Kara Goldin is passionate when it comes to spreading the word about Hint Inc., but she knows that no one can feel as strongly about the bottled water her company sells as she does.
“The people that care most about your brand are you and your company,” says the 30-employee company’s founder and CEO. “So you constantly have to be checking to make sure it’s happening. No one else is going to do it for you.”
Goldin’s passion for Hint’s unsweetened, flavored water comes from the heart as she and her husband did everything to make the company run in its early days. But despite the challenge that comes with getting others to feel your passion for your product, Goldin knew the company needed more people to make Hint a successful brand.
Today, Hint is available in more than 2,500 retailers across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Smart Business spoke with Goldin about how to make the right connections to get your brand out there.
Know your needs. We have had a ton of resumes over the past few years from people that have said they built organizations. I have built brands, and often if they have just worked for one of the big guys like Pepsi or Coke, that does not really say they have been in a start-up and that they can roll up their sleeves and get dirty.
You need a combination of people who have been in small organizations and have watched it grow to a larger organization and who have also managed teams and understand how to manage teams.
It is important to have people who have done this before, but you also need to have people who fit your company culture and live the brand. If our sales guys are out there on the street drinking Red Bull or Vitamin Water that’s filled with calories, it is not believable.
Bring in other people. We have a lot of people in on interviews. If one person is not comfortable with them, then we don’t hire them. It is important that if somebody sees that the person is not going to fit in well, it’s probably best for everybody, including the person looking for the job, not to hire them.
In some cases, we’ve learned that the hard way. I’ve said, ‘Oh, that person will be terrific and great,’ and our COO said, ‘I don’t know; I have concerns about this.’
Look beyond the resume. You want people to be inquisitive. You have to be able to be articulate about the product and ask the right questions and be able to engage in dialogue with these buyers. We always want people who have different experiences than we do and more experience than we do.
Why hire people if you can’t learn from them? That’s what life is about for us. I would much rather surround myself with people who know more than I do in certain areas or are better at tennis than I am so maybe I can learn from them. That’s life.
Work your image. It’s easy to get the first sale. As exciting as it is to get the first sale, you need to watch and see exactly what’s going on in the market and make sure you’re going to get the repeat sale. You do that by getting the consumer to not only recognize the brand but by building loyalty with them.
We have a national distribution with Whole Foods (Market) and we’re in Whole Foods constantly sampling the product. We look for events in a major market to sample the products. I’m a firm believer in charity events. If people go to those charity events for their charity and they see a brand at the events and they sample it and they like it, there is an affinity to that brand.
That brand then has some sort of affiliation to something that you care about whether it’s autism, breast cancer, heart association or diabetes. We’re fairly agnostic about the charities we support because we support a lot of them. That’s a major way that we’re building brand.
Be selective. We get calls every day from distributors that say they want to distribute Hint, tiny towns in Florida. As hard as it is not to take the order from them, we have to figure out internally what stores are there, how many people are there, is it a seasonal town and really what’s the opportunity?
If we’re not going to have our own staff there to support it and watch it, the last thing we want is to have bottles on shelves collecting dust. That doesn’t do anything for the brand.
I care much more about the brand than I do about bad distribution. It’s just understanding: Is it the right partner? Is it the right store? Is it at the right prices? It’s treating it like your child and making decisions for it since it can’t speak. It’s really viewing it that way.
Do plenty of networking. It is just getting out there and networking. I find I learn every day from talking to other brands about what’s worked for them and what hasn’t worked for them. Even if their brand is not in the beverage business, how do they do things? It is a whole different model, but it is always interesting to hear.
It is just like any other social interaction, you just have to somehow let them know what you are doing and see if there is a way to have a mutual dialogue. It is just understanding. Be willing to share what you are doing, too.
How to reach: Hint Inc., (866) 895-4468 or www.drinkhint.com