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“The pivotal moment for me was when my mom started seeing a holistic wellness doctor and I saw the improvements in her health. It made me want to go to medical school to practice medicine through the lens of holistic care.”
“People are born naturally to either lean into or not into leadership positions, there's a lot of that that just comes intrinsically from your risk tolerance, and the desire to do things your way.”
“There are people in the world that are meant to go out and start businesses, and there are also people in the world who are meant to be the critical foundational systems in those businesses.”
“I was really centered on this idea of like, how can we take on this space of wellness? Which so many people feel like it is not for them, how can we make it easy and approachable, and most importantly fun, because you're taking care of yourself.”
“The ability to see those things and jump at them, even if in the moment they're extremely painful. That's what helps you get from A to B.”
“There's only two ways that your business fails: it's because you run out of money or because you give up. As long as you don't run out of money, the only thing you have to worry about is just not giving up, just keep going.”
“90% of the investors in Golde are women of underrepresented minorities. And I think it speaks a lot to who our story resonates with.”
“When you serve as the team lead for the company, and you're thinking about who's going where, how you're developing them, who needs to get swapped out where, you are acting in the interest of the company, not you.”
“Number one, know when you're lucky, and number two, know your why. If you have those two down, you'll figure it out.”
Lee: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. It's Lee Greene and welcome back to the Stairway to CEO podcast. It's my mission to bring you real, honest, and unfiltered interviews with some of the most innovative founders and CEOs from all walks of life. We'll talk about their climb to the top. There's stumbles along the way and the steps they took to get them to where they are so tuned in to get inspired, listen to some real talk and enjoy the show.
Welcome to episode 78 of the Stairway to CEO podcast. I'm your host, Lee Greene, and today I spoke with Trinity Mouzon Wofford the co-founder and CEO of gold. Gold is a Brooklyn born health and wellness brand [00:01:00] powered by superfoods that's on a mission to make wellness accessible, easy and fun for the next generation.
And this episode, Trinity shares with us, her entrepreneurial journey from growing up with a single parent who struggled with an auto-immune disease. Do attending NYU with aspirations to become a doctor, to working in marketing at a tech startup, to moving back home to bootstrap and build gold with her husband and co-founder Izzy.
She talks with us about her passion for holistic healing. The two reasons why she believes founders fail and how she became the youngest black woman to sell her line at the fora at just 25 years old. If you like what you're hearing on the stairway to CEO podcast, don't forget to click, subscribe, or text me at 3 10, 5, 10 60 44.
That's 3 1 0 5 1 0 6 0 4 4. To enter to win free products and get special discounts from some of your favorite brands. So shoot me a text, say hello, or just tell me your favorite brand and we'll try to hook you up. I'm so excited [00:02:00] to hear from you, and I hope you enjoy this episode.
Trinity. Thank you so much for being on the show today. I'm really excited to hear your story and building gold. Thanks for joining us. Thanks Lee. Really excited to be chatting with you. Yeah. Where are you from? Where'd you grow up?
Trinity: Upstate New York, a small city. I really consider it more of a small town called Saratoga where I actually am right now.
I post pandemic left my Brooklyn apartment and have been back home upstate for the past year plus now. Wow. Yeah.
Lee: Getting some fresh.
Trinity: Yes. Yes. Lots of fresh air, lots of family time. And we started living at, uh, with my fiance's parents then moved over to staying with my parents. But now I think it's time to get our own space.
Lee: Yeah. Little couch surfing here and there, you know, it sounds like a founder [00:03:00] life, you know, you know, it's the founder life. No one talks about the couch surfing that happens. Right. So tell me about your childhood. What was it like growing up? What did you want to be when you.
Trinity: I wanted to be a doctor. And it was really sort of inspired by an experience that I had from an early age.
