Hint Water: From Boots on the Ground to Whole Foods Shelves

November 17, 2015

9:12 am

Looking back at Celebrate this year, we learned firsthand from a lot of entrepreneurs about raising money, making products suck less, and maybe evening ziplining through Fremont. Although marketing and brand awareness was not a major theme, it was brought to light during a fireside chat between Hint Water Founder and CEO Kara Goldin and Mixergy Founder Andrew Warner. During the session, Goldin discussed how her boots on the ground approach led Hint Water to achieve an annual revenue of $70M.

Having covered startups and even worked for them, there are a lot of concepts that get thrown (excessive use of the term growth hacking) around on how to build awareness, but for Goldin it’s all about relationships and having a unique offering.

“I was never a water drinker, so I started throwing fruit in the water. My friends would see me out walking or at the gym, and I’d always have fruit in my water, and they’d start explaining to me these things to me like Vitamin water, and all the flavored waters out there, and I never really touched those…And I really felt like it was really such a scam that things were called water and not really water at all,” said Goldin.

Three months later, Goldin lost 40 lbs and on a whim walked into the Whole Foods near her home in San Francisco and asked how she could get her product in their stores. After listing some of their requirements, she made the necessary changes and shortly after placed Hint Water on their shelves.

Two days after the product’s debut, they already sold 10 cases and the store requested more. Even though this was days after delivering her fourth child, she was still powering through, made more supplies, and their process was created. From then on, even now with the partnership of distributors, the company still stands by a door to door approach when entering new markets.

During the fireside chat, Warner asked what the process was like to get Hint on their shelves, to which Goldin replied, “I was just like, what do I have to lose? I didn’t know anybody, I just went and did it.”

The competition Goldin was up against consisted of regular bottled water and other products which contain sugar and other sweeteners. To differentiate Hint in the marketplace, it was a matter of creating a unique story. During the chat Warner asked Goldin how to explain to consumers and investors how to understand the product when it doesn't fall into a clear category. “You tell the story on what problem it's solving,” said Goldin.

On October 4-6, Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference is gathering hundreds of attendees, industry leaders, and inspiring speakers in downtown Vegas to meet the hottest startups and investors from around the country, learn and collaborate with others turning their communities into startup cities, and enjoy music, parties, and llama spotting. Check out more Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference coverage here.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.