Turning Your Passions Into Projects (With Minimal Experience)

Hi All!

Here is my weekly email with some insights pulled out from my podcast as well as some other tools and resources to help you along in your journey.


❤️ Turning Your Passions Into Projects (With Minimal Experience)

On the Success Story podcast last month, I was fortunate enough to share an enlightening conversation with the delightful Kara Goldin. She’s the creative mastermind behind naturally flavored water company, Hint.

Kara began her beverage sales journey with a mission: to create and sell drinks that would serve as a refreshing alternative to the more sugary soft drinks available on the market. Little did she know that her big ideas would yield incredible success later on down the line.

With barely any industry experience, I wanted to know – how did she manage to reach her level of success? The answers she gave were insightful and full of wisdom; so much so that today’s article will be dedicated to covering her thoughts in more detail.

If you are a person with a passion, but no industry experience to speak of and no major entrepreneurial successes under your belt, you’ve reached your destination. Let’s dive in!

Kara Goldin’s golden ticket

Named among Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and Forbes’ 40 Women to Watch Over 40, Kara was nothing short of inspiring to speak with. Her creative vision behind naturally flavored water was a stroke of true entrepreneurial genius.

Kara’s success story: quick overview

If you missed the full podcast, here’s a brief summary of Kara’s journey with Hint Water.

  • Kara Goldin is the founder and CEO of Hint Inc., a San Francisco-based company that makes flavored water. Goldin has no formal business training, but she’s been successful with Hint because she turned her passion for healthy living into a successful project.
  • When Goldin was pregnant with her first child, she was determined to find a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. She started making her own flavored water at home, and soon became obsessed with the idea of starting her own business.
  • Goldin took her passion for healthy living and turned it into a successful project by starting Hint Inc. She bootstrapped the company in the early years, and it has since grown into a multimillion-dollar business.

What really stuck out to me in this episode was the total lack of industry experience Kara had when she began her journey with Hint. She had never been involved in the sale of drinks and beverages before starting the company. Instead, what drove her was a pure, energetic passion for finding alternatives to sugar-based drinks.

This prompted me to question – is industry experience truly necessary when starting out on a new business endeavor? Common sense would point to yes; Kara’s story indicates otherwise. I dug deeper into the idea of the ‘inexperienced entrepreneur’ to see whether experience was a necessary component of business success.

Experience: do you need it?

The actions we take in our day-to-day lives are essentially a manifestation of everything we’ve experienced as people. We respond to events happening around us by drawing upon our past. From this, we develop skills, values, and beliefs that shape how we think, feel, and behave.

By this logic, it makes sense that having experience in certain areas of life can put us at an advantage when it comes to being successful. This can be seen through the simple example of learning a new instrument; those who have never played an instrument before find it difficult to read sheet music and make music that sounds good.

However, for those who have been playing an instrument for years, the process is much easier because they have developed skills, values, and beliefs related to making music.

In the entrepreneur’s world, having prior experience in the field you’re planning on starting a business in is often seen as a key ingredient for success – but it isn’t the only way forward.

Entrepreneurs that built their vision from scratch

Interestingly, a simple Google search reveals an endless source of anecdotal evidence to back the idea that experience isn’t a must in the entrepreneurial space.

  • John Paul DeJoria (co-founder of Patron Spirits, net worth $3.1B) started his working life jumping between courier and truck driving jobs. He had zero experience in the haircare industry before co-founding John Paul Mitchell Systems and began with a loan of just $700.
  • Sam Walton (Walmart founder, once considered the wealthiest man in the U.S.) had hardly any experience or assets to his name before opening his first store and developing the Walmart vision.
  • Coco Chanel (founder of Chanel, worth an estimated $7.1B) was a seamstress with no formal fashion training before starting her own line. She famously said, “Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from school. It starts with the simple things: good taste, good judgment, and a sense of proportion.”
  • Oprah Winfrey (talk show host and entrepreneur, net worth $3B) had no TV experience when she created and launched her now-iconic talk show.

Add Kara Goldin to the list, and you’ve got a stellar lineup of entrepreneurial successes with one thing in common: they started from scratch, with little-to-no experience in their respective fields.

The recipe for success when experience is lacking

We know that prior industry experience isn’t integral to success – so what is? I asked Kara to pinpoint the factors to which she attributes her incredible triumph, and her answers shed new light on what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Here’s what she said:

1. Be ready to be humble

Humility is touted as a desirable trait in one’s personal life, but as it turns out, being humble fits into the entrepreneurial scene as well. To be humble is to realize that you don’t have all the answers, and that you’re not above learning from anyone – no matter their experience level.

When starting a business with little-to-no industry experience, it’s easy to feel like you’re at a disadvantage. However, embracing your inexperience can be one of your biggest strengths. It means that you’re more likely to be open to new ideas and suggestions, which can only help you as you navigate your way to success.

2. Be able to ask questions

As Kara so eloquently put it: “people really struggle with wanting to look smart.” And it’s true: many people turn to their outward appearance and actions in order to feel a sense of security. Unfortunately, this often means turning down opportunities to ask questions in case it causes the person to appear inexperienced or vulnerable.

Ego is one of the greatest stumbling blocks when it comes to progression and success. It leads to an intense fear of making mistakes, and an aversion to asking questions or appearing to be inferior in knowledge.

When you can overcome those ego blocks and begin to ask meaningful questions, however, research shows that questioning is linked to being a highly successful person.