So I was raised by a single parent with a pretty severe autoimmune disease. And when I was a teenager, my mom switched over to seeing this more holistically minded doctor and long story short, she saw this incredible improvement in her symptoms. It was really like night and day. And so that was sort of like the pivotal moment for me of like, okay, this is what I want to do.
Uh, you know, I want to go to med school and then I want to sort of like practice medicine through the lens of holistic care. So I've definitely always been that person who is really into the wellness side of things and, you know, thinking about like how we can better our, [00:04:00] our health, like holistically as you know, as naturally as possible.
Lee: at work, I guess, for your mom, that's kind of a holistic approach. Like what did she have to do?
Trinity: But yeah, it did. I mean, it was like all sorts of different supplements and dietary guidelines and, you know, going to see the specialist and it worked. So that carried me through college. Like, I, I went down to, uh, the city for school and I was pre-med there and all was well until my third year of college.
I found out that my mom actually had to stop seeing that doctor because she just couldn't afford it anymore. You know, that stuff isn't covered by
Lee: insurance of course. Right. It's like the one thing that we all need and insurance doesn't cover it.
Trinity: Right. And so, you know, that really kind of forced me to pause and consider what it was that I actually wanted to do and wellness and how this piece of like accessibility played into it.
So yeah, I mean, it did work for her and it [00:05:00] only made me that much more passionate about getting into this space and like figuring out how to like, do something decently.
Lee: That's awesome. So you kind of went from, you know, wanting to be a doctor and seeing that with your mom. And so you went to NYU, I talked to us about, you know, your, your school and kind of what made you kind of shift gears?
You know, you got a bachelor of science. How did you start thinking about entrepreneurship?
Trinity: I think that I always had that like fire in me and I, I think a lot of founders will say the same thing that, you know, they always have really had the sense that one day they would do something. And where does that fire
Lee: come from?
Sorry, I'm just so curious because I agree I'm full of fire. So I'm like really curious, like where do you think that comes from? Is that something we're born with? Is this something from childhood that you experienced that makes you so that way? Like how do you, how do you think. I
Trinity: think that people are born naturally [00:06:00] to either lean into or not into leadership positions.
And I think that there's a lot of that. That's just kind of like comes intrinsically from like your. Your risk tolerance, your desire to do things your way, you know? And, and I think that this is something that I say a lot, like when w you know, entrepreneurship is so sexy now. So like, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.
Everyone wants to hear every entrepreneur story, but it's very important to know that there are people in the world who are meant to go out and like start their own things. And then there are also people who are meant to be the like critical foundational systems in those businesses. And so I do think that, like, I don't know if it's something you're literally born with, but I do think it comes pretty naturally.
And you, you kinda know whether this is something that is exciting to you, or like something that like you would never want to do.
Lee: And those are important. Now you're saying [00:07:00] we can't have one without the other. We can't just have a bunch of entrepreneurs. No, one's working, helping to build out the visions and we need both.
Trinity: No. And whenever I talked to like a lot of, uh, friends who have, who are entrepreneurs who have been very successful, they're like, yeah, I was the worst employee. Like I didn't have, like, I didn't have that level of attentiveness to the details of, of, you know, like there's a whole different sort of
Lee: hair to impress.
Like I think with me, that's what it was like, I could care less. Like I was never trying to impress that person. Right. And I think that there's like, I dunno if you're not motivated by that, it can be a struggle, you know, kind of going against the grain and not caring what they think either way, whether they like it or not, because you believe it's the right way.
Trinity: Yeah, that's true. That's true. So, you know, I think it comes from a few different places. That's
Lee: interesting. So you [00:08:00] graduated, what was some, what were some of your first
Trinity: jobs? So right out of school, I sort of fell into a marketing career at a tech startup in New York as one. Does, how did you
Lee: fall into that?
Trinity: I. I was pre-med and I was a psych major because I wanted something that was like interesting and like, not as difficult as biochem, like on top of the existing course load. And so, you know, it's like I'm graduating with a psych degree with no intention of being of like going into psychology or something.
