DID YOU HAVE ANY INFLUENCES FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD THAT POSITIONED YOU TO START GOLDE?
I did. I was raised in Upstate New York by this quasi-coven of women. My mom, my aunt and my grandmother were all very involved in the health and wellness space, kind of ahead of their time.
My mom and my aunt opened an organic lifestyle shop downtown in the city that we’re from (Saratoga Springs), so they were always into health and wellness. My grandmother only ate organic food, so I grew up seeing and experiencing that lifestyle at a very early age. I think the interest in wellness definitely grew from that experience.
WERE THERE ANY TRADITIONAL FAMILY TEACHINGS PASSED DOWN?
It’s interesting because I have a few different cultures impacting me. There’s the sort of Upstate New York, Vermont kind of vibe that’s just present in the community, and obvious traditions from the Black community. I identify wholeheartedly as black, but on my grandmother’s side there’s a lot of Cherokee tradition, and a lot of that was passed down as well. Things like taking oil of oregano or garlic for a cold, or taking cod liver oil daily for glowing skin and healthy hair.
WITH “ENTREPRENEURSHIP” BEING A MAINSTREAM CLASS TAUGHT NOW AT MOST COLLEGES, DID YOU HAVE ANY PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OR EXPERIENCES IN THAT REALM?
I grew up knowing I wanted to keep doing something in the wellness space, and I also had an interest in beauty and skin care. So, I knew I wanted to do something in that space and I ended up deciding that I wanted to be a physician. I went to college, studying pre-med off and on all 4 years and knew that I wanted to go into total body holistic health or holistic dermatology, treating skincare from within the body.
WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO USE TURMERIC POWDER?
It wasn’t until my senior year when I was studying for the MCAT, that I realized that I did not want to continue studying pre-med. I didn’t want to be a student for another 10 years and I wanted to find another way to explore that avenue of wellness. I wasn’t really sure what that would look like, so I fell into a marketing job. I worked in marketing for about 2 years and it was there that I developed the idea for Golde.
My mom has a condition called rheumatoid arthritis, which is essentially chronic inflammation of the joints. You have to take all sorts of medicine to keep the inflammation calmed down so you can go about your daily life.
She started using turmeric and noticed a really big difference in how she was feeling, and with consistent use, actually toned down the amount of medication she was taking. So that’s when I started paying attention to the benefits of turmeric. At that point, I knew that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial in health and beauty, and I had this idea of turmeric floating around in my brain as well. My thought was “Okay, How can I bring these together?” And that’s where it started, and then there was the matter of bringing my partner, Issey, in to develop the recipe and the design and the whole brand.
“There’s so much work that has to go into it, and you need to be strategic about it from the start. You can’t go in thinking, “This will be a side project and we’ll just turn it into a multi-million dollar thing eventually.”
BESIDES MIXING TURMERIC IN A DRINK, WHAT ELSE CAN IT BE USED WITH?
You can get very creative, the traditional ways as you know are with water, milk or in a smoothie, but you can have it in the morning with oatmeal. You can bake with it. I saw a customer once make ice cream with it (which looked really delicious), so there are lots of possibilities.
FAS AS SALES & MARKETING ON THE OPERATIONAL SIDE, HOW DID YOU PITCH GOLDE AND WHAT WAS THAT JOURNEY LIKE?
We were lucky enough to build a presence on social media that people can consistently follow. The other piece has been being able to communicate a story to the retailer — that makes them excited to partner with you. One of the things I learned in my marketing past was direct sales, like cold emails. The worst thing you can do is reach out to someone and say “this is all about me, here’s my product and why it’s great and when do you want to talk?” That sounds like something you just copied & pasted. It’s not genuine and they don’t care — they’re not going to read it.
So, for us, it’s been about reaching out to retailers that are actually going to care, and sharing why we want to partner with them. Like we love your space, or your smoothie bar etc., to get the conversation going.
You want it to be as natural as possible and form a relationship with those stockists.
WHAT STORES ARE YOU CURRENTLY IN?
We’re in about 25 stores now [at time of publication, this is now up to 35], mostly in New York with niche retailers that are excited about the wellness space. One of the bigger stores in New York, Story, actually rotates its theme every couple of months. Their theme for summer was “Fresh” and so we were able to partner with them and the response there has been amazing. Another one that I’m really proud of is Sincerely, Tommy. We work with their café to do golden turmeric lattes in addition to selling our retail product.
Chillhouse in the Lower East Side is another one of our café partners. Overall, it’s a nice mix of higher-end grocery, and wellness/beauty boutiques.
HOW DO FEEL ABOUT THE GROWTH OPPORTUNITY FOR GOLDE?
I think a lot of entrepreneurship stories sort of center around this idea that they fell into their craft, and they were making brownies at home and their friends were like “This is so delicious!” and the next thing you know they’re selling at Whole Foods. You hear that story so many times and I guess that must be working out there somewhere for somebody, but that’s not how it happens for most people—including us. There’s so much work that has to go into it, and you need to be strategic about it from the start. You can’t go in thinking, “This will be a side project and we’ll just turn it into a multi-million dollar thing eventually.”
Now we’re at a point where my partner and myself are going to focus on Golde full-time, and that’s where we plan to scale more than what we achieved in the first six months of operation.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY SETBACKS?
There’s definitely been a variety of learnings. Right now, we’re in the process of transitioning from blending everything by hand to working with a co-packer, which is a big transition. I think with everything when you’re doing something for the first time, it’s challenging and you tend to assume that it will be easier than it is.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT 5 TO 10 YEARS?
On the immediate horizon, we have some new product releases coming out this Fall/Winter. That will be an extension of our original flavor coming out, and we’ll also be launching other product lines involving turmeric. We’ve got big ideas for what five years will look like, but from what I’m learning, the best way to do it is to set those expectations, but not hold on too tightly. I’m sure that in a year what I think of what five years will look like will be different.
WHAT IS THE LEGACY YOU WANT TO LEAVE?
It’s been really interesting to be a part of the wellness community while also existing as a young woman of color. I think there’s not enough interaction between those two communities, so I’m hoping to introduce our community to the world of turmeric. I’m hoping that my legacy will encourage more people that look like me to start their own businesses, to become engaged in the wellness space, or just to be willing to kind of go for whatever they’re really excited about.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO’S BUILDING A COMPANY WHO’S IN THE IDEA PHASE?
Haha, I feel like I have twenty things I would want to say to them. Definitely, find a mentor. Find someone who doesn’t have to be in the exact same space as you, but has built a business that you admire, and talk to them. When you’re just dreaming of things and building your vision board, you’re seeing all the fun stuff. And you’re not seeing all the dirty work of what your margins are going to look like, if you need to incorporate or be an LLC, etc
These are the types of things people know from experience, so if you can talk to someone and get their experience you can go back and say, “All this stuff looks beautiful, but what does a day in the life look like for you?”
Also: share your idea. I think it’s easy for people to be like, “I’m working on this idea, but it’s a secret —you’ll see it when it launches.” And I’m like, no. Tell people. If someone hears about your idea and copies you, that’s actually a good sign that people will resonate with it. Your success will be determined by the way you execute your vision, and no one can copy that exactly.
WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST REWARDING MOMENT OF YOUR JOURNEY WITH GOLDE?
Going in Walgreens on 14th street, picking up an Essence magazine and seeing my product in it was very overwhelming. It wasn’t on the cover or anything, but I was just like, “OMG we’re in print!”. I didn’t even know how many people were going to see the issue, it wasn’t about “what type of sales will this generate,” it was just acknowledging people actually care. People believe in our mission.