Trace Water’s Kara Goldin on the Vital Lesson She Realized From a Main Setback

When you get a deal with a customer the size of Starbucks, the opportunity can be both a blessing and a curse. While you may want to devote the time and resources to cultivating this relationship, the size of a customer can’t keep you from neglecting other areas of your business.

That says Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of the aroma water company Hint Water. Goldin learned that lesson the hard way in 2012 when Starbucks suddenly decided to stop selling Hint products. Goldin shared this story and others from her recent essay, “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubt and Doubt” on a private Inc. Masters Q&A forum Thursday, including answering questions from entrepreneurs about overcoming business obstacles.

With Starbucks accounting for 40 percent of Hint’s business, the loss felt like it was “punched in the stomach,” Goldin says. Since then, she has advised entrepreneurs to create options for themselves by developing multiple sources of income. It’s just too dangerous to connect so much of your business to one company, she says, especially when that company can disconnect without warning.

The Starbucks ordeal had a silver lining, however: an Amazon buyer who had tried Hint’s products at Starbucks signed up to accept Hint into the Amazon grocery store. The success of these online sales eventually led Hint to sell water on its own website. According to Goldin, direct sales to consumers make up 55 percent of Hint’s business.

Hint’s diversification strategy is still paying off. Before the pandemic, 15 percent of the company’s business came from watering the offices of big companies like Google. Office closings in March 2020 caused these revenue streams to dry up. Expecting it couldn’t come back, the company focused on selling direct to consumers to make up the difference. It worked: Hint’s direct-to-consumer business has tripled since March.

Goldin says keeping your options open will help you tackle any challenge, be it a supplier relationship or a pandemic. She also tries never to let tasks or issues come up to the point that she is overwhelmed, she says, adding that she keeps her to-do lists short.

“I only take on a few things every day so I don’t beat myself up for not being able to achieve everything.”

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