And I was hearing from friends that at that point, the best thing for me to do with. Go into consulting. And I was like, I don't even know what that is. Um,
Lee: what does that even mean? Right. You consult, I see kids from Ivy league schools go and do stuff like that. You know, I don't even know what they do
Yeah. So it was [00:09:00] consulting or tech startup was what I was told were like, you know, if, if you don't have like a very specific degree, but you know, you, you want a job. Like those are good places to look. So I actually interviewed for like both types of jobs. I remember like going, I think I borrowed like a pantsuit from a friend to like go to my consulting interview.
Lee: Um, they're like, I can't wear this dress pants. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, where are you? I would, I would do the same at the tech company though, too. Right at that time. I mean, it feels like 2015.
Trinity: Yeah. I'm trying to. Good question. What the hell did I wear the interview? I don't know, but I specifically remember like, being very polished for this consulting job.
Cause I was like talking to my friends who were in business school and I was like, I don't like, I don't even know what consulting is. Like, what am I, can I borrow something? So, you know, and then, but the tech [00:10:00] startup that I, that I ended up working for and, and, and moving forward with it was really awesome.
And they were like classic, like casual, you know, like it wasn't like particularly buttoned up there. I came in as they were closing their series a when I had no idea what a series a even was. So just like thrown into the fire and the best way possible.
Lee: But what about like the gender ratio? That's why I kind of ask about pants.
Cause I built my startup company and I don't think I wore a dress for five years, you know, like were pants the entire time. I still do wear pants because it's like, it's hard to stop when you kind of have that mentality for so long. So I'm curious, like in that environment where you,
Trinity: well, you know, I, the marketing team, which is where I land.
Eventually, I started off as like a sales rep and I was terrible. And they were like, what do you want to do here? Cause you seem capable, but this is like [00:11:00] cold calling is not for you. And I was like, I don't know. I'm I like just. Somewhere. And they put me on marketing and I love debt. So this is how one falls into a marketing career.
And my head of marketing. My boss is one of my favorite people that I've ever had the honor of working with a woman who had come from Amazon. So like, you know, intense, intense corporate culture. And I just adored her and I loved working with her. I loved the other folks that she built out, the marketing team on were all women as well.
So I think I would have felt differently if I were working on like the like engineering or the sales teams, which were as, you know, as typical, like pretty stacked to be male. But everyone that I was working directly with was female. I was of course, like one of the very, very few, you know, nonwhite people there.
But I think that that was [00:12:00] something that even going to a fairly diverse school, like NYU. And especially growing up in a, not diverse place at all, like Saratoga Springs, I was used to that I could hang, you know, so I just got in there and did my thing and I didn't worry too much about how I was perceived.
And I think that's exactly what you were saying earlier. Like, I, I didn't think about like, oh, well, how should I, how should I make sure that I'm like keeping up with this sort of person? Like I was just myself and I think I actually really credit them for like, appreciating that. And I never, I never felt that pressure to make myself something that I wasn't.
Lee: That's interesting. I think I wore pants. Cause I was, you know, if the founder trying to fundraise from all male investors, so that played a big role. That'll do it. Yeah. But that doesn't damage. So what happened from [00:13:00] there? You, you got into marketing you're at this tech company and how did you go from that to starting gold?
Trinity: So my partner ESA, who I say partner in multiple ways. He's my life partner. He's my business partner. We're high school sweethearts. My gosh. That's cute. And so we had this interesting, I think window into entrepreneurship, because you said as parents. Had started a candle business out of their garage at this point, like 25 years ago.
And like scaled that into a like small, but like profitable, sustainable family business. And ESA grew up in that. Like he grew up as, you know, a kid falling asleep on the factory floor when his parents were working late. And he at a very young age had the equivalent of a lifetime, spent [00:14:00] watching what it looks like to build a business, build a family business, you know, do it without outside funding and, and just, you know, build it to be, you know, something sustainable.
