Kara Goldin – Making a Bigger Splash
Inc.|October 2021
Hint founder and CEO Kara Goldin talks to Park Place Payments founder and CEO Samantha Ettus about breaking into a new industry with an unconventional strategy.
By Graham Winfrey

MAKING A CAREER CHANGE IN MIDSTREAM will always be risky, but Kara Goldin is a risk-taker. In 2005, Goldin, who had previously left her job as VP of shopping and e-commerce at America Online, founded unsweetened flavored-water company Hint. At the time, unsweetened flavored water wasn’t even a category in the beverage industry. Hint eventually became the drink of choice for those who want to avoid soft drinks but find plain water boring. With a valuation above $150 million, the San Francisco-based brand is also wildly popular among employees at Bay Area tech companies. • “We didn’t intend to become the largest beverage in Silicon Valley,” Goldin says, adding that Google’s decision to stock Hint at its offices led employees who’d left to start their own companies to do the same.

Samantha Ettus has Hintlevel ambitions, but she’s not your typical startup founder. A best-selling author of five books and host of the women in-business podcast What’s Her Story With Sam & Amy, Ettus has built a career around supporting women who are pursuing their dreams. In 2018, she founded Los Angeles-based payments company Park Place Payments with the goal of transforming how financial services are sold to small businesses. She got the idea after speaking at a payments conference, where none of the attendees seemed concerned with the needs of small-business owners. Starting the company also presented a new opportunity to create jobs for women.

“The one group of women I couldn’t help were those who’d left the workforce and wanted to get back in but found very few openings,” Ettus says. “I thought, what if I could train this talented group of women to sell financial services to their local businesses?”

Despite having no experience in payments processing, Ettus was determined to bring much-needed change to an industry that wasn’t looking out for its customers. While payments are a far cry from the beverage industry, Ettus can see parallels between the two founders’ experiences. Goldin knows exactly what it takes to break into a highly competitive market—and she has plenty of advice for any female founder who’s trying to pull it off.

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