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How the CEO of Hint Water Found a New Path

I call myself an “accidental entrepreneur” because I came to the world of start-ups on a different path than many other founders. Running a company was never my goal. I didn’t go to business school. I was in my mid-thirties when I started Hint Water.

My new book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, not only tells the Hint story, but many of the pivotal moments that led to me taking the plunge and starting my company. I wrote this book because everybody needs some encouragement and advice to help silence the doubts and doubters and achieve the success they deserve.                              

Here’s a short excerpt from Undaunted. I hope this sneak peek will offer you some inspiration and a taste of the personal satisfaction you feel when you embrace the quality of being undaunted.

Because if my story proves anything, it’s that if I can do it, you can too.

Listen to the first chapter Free

I remember the summer of 2002 vividly. I had decided to take some time off from work. The intense pace of my most recent job and the rigors of two pregnancies in quick succession had taken their toll.

I didn’t bounce back from pregnancy as quickly or as well as I had hoped. I felt exhausted all the time. Although I had gained weight after each previous birth, I had been able to lose most of it. Now, I couldn’t lose any of it. I was up fifty pounds from my normal weight. My skin didn’t look as youthful as it used to. I started to break out and developed a serious case of adult acne.

I went to several doctors who came highly recommended and their diagnosis was that my three pregnancies, one a year for three years, had thrown my system out of whack. My metabolism had slowed down. My hormones had been affected. I probably shouldn’t have had three babies so close together.

The final doctor I saw suggested I go on a course of drugs to “reset” my hormones, whatever that might mean. Something didn’t seem right about any of this advice. It struck me that none of the doctors had asked me about my lifestyle — diet, exercise, and work habits.

The Road that Led to Hint Water

There’s something going on with my body, I thought, and I have to figure it out. I couldn’t change the pregnancies, but I could control a lot of things about my health, and I was not ready to go on meds.

I started paying closer attention to my diet and buying organic foods, but none of that seemed to help. I was working out almost every day with my husband Theo and while I did feel like I was getting in better shape, I wasn’t losing weight and my skin wasn’t clearing up. Worst of all, I just felt tired a lot of the time.

One day, I caught myself thinking about cookies as I put down my diet soda. I realized that after every can I drank I would grab something sweet. A small cookie here. A piece of a muffin there. It was adding up throughout the day. Maybe my diet soda was making me crave sweet things, even though it didn’t have any calories itself.

Maybe, I thought, I should try giving it up for a while.

I decided to go cold turkey on diet soda and drink water instead.

When I told Theo, he was skeptical that I could do it. “That’s not going to be easy for you. You’ve been drinking soda since you were a teenager. Why not just cut back? Drink a couple sodas a day, not ten.”

“No. I’ll still have the craving for more. If I drink one, I’ll want another one. It’s better to stop completely.”

He shook his head. “Good luck.”

I cut out diet soda completely and set an ambitious goal: Eight glasses of water a day. I filled the glasses and lined them up on the kitchen counter each day.

Gradually, I noticed a little bounce of energy. I started to feel better in general. I felt like walking and exercising more. My acne started to clear up. My clothes felt a little looser. My energy level continued to improve.

I hopped on the scale. I was down twenty pounds in just two and a half weeks! If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know that’s a lot in a short time.

“I can tell,” Theo said. “Your skin looks better, too. How are you feeling?”

“I feel good! There’s only one problem,” I told him.

“What’s that?”

“Water is so boring! I can barely stand it.” If I was going to stick with it, I had to find a way to love drinking water.

New Solutions Become New Products

One day, I looked at the bowl of fruit on the counter and found my answer. I grabbed a lemon, cut it up and put a few slices in a pitcher of water. Over the next week, I rotated through various fruits, putting a few slices in water or smashing up a berry and letting it sit in the fridge overnight. The infusion of fruit flavor made it much easier to drink my eight glasses of water a day.

I kept pitchers of our fruit-infused water in the fridge and offered it to any guests – adults and kids alike – whoever came by. I remember one mom in particular who called to ask where she could buy “the raspberry water her daughter had liked at our house.” She told me she had looked in all the stores for it and had bought every raspberry-flavored water brand she could find. But with every one of them, her daughter would take a sip, wrinkle up her nose, and say, “Nope, that’s not it.”

I laughed and told her it wasn’t from the store. “I make it at home.”

“Oh. How much sugar do you add?”

“None.”

She couldn’t believe it. “That’s weird. My daughter only likes sweet drinks.”

Soon after, when I was shopping at Whole Foods, I took a detour through the water aisle. There were lots of different types of water, from plain spring water to vitamin waters. There were some flavored seltzer waters, but they were all made with artificial fruit flavors and most contained sodium. The vitamin waters also had preservatives and a lot of sugar. (No diet vitamin waters were available then.)

I approached a Whole Foods clerk who was stocking the aisle. “Do you sell a water with real fruit, no sugar, and no sweeteners of any kind?”

The guy hesitated, then pulled a vitamin water off the shelf. We looked at the label together. Water, vitamins, cane sugar, crystalline fructose. No real fruit. Lots of added sugar. We looked at a number of the carbonated seltzers with fruit flavoring. One popular orange-flavored brand had thirty-two grams of sugar and the flavor came from orange juice concentrate. The rest of the aisle was filled with many different brands of unflavored still and sparkling water.

There was nothing like my homemade, sweetener-free, fruit-infused water. My question just popped out. “If I develop a water that’s flavored with real fruit and has no sweeteners, would you stock it?”

The Whole Foods guy couldn’t tell if I was serious. He had no idea who I was. He looked at me, thought about it for a couple seconds, and shrugged. “Sure. Why not? We could give it a try.”

I went home and kept thinking about my conversation in Whole Foods. My homemade drink, containing only water, fruit, and no sweeteners had solved a health problem for me. I increased my energy, improved my mood, cleared up my skin, and lost fifty pounds. Plus, I liked the taste, which is more than I could say for plain water – and plenty of other people liked it, too.

It kept growing from there. I was working out at the local health club regularly and would fill my water bottle with my fruit-infused drink. One day, after my workout, a gym friend asked what I was drinking.

“Cucumber-infused water.”

“Really? Where do you buy that?”

“I don’t buy it.” I laughed. “I make it.”

My friend looked intrigued and that was another aha moment for me.

People should be able to buy something like this, I thought. Could this be an idea for a product? Would people actually buy it?

I knew nothing about producing a beverage for sale, but I did have a deep feeling that I could develop something healthy and positive and that there was nothing else quite like it currently available.

This might be the opportunity to make a difference in the world that I’ve been searching for. I could help make people healthier and feel better.

That kind of feeling doesn’t come along very often.

When it does, I decided, you should not ignore it.

You may be looking at a new path forward.

Kara Goldin

Kara Goldin is a disruptor. She is the Founder and CEO of Hint, Inc., best known for its award-winning Hint® water, the leading unsweetened flavored water. She is an active speaker & writer and hosts the podcast Unstoppable with Kara Goldin where she interviews founders, entrepreneurs and other disruptors across various industries. She lives in the Bay Area. Follow Kara on all social handles @KaraGoldin

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