So I think that that helped us to understand, okay, this is possible. What's funny though, is, is that, you know, we, this. Bright I that, you know, 22 years old or whatever, 20, 23, 23, 24, we, we went to ECS parents and we're like, we're going to start a company. You know, we're w here's what we're going to do.
It's going to be super foods. And they were like, oh, that's not gonna work. You guys can't do this. Like, where'd you
Lee: get the idea for
Trinity: the superfoods? Yes. Okay. So, you know, I was still, you know, I had come from this interest in wellness. Right. And I had realized I didn't want to be a doctor. I didn't want to go and just offer like holistic medical services to the people who could afford to like, [00:15:00] not, you know, have to use their insurance and.
But I was still definitely that person who was super into this stuff. So like, I was the person in college or like at my first job who was like, oh, here, here's a herbal remedy. How are you feeling like I got you? Like, what do you need? Like raw, like if you're sick, whatever, like, yeah. I was just really in love with that stuff really in love with like, finding like natural ways to the question,
Lee: oregano oil, because I don't know if it really works, but if you drop that stuff on your tongue, you might get.
You might gag and my sale at working. No one, I played a trick on my sister and my husband don't do this at home. So they're like, you know, I like put the drops in. It's like four drops. You're supposed to do three to two to three times a week. And I think it's in my head. This is what I told myself is that it prevents you from getting sick.
So if you feel like a little, Ooh, something's coming on, like drop some of those under [00:16:00] your tongue, but make sure you chase it with water. So I of course, you know, do that, but then my husband's like, I'm like, you need to take some drops. Like you're feeling it. You need to just put some arena. And he's like, I don't know.
I don't know. Just one drop. Of course they can't see once they've got their head back. They can't, I can't see how many drops you're putting in. So I drop drops in his mouth and then he's like, and then I didn't, I forgot, you know, I was so busy laughing that I forgot to tell him the water. So it is, it's a very evil trick to do to somebody.
It's hilarious. Worst taste ever, just like your tongue is on fire. It's like, think like with this faucet, just like dousing their tongue, trying to get it off. It it's horrible, but it's hilarious.
Trinity: It's bad. I actually, I honestly swear by raw garlic, more than oil of oregano, which can also be a very unfortunate.
Experience. I think the better side of that is that, you know, it's coming because he's
Lee: [00:17:00] allergic to garlic. So I'm afraid if I did that might take things a little too far, one step too far
Trinity: on the
Lee: bank scale. Hey, let's see what happens now. I agree with you. I think our life probably better option. So anyways, we went on this rampage, but back to you, so you, you were experimenting with all this stuff.
You're like, Hey, this kind of holistic thing. Yeah,
Trinity: I was super into it. And I actually remember that in college, I was an RA, which like says a lot about me and my tendencies to be like nurturing and whatever, but I, I was an RA and I remember like at the end of the year, they like gave out these like stupid little certificates that like everyone got, it was like, you know, just like a participation trophy of like, you get a certificate for being this, you get for this.
Yeah. Mine was holistically helpful, which meant that I was continually suggesting various superfood remedies. Funny. So I still remember that. [00:18:00] But so I had that interest I had now this like window into entrepreneurship and the, like the idea that you could start a business. And then I think also the kind of like the missing piece there was, I was looking at my experiences as a consumer and wellness, and I was feeling very caught between the sort of like crunchy granola stuff that I had grown up with in upstate New York.
And this next wave of offerings that felt so prestige and Luxe, that the messaging of it didn't really resonate with me. And then I also just certainly couldn't afford it. So I was really centered on this idea of like, how can we take this space of wellness? Which so many people feel like is not for them and make it easy and approachable.
And most importantly fun because people care of yourself.
Lee: I think people [00:19:00] are like, oh, wellness isn't for me. Like, what is it about. Well,
Trinity: I think there's a few reasons, first of all, I think there's like, there's that crunchy granola stuff that like a lot of people just don't identify with. Like they didn't grow up with it.