3. Be energized by your passion

Before Hint Water, Kara’s expertise was never in the food and beverage industry; in fact, she was being hired by the likes of Google and Yahoo for work within the eCommerce sector.

“I saw this huge, huge mountain in front of me that I had to learn about – but I was so energized by stumbling upon this world that I knew nothing about,” Kara explained.

It wasn’t prior knowledge or experience that motivated Kara to take her first steps; it was the passion she had for the industry she was about to enter into, and the excitement she felt at dipping her feet into something entirely new.

Experience isn’t crucial for success, and passion isn’t either – but being passionate about your endeavor comes with advantages:

  • When disaster strikes, your passion and energy can be used as a support and source of motivation to keep going.
  • Passion encourages you to be persistent and relentless in your endeavors by tapping into your emotional drive.
  • While excitement is finite, passion tends to come from a deeper part of who you are as a person; it isn’t likely to fizzle out.

4. Be the vulnerable entrepreneur

In her positions within the tech industry, Kara took on the role of teacher and mentor to those less experienced than herself. Once she entered the food and beverage scene, however, the tables had to turn – and Kara decided to embrace the role of wide-eyed student.

She wasted no time in making field observations, strolling the aisles of Wholefoods and buying tickets to conventions in the beverage industry. In many instances, Kara was disregarded as a ‘waste of time’, but she lapped up the opportunity to set her bar low and make progress behind the scenes.

When you choose to be vulnerable as an entrepreneur, a number of things begin to fall into place:

  • You’ll learn through observation and introspection rather than attempting to dominate the industry
  • You’ll grow through overcoming minor mishaps along the way instead of avoiding risk altogether
  • You’ll develop empathy and understanding that allows you to gain perspective from everyone you interact with (e.g. at conferences, in meetings, through connections)

These were Kara’s main four points on attaining success without industry experience – nothing short of inspiring.

Moving forward: how can you take the entrepreneurial leap?

Through this episode of the Success Story podcast, my hope is that Kara’s story of success without experience can encourage you to take your own leap into a business endeavor. Perhaps you’re feeling held back by a lack of experience in your chosen field. Or, maybe you’re hesitant to take the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship for fear of failing.

Whatever your hesitation, know that it’s possible to be successful with no experience – you just need to be humble, ask questions, channel your passions, and embrace vulnerability.


💻 Tool Of The Week: Things

Although ‘Things’ by Culture Code has been around for a while, it continues to be my favorite piece of productivity software I’ve ever discovered. It’s not a complex tool. At its core it really is just a productivity / task management tool, but the UX/UI is incredible and it’s a joy to use. I highly recommend switching from whatever you’re using, or if you are on the hunt for a productivity tool — definitely check this out.


🎧 Things You Should Listen To: Kara Goldin, CEO & Founder of Hint

If you enjoyed the article above, then definitely check out the full interview I had with Kara. Now, I know I gave a little primer before, but Kara is an amazing entrepreneur. Here’s a little bit about her background.

She’ss a former AOL executive and the founder of Hint, the leading lifestyle brand of naturally flavored water. Goldin created the San Francisco-based beverage company as an alternative to soda and sugary beverages.

She’s has been named among Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and Forbes’ 40 Women to Watch Over 40. The Huffington Post listed her as one of the six disruptors in business, alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Here’s what we spoke about when I had her on my podcast.

• What Does It Take To Start Your Own Business?
• Disrupting The Beverage Industry and Launching Your Own Beverage.
• Leadership Advice For Dynamic Woman Executives.
• How Entrepreneurs Can Use What They Don’t Know To Their Advantage.
• Advice For Young Entrepreneurs.


📚 Things You Should Read: Undaunted

Kara Goldin also wrote a book, Undaunted which is (not surprisingly) a Wall Street Journal Best Seller. In Undaunted, Kara shares real stories about her own fears and doubts, the challenges she encountered and what she did to overcome them to eventually build a great business and a life she loves. She spoke about a few of them in the show, but the book really dives deep into her story.

Part autobiography, part business memoir and lots of insights on self-development, Undaunted offers inspiring stories that impart lessons that any reader can apply to their own path.

While most motivational business and life books try to offer quick fixes, Kara focuses on long-term success, showing you how to take control of breaking down barriers and moving forward.

Undaunted won’t solve your problems and challenges, you will. However, it will help you see through other’s experiences that it’s possible to do so.

If you enjoyed this newsletter or you listened to the podcast, I highly recommend you check out Undaunted and read into Kara’s inspiring story, and learn from some of the challenges she’s had to overcome over her career.


💡 Other Thoughts

1. On Success

Whatever your hesitation, know that it’s possible to be successful with no experience – you just need to be humble, ask questions, channel your passions, and embrace vulnerability.

(Tweet This)

2. On Hard Work

Be hard working. You may be luckier.

(Tweet This)

3. On Leadership

Don’t pick the company, pick the boss.

The person you work for will always be more important than the company.

The benefits of the lessons learnt from a leader who mentors you should far outweigh the paycheck.

(Tweet This)


Success Story Podcast

If you enjoyed the content in this newsletter, you’ll love my podcast where I draw out insights from incredible individuals and tell the stories of some of the worlds most prolific thinkers and doers.

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If you enjoyed the newsletter, please share it with a friend who’d find it useful.

Thank you for reading,

-Scott

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