda or vitamin water, and there was nothing in between.
I viewed Hint Water as some people would stop there at Hint and just be drinking Hint. Other people, they aspired to be water drinkers. That was my story, and I couldn’t get there because I hated the taste of plain water. I would tell people all day long, “Oh yeah, I’ve got to drink my eight glasses of water.” I never would. I would drink Diet Coke thinking that, “Oh, it’s got water in there somewhere.” Right? And it’s like coffee.
Mimi: It’s made of water.
Kara: Yeah, it’s made of water. And again, I wasn’t an idiot. I knew that it was like another beverage company, but I think if you launch a company, whether it’s 16 years ago or today, and you’re solving a problem and you think about the consumer, you think about the audience versus actually trying to figure out how you can’t succeed because there’s companies out there, that’s the story in every single industry. I always go back to Facebook, for example. There was nothing special about Facebook that Microsoft or some of the others that were in Silicon Valley couldn’t have done, right? There were computers out before Steve Jobs came out with the iMac, right? They were out there. They just didn’t have that same gem, right?
Mimi: So was it the marketing? Is it the branding? Is it the timing? What would you say in the instances of the cases that you just talked about that made-
Kara: I think it’s all of the above. I think today, I always pick on Red Bull. No one has ever thought that Red Bull tastes great, right? They start drinking it and they get addicted to it, but gone are the days where I think you can launch a beverage that doesn’t taste good.
Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kara: I think that that is a timing issue, and Red Bull came out, and it was really about the function. It was about having an alternative to coffee, to caffeine, to energy, and so that’s why that was successful. But I think the consumer has to discover it. Something else I talk about a lot is that I knew I was launching a product and a new company, which is like climbing a mountain, but I didn’t know I was launching a new category. And so that’s the thing that I think that the consumer needs to catch up to and really have ownership of and understand what you’re doing, and then they become your advocates.
Kara: But how you get there, there’s no roadmap. The Coca-Cola executive was not actually going to be able to tell me how to get there, yet in every single industry, the entrepreneur, automatically, it’s part of the brain and the doubters, right? Your own doubts. You think that, “Oh, I’ve got to go and talk to this person, and they’re going to solve all my problems Because they’ve had lots of experience,” and yet experience does not build categories. When you look back over and over again, Kodak didn’t come up with digital, right? That’s not where it came from, and oftentimes large companies can’t get out of their own way.
Mimi: Right. I remember that. It’s funny that you mentioned Kodak because when all the digital was coming out, when we were all deciding where you put your photos online, like if it’s going to be Shutterfly or whatever, I was like, “I’m going to put all my digital photos on the Kodak,” whatever that was called at the time. I can’t remember right now. I’m like, “They’ll never go out of business. They’re like the Grand Poobah of photos.” So I’m like, “Nothing’s going to happen with that.” So I put all my photos on there, and that was the one that died first, right? And so you’re like, “That didn’t even live.”
Kara: It happens over and over again, and you look at every single industry. So I always tell entrepreneurs, “Always know what the big guy is doing, but it is highly unlikely that they’ll actually be your competitor.”
Kara: It’s the scrappy and the hungry, and even the ones that go and get more capital, I think the most challenging thing for an entrepreneur and what they need to focus on is staying alive.
Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mimi: I love the example that you used in the book about … Is it Pepsi? That you actually rode off their coattail. Their product didn’t actually … Was it Pepsi? I think it was, that they launched a flavored water, and you said it tasted terrible. It tasted like cherry or something like that.
Kara: Well, DASANI … Yeah, the DASANI one. And they’ve both done it over the years. I thought that when the big guy launches a product that-
Mimi: You’re in trouble.
Kara: You’re done, right? And still to this day, that’s what people who work at large companies will tell you, and when you are the only one in your category, you actually need competition. Competition is a really good thing when you’re little because it actually allows the consumer to taste what else is in the category. In our case, Coke didn’t do a lot of it, but they did a campaign around DASANI Essence water, and then people would try it. They didn’t like the taste of it, and then they would come back to us and they’d say, “Yours is way better.” So again, it confirms what we want them to do, but again, a lot of people don’t think about that. And it’s really true in every single industry is it’s really what needs to happen.
Disney Plus versus Netflix, right? People had tried Netflix, but then Disney Plus came along in that category, and people said, “Okay, I’m going to go over here for a little while.” Netflix is super strong, right? But it actually grew the category. People said, “Oh, no. Oh, wait. Netflix has kids stuff over here? Okay. Now I’m back in.” So again, you start to look at these different categories, and it really is true in any category that you look up.
Mimi: You’re one of five children, and I’m one of six. I love how you used your experience from having a big family of making you relentless, and do you think that attributes to you being such a great, not only entrepreneur where you started CEO, but you had a great career before you even launched this company. So would you think that was your number one attribute to make you as successful as you’ve been professionally throughout your life?
Kara: I think that the key thing is just having parents that maybe were a little tired by the time that I rolled out, and I was always challenging them and always wanting to have fun and always willing to push the needle a little bit. And I think that that ends up to be a good thing. Was it a good thing at the time when I was living in it? No, I was a pain in the butt to them. And I was always coming up with a reason. “Why can’t I go to that party?” And I had a very good memory of my brothers and sisters. They were always able to do stuff. And I was like, “Ah.” They would be really naughty, and so then my parents would be like, “Okay, we’re not going to allow this to happen anymore,” and so I was always the one that was challenging them.
I think more than anything, when you continue to challenge along the way, when you get older and you’re running a business, I think that you look at those things as learning experiences, things that make you more resilient, and yeah, it’s a crazy time to … It’s easier to look back on those things than when you’re in them.
Mimi: Yes, definitely. So to end our last question, what would you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you started? Is there any piece of advice that you can give any entrepreneurs that you’re like, “Geez, if I had known that, I could have avoided a lot of mistakes, money loss, gray hairs”?
Kara: I think that the main thing is that you have to figure out how do you continue taking steps forward and not allow yourself to get stuck thinking maybe it’s imposter syndrome or some variation of it where you’re constantly thinking about how the big guy is going to … They’re going to do so much better if you can bring them in or get them to be your partner or whatever. I think that kind of stuff is a waste of time. Right? Instead, figure out what you can do. Figure out how you can move the needle forward, and like I said earlier, stay alive because I think that that’s the most important thing, is having enough capital, having a great idea, and also having fun, right?
People have asked me, “How did you stay as the CEO of the company 16 years later?” And I think that being able to really run this company, being able to make the decisions to jump in and still do sales when I need to go do that, being able to still add value to the company, but also still enjoy what I’m doing, I think that that is the most important thing for everybody’s life because, as I share with my kids, there’s tons of jobs out there, and that it’s finding that thing that you really want to be doing every single day. And maybe your friends aren’t doing those things either. What are you curious about? What do you think you can make a dent in the world doing, and what will you be known for and most proud of, I think, is the most important piece.
Mimi: I love that. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Kara: Thank you.