It feels like kind of old school. It feels dated, whatever. And then I think on like the more like new wave wellness thing, it's very white. It's very reserved for folks of like higher wealth levels. It's telling a story oftentimes of like, The ideal will. And it's, you know, it's been this it's whiteness, it's wealth.
I mean, it's, it's automatically not speaking to a lot of people for
Lee: some reason, goop comes to mind,
Trinity: you know, it's funny because we, we work with goop. Yeah. And I, and I like you, but I think that there is just a sense of like wellness overall being something that like, if you're not this like health food person, like you're not.
Into that [00:20:00] world. You're not suddenly never going to like, eat a hot dog again or whatever. And like, I think there's, there's, there's a lot of judgment around the wellness space and the sense of like perfection and guilt and just all this stuff that I think most people don't want to be bothered with. But I think everyone does want to feel their best, you know, no one wants to like wake up and feel like tired and shitty.
So there was like this disconnect here where people were feeling like, oh, well, wellness isn't for me. But like wellness is like the most like intrinsic, like foundational level thing that, you know, you should be investing in. So that was really kind of where my head was at when I was thinking about like, what could I do in this space to, you know, bring something that feels, feels like a value add to everything.
Lee: So you went to his parents and they were like, Hmm, what are you [00:21:00] guys crazy? Right. And then who else thought you guys were nuts? Or what was the first kind of product that you guys wanted to launch? And you know, what made you kind of. Take the naysayers and say, we're going to do it
Trinity: anyways. I don't think anyone thought it was a good idea.
I don't think anyone was like, yeah, go for it.
Lee: Like, I remember your first couple of products that you were like, we're going to launch with X, Y,
Trinity: Z. We launched with our turmeric latte blend. And so it's a powder blend of six super foods, turmeric ginger coconut.
Lee: So his parents were like, no one will eat this.
Right. It was that. Yeah. And I
Trinity: mean, it's just like, where are you going to sell this? What are you doing? Like, this is going to be so much harder than you think, you know, and, and jaded. All right. Of course. You know, and, and our friends were like, huh, don't you guys have jobs? Like, why are you, why, why can't you hang out on the weekend now?
Like why, what is this thing that you say you're going to sell super foods on the internet? [00:22:00] So this was like a fun, this was 2016 or so when we were like working on like developing it, and it was just a couple of years short of that moment when suddenly like everyone and their mom had a business or two, you know?
So I think like people, people are still kind of like, what are you, what are you going to do? Are you going to like, starting with Y? So the first product was our tumor gold latte blend. And that was the only product that we had for like a year. And we did everything. We figured out how to do packaging, design, ourselves, product photography, or self still do both of those things in house, by the way.
But like, you know, design the website figured out the formula. We were like mixing up turmeric blends by hand and our Brooklyn apartment, which was questionably legal at the time. Like just, you know, it was the two of us and I think a couple thousand dollars in savings between us. And we just were figuring it out [00:23:00] very part-time very small operation and getting it off the ground.
Lee: When was the moment where you thought this is never going to work in the moment you thought this is actually working?
Trinity: Ooh, I like that question. There have been so many moments where I was like, oh, this is never going to.
Lee: Was there a big moment where you're like, oh gosh, this is like really tough to recover from.
Or like, what are we doing? You know, I know it's like frequent to have those doubts are normal to have those doubts frequently, but you know, it was there like kind of a big thing where you're like, I don't know, how are we going to recover from this?
Trinity: You know, I don't know if I'm looking back on like your one with rose colored glasses, but honestly I think I was so young and so naive and the business was so small that like, I hadn't, I had no expectations for it and no, I had one expectation for it.
And it was like, my, my pipe dream was, wouldn't it be crazy if this business. Um, money [00:24:00] to pay our rent every month. That was like, that would be, I, I, I didn't have like target on the brain or like any, I wasn't thinking about investors or anything. So I think that in year one, everything kind of like everything that happened felt like a win.
