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1. What is your business?

I am the founder and CEO of hint. I was having some health issues and it was a choice between going on medication or changing some bad habits like drinking tons of diet soda. I aspired to drink water, but I found it boring and always ended up swapping it for diet soda. I started taking fruit and slicing it up to put in my water, and I ended up really enjoying it. Then great things started to happen: I felt better, I lost weight, my acne cleared up. Drinking water wasn’t hard, I just had to figure out what was blocking me from doing it. Ultimately, for me, it was just taste. One day, I thought it might be easier to buy it in a store, but when I looked for water with fruit, I couldn’t find anything. I thought I should just go and develop this.

We also have a line of sunscreen. I developed precancerous skin cells and realized there are so many things in sunscreen that I didn’t understand. I became really focused on figuring out what I was putting on my body. I started looking at a lot of research on chemicals and minerals and how our body absorbs them. We decided to use byproducts from Hint Water—grapefruit, pineapple, pear—to create a sunscreen without oxybenzone and parabens that also smells good naturally.

 

2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?

At that time, I had been working as a tech executive but was currently taking a hiatus. I became so interested in health foods because I had been tricked by “diet” things and thinking they were healthier for me. Then I started asking people for their stories. It might not be soda, but it could have been low fat or vitamin water. It was a universal issue that people wanted to believe something and believe certain diet fads worked.

I started to develop hint in my kitchen, and about a year later got it into the market from the offices of Google to Whole Foods to help people change. I wasn’t so much focusing on how big it could be but more on how to solve a real problem for consumers.

 

3. What obstacles did you face in getting started and thinking of yourself as an expert in a new setting?

There were a few different challenges. With the sunscreens, all of them are FDA approved and because we use a food by-product testing took a bit longer. With sales, we use many avenues including Amazon. It’s great for customers but you don’t own any of your data like you do when dealing with retailers and that’s a big thing. I really want things to be about the consumer and making sure they are satisfied and getting products when and where they need them.

 

4. Were your family and friends helpful or obstacles in launching your business?  How so?

There will always be haters or naysayers. You just have to keep those people at bay especially when you’re a little bit volatile. It’s tough because family and friends are often your biggest critics. I really had to limit my conversations so criticisms didn’t take me down. The great thing about going off on your own is letting it grow at its own pace, having conversations without the pressure to just grow. You have the freedom to make the best decisions for your company.

 

5. Was outside funding/cost a challenge to getting your business off the ground?

We self-financed the company for the first two years. We were fortunate to be able to do that, it really was the right idea at the right time. I wasn’t opposed to having investors on board but first I wanted to make sure I had a business and hear from people in the industry.

There’s no right way to do things but I wanted to lead a life of being honest and really helping. I think if you can do it on your own, you’re better off but that’s not to say that people who raise money made a bad move. If you have a great idea, you can grow faster. Being a CEO wasn’t a driving factor for me, I just wanted to help people understand more.

 

6. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?

Looking at things differently in the beverage industry, which is really controlled by big soda. I am proud that we’ve been able to do something different in the name of health.

 

7. What are some of your current challenges?

We have grown from a 70-person company to almost 140, and it can be challenging to make sure that everyone is moving in the right direction. I want to keep everyone on the same page but keep that small business feel.

 

8. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?

“There no right way to do it.”

 

9. Do you use social media for marketing your business?

I think social media expressions of a brand are especially impactful if you can use it in a way where consumers are able to see how other people are interacting with the brand. It’s like having a billboard, you should understand the media and images. It’s about point of view and dialogue and understanding the different mediums—which might mean hiring somebody who totally understands it.

 

10. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?

Going back to satisfying the consumer. We are getting ready to launch some other products that will help solve problems for the consumer and help them lead a healthier life.

I wanted to encourage people to drink water, that’s why we developed Hint. And encourage people to wear sunscreen that is safe.

I really want to be leading conversations about better products. I want to not only inspire the consumer but also big companies, whether it’s changing formulas or putting more focus on health and doing the right thing.

Date of Conversation: September 4, 2018

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