Turning Water Into Gold

The Facts:

  • Company name: hint, inc.
  • Year founded: April 2005
  • Annual revenues: More than $30 million in 2012, according to The Street. (As a private company, hint doesn’t release figures.)
  • Founders: CEO Kara Goldin, mother of four and a former AOL vice president, and her husband, Theo

DailyWorth: Tell us about your back story.

Kara Goldin: I couldn’t find any healthy beverages at the grocery store–absolutely none that didn’t have either sugar or diet sweeteners. So, I started slicing fruit into our water to add a little bit of flavor without the calories. One day, I received a call from a friend whose child had been over to our house several times. She said, “You have to tell me where you got the raspberry water my daughter keeps talking about.” That conversation was my “Aha!” moment. I realized quickly that I couldn’t have been the only mother searching for a simple solution.

How did you get investors?

Most tried the product and reached out to us. One of hint’s biggest investors is recording artist John Legend. He and a group of colleagues had stumbled onto hint at Whole Foods and Starbucks, and reached out to us.

What was your biggest challenge?

With hint and hint fizz, our carbonated version of hint, we essentially created a new category of unsweetened essence waters. The beverage world is such a saturated arena that getting consumers to understand who we are and how to become integral to their healthy lifestyle is always an interesting challenge. [But] even when people told me I couldn’t succeed, I kept going.

When did you know you’d made it?

Over the past nine years, I was able to turn hint, which started as my home improvement project, into one of the largest privately owned beverage businesses in the U.S. I was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs as well as Ernst & Young LLP’s 2012 Entrepreneurial Winning Women and have seen backing from big name investors and celebrities. From originally selling hint inside my kitchen, we have now gained national distribution in stores like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Kroger, Stop N Shop and The Fresh Market. Each little win reinforces that we’ve made it.

What does “success” mean for you/your business?

hint’s success is our consumers. Without them we would not exist. Our consumers are constantly telling us that we are helping them to drink water. I still read every one of our customer emails and will probably never stop. This is one of the things I look forward to every day.

What’s next?

We’re working with the New York City Public School System (we just received a bid!) to get hint sold throughout the five boroughs.

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