And we were so small. I mean, I didn't have a business plan. I didn't have a financial model. Like we, we were just like, oh my gosh, we shipped out like five orders this week. That's so amazing. That's like five more than less. So there was a moment that was very hard in the first year. I remember, which was our apartment in Brooklyn.
The lease was up in July and we had kind of like gotten to the point where we couldn't keep working our full-time jobs anymore. Like it was just, even though the business was teensy, teensy, teensy, tiny, it was already taking up a lot of our brain space and we want it to be able to do more. And. We realized that we couldn't [00:25:00] possibly keep living in New York and just focus on this business full time.
So I had a convenience situation where my mom was getting ready to sell her house because she was going to move in with her mother, my grandmother, and take care of her. So my mom was getting ready to sell her house upstate. And I called her and said, mom, uh, don't sell your house yet because ISA and I are going to move in to build our superfood business.
Lee: She's like, um, wait a minute. I don't know.
Trinity: Yeah. So she said, okay. And we S we, we moved, we moved out of Brooklyn in like July of 2017. And I remember. I went to like this little, like mentorship circle, but I remember like breaking down in tears about it and just feeling like Jesus, I'm like having to move home, like I'm leaving.
Like I'm leaving everything that I've built [00:26:00] for, for myself for the past few years. Like, you know, 23 years old, 24, 23. It's not, it's not the moment that you want to move.
Lee: It's like, you're getting, you're just getting started, especially in New York city. I mean the accessibility to the city and to events and people and inspiration.
I mean yeah, to be like, I'm not going to go back home at, I mean, I'm sure maybe there is a sense of almost failure, even though you're just getting started with exactly.
Trinity: Exactly. It felt like failure, but that was one of the first moments. And it's one of the moments I come back to all the time of knowing when I was lucky and like having an open house.
Three and a half hours north of the city that I could post up in for a few months. Rent-free was lucky. Yeah. And I think that it's like the ability to see those [00:27:00] things and jump at them. Even if in the moment they're extremely painful. That like helps you get from a to B.
Lee: Yeah. I always think of it this way too, with a business.
If it fails the fact that. Me or anybody had even the privilege or opportunity to even experience what it's like to start a business is enough like that. You should just be grateful, not you, but everybody should just be grateful for the fact that they even had that privilege and opportunity to do that.
Some people will never have, will never have that opportunity. Right. So I always feel like whether it fails or not the fact that you get to try and go to bat it's in itself, something to be grateful for. And I feel like this is kind of a really interesting example, too, of feeling like a failure feeling like you're moving back home, but really it is a huge opportunity and a huge thing to be grateful for that you had a nice house to kind of build a business in, right?
Trinity: and you know, the failure piece is so relative [00:28:00] and I, whenever I think about failure there, I, I kind of come back to this advice that I had gotten from another entrepreneur who had told me. There's only two ways that, you know, you, you, your business fails it's because you run out of money or because you give up and as long as you don't run out of money, the only thing you have to worry about is just, just keep going.
And so I think there are, there are endless moments where somewhere along your entrepreneurial journey, you're like, oh shit, this is so bad. How are we going to keep going? But, and there were, there were some, you know, that was year one, but you know, a year or two and three, I mean, the business started to cost money and we didn't have invest barriers.
And so, like, we just started putting things on our personal credit cards and there was a certain point where like, I think between east. I don't know, we've probably had like $50,000 and [00:29:00] like personal credit card debt and like no income whatsoever and no idea how we were going to ever pay it off. Like, I mean, there were moments when we were just like, oh my God, we're buried.
Lee: How are we going to get out of this hole? Yeah. Literally in the whole 50 grand. Yeah.
Trinity: Yeah. Literally a hole, but you couldn't, you couldn't give up because at that point you had to keep going to see if you could have her get
Lee: yourself out of it. Right. Like you only have one way to go one way streets.
