Getting Called “Sweetie” Helped this Entrepreneur Create a Multi-Million-Dollar Business

“Sweetie,” the executive said. “And I just dropped the phone for a minute.”

Brought to you by Hint Water

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on our blog in 2017. It has been updated to reflect recent changes.

Last week at Pizza & 40s, Kara Goldin, the founder of Hint, told a story that fired me up.

The setup goes like this:

In 2004, Kara Goldin was drinking 10 Diet Cokes a day, had bad acne, and was tired all the time. Wanting to change her diet while also not giving up her love of tasty beverages, she started making her own water by boiling fruit skins and mixing the oils with water. She called her concoction Hint.

However, six months after launching Hint, Goldin was ready to quit.

Although sales were growing and Hint was being sold in stores across the Bay Area, she was struggling to figure out the shelf life of the beverage. Obviously, understanding when your product needs to sell by is not only important to the business, but to the customer’s health… aka it’s a big deal.

And because Goldin – who had never worked in the food industry before – launched Hint on the premise that Americans deserve a natural, low-sugar beverage, she wasn’t willing to use the easy fix that most beverage brands use: preservatives.

Worried that she couldn’t scale the company, Goldin called a Coke executive who she was hoping would take over the company.

“Listen, I’m in San Francisco. I’ve never done beverages before. I worked in tech and you can just have this company. I launched it, we’re in 10 markets around the Bay Area, and it’s doing pretty well.”

But then, the Coke exec interrupted her.

“Sweetie,” the executive said. “Americans love sweet.”

“And I was like… did he just call me sweetie?” Kara said. “I just put the phone down and lost him for five minutes. And then finally, a light bulb went off. He really thinks Americans love sweet.”

“And so,” Goldin said, “I have runway to go and launch this company because he’s not focused on a company with no sweeteners.”

This conversation inspired Goldin. Now, 17 years later, Hint Water is doing more than $100 million dollars a year in sales. And companies like Apple, Facebook, and LinkedIn stock their fridges with Hint’s variety pack of flavors.

Note: The Hustle team tried all the flavors in the variety pack and watermelon is our favorite.

Funny enough, 18 months after this conversation with the Coke exec, Kara was told by a friend that Hint was not only on Coke’s radar, but was listed on a slideshow during a Coke meeting on potential competitors. “We can’t let Hint get to the point of VitaminWater,” the slide read.

VitaminWater was purchased by Coke for $4.8B.

Listen to your naysayers… not because they’re right, but because it’s fuel.

BTW Hint is giving Hustle readers a chance to take advantage of Hint’s new customer special. Get a bundle of their top flavors delivered to your for 40% off using this special link. Go forth and stay hydrated.

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