Trinity: So it was like, well, I mean, you can sit here and cry, but like, you're gonna just have to get up the next day to this. Right.
Lee: I trying to get it to motivate you guys. Um, yeah. So, so in terms of fundraising, at what point did you realize it's probably best to start fundraising and how much have you guys raised so far?
Trinity: We've now raised. This is like, as of like very recently, we've now like fine. We, we crossed the $1 million [00:30:00] mark, which is very exciting and fundraising, but we started getting outreach from investors, like pretty early on. And a lot of those people were not as fit and we also weren't ready to take their money.
So we just bootstrapped for the first three and a half years or so. Yeah. I think
Lee: I remember before you started that you guys literally just started paying yourself. Yeah.
Trinity: The last year. I mean,
Lee: that's a long time without a salary. Yeah.
Trinity: I paid off my credit cards last year. It was crazy last year.
Lee: Just paint off the 50 grand.
Yeah. Wow. So how long did you guys have that debt for two years? Years
Trinity: years. 3, 2, 3. I don't remember, but yeah, I mean, it was. And you pay everyone else before you pay yourself. And like, we're the lowest paid employees there, of course. But like that's a given, but [00:31:00] yeah. I mean, you know, we, it was nice though, because I mean, the debt was a nice, that that was always something, it just it's, it's over your head.
It's stressful. You worry about it. God forbid any expenses come up, it's a whole different level of stress than just being upset that you have to pay for it. Right. But we just lived very simply. So when we did move back to Brooklyn, we got the PR, we got an apartment. We basically just pulled out enough money out of the business every month for rent.
We weren't paying ourselves. And I think we spent like $50 a week. The farmer's market. And we would like cook ourselves up wonderful meals. And like, I didn't buy myself socks even for like three years, but you just, you just don't spend money. You just live, you just go all the way down to zero and live simply.
And so, like, we weren't [00:32:00] really like, I mean, everything was maxed out. Like you couldn't really spend more money, but you, I think that it felt in the end, like a really great thing that we had figured out, which was that like, we could live together. Simply like happily on very, very little,
Lee: because you guys were essentially living the dream.
You're like building something, you enjoy what you did every day. I'm sure you still do. And that is, I think also what helps get through the tough times. It's like, you're like, wow, I'm lucky to be able to be working on something. I really enjoy every day.
Trinity: Yeah. Extremely. So people, I mean, it all just felt like a blessing.
Lee: It's a lot of people, unfortunately, going to work, not liking it, which is not a good way to spend our time. And the majority of our weeks are spent working. It's really important to like it. So you give back a lot in terms of educating and, you know, helping young entrepreneurs, you have like that Insta video series, [00:33:00] office hours.
What do you think? Young entrepreneurs struggle with the most.
Trinity: There's a few things that come up very often. And, but I think that when you're in your early stage of building a business and especially if you're young, but honestly just anyone who's like early in their entrepreneurial journey, it's easy to be distracted.
And I think it can be difficult to like focus in on exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it. There's a lot of noise, especially today in, in entrepreneurship, you know, like you see, uh, constant updates of like this or that company has raised this amount of money or they're going into this retailer or, you know, whatever.
And I think that it's a little bit of a muscle that you strengthen over time as an entrepreneur, to be able to see that and learn from it, or like, you know, shout out like a congrats, but like keep your blinders on and like [00:34:00] focus on your stuff. So I think that a lot of what I. Do what I find myself doing with early stage founders is like getting to the core of their why and making sure that they know that like, that is very individual to them and their business.
It doesn't really have to reflect why anyone else starts the company and to really lean into that and own that more than anything else.
Lee: Yeah. I'm curious you, I was reading this, of course, reading about you reading all these amazing articles and it's insane that you are the youngest black woman to sell her line at Sephora.
And that was a 25. I mean, at 25, I was partying in nightclubs in New York city. Right. Like I was not anywhere near building a business that would go, you know, selling risk support. Talk to us about what it was like to kind of, you know, really when that kind of big retailers, especially so early, what were some of the lessons learned?
Trinity: Oh, [00:35:00] a lot of the lessons. I mean, I think that. When you're working with a big retailer, it is a totally different game from working, you know, from selling your products direct to consumer, or, you know, what a lot of our business had been up until recently, which was, you know, selling to independent boutiques and things like that.
And so I think one of the things that I really learned was the value in really building that relationship and also understanding how your product actually like builds that businesses opportunity and then how you can lean into that and really be a partner for them. You know, it's no longer. As transactional as, uh, like a smaller order from like a single customer or, you know, a smaller retailer.
It's like, you have to be able to see the long game with that ad. And so, you know, we had more recently our [00:36:00] launch this year with target, which started with like a few hundred doors and then, you know, we expanded from there already and, and that's been really exciting, but it's been, uh, it's been such a journey and it's a lot of work because you're not just focused on like, okay, I got this purchase order.
Let me go send this. It's like, how are we going to help? Co-create. The next stage of, of this industry. Hand-in-hand with this retailer, that's what these big retailers are looking to bring innovative founders in for. They're not just trying to like put a product.
Lee: Yeah. From the outside, it looks very transactional.
You're like, oh, you sold your product to, Safara like, wow, they must love your product. But I think it's actually, they love your vision and they want to, you know, kind of learn how to work together with you on a much grander kind of vision. Not just like on a product level. Yeah, exactly. It's interesting.
That's kind of similar to fundraising, right? So fundraising with [00:37:00] investors, it's not just, you know, selling piece. If your company is selling a vision a much bigger grander idea that requires alignment on both sides. Talk to us about the challenges and fundraising. You said you raised over a million bucks.
How did tell us about your experience in doing that? It was
Trinity: a bit piecemeal. I raised a teensy tiny. Now in 2020, which was the first amount of money that we brought into the company. I think there were three investors in the round and they were all just like angel investors. So it was very small and that brought us to, you know, seven figure revenues profitably, which was really, really awesome to see.
And so then with all that growth and, you know, going into 2021, we said, okay, I think we're going to need a little bit more resources, you know, behind us. And that was really, you know, we were thinking about how the business had become bigger than just myself and my partner and how we now had like a couple of part-time employees and it was time to bring them on [00:38:00] full-time and it was time to like, have the resources to do that and to have a little bit of budget for like a marketing team so that they could actually like execute on things.
And so I think that when you start a business, that is so. So close to you because it's just you and your partner in it. You don't really want investors in there. Cause you're like, well, this is just our thing. Like, I don't want someone else telling me, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But as it grows and you start to welcome other people into the circle, you realize that I, or at least I realized that it's so much better that way.
Like it's so much more like it's, it's, there's a few things, first of all, it's exciting. And it like keeps you excited because it's not just about like what you want or what you think is best. Like you're, you're seeing your brand and your product through the eyes of these other folks. Who've also [00:39:00] dedicated.
All of their waking hours to helping you build this business. And so I think like with starting to build out the team and, and, and that piece of it, it really felt very natural to start to bring in more resources through the form of investors. And so we raised again and in 2021, and with that, like very recently, we kind of like, we split it off.
Like we raised a little bit in the earlier part of this year. And then we just raised a little bit more with that little bit more. We like hit the, you know, over a million mark in funds raised, but still really stuck to, for the most part, like angels and smaller funds. And I went back and looked just to see kind of like what the breakdown was of, of our, um, you know, investor backgrounds.
And this was not intentional. 90% of the investors in gold are women or underrepresented minorities. And I think it speaks a lot [00:40:00] to who our story resonates with. So I'm also psyched about like the white guys that are invested in gold too. Cause they're right. But
Lee: yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think 90% of my investors were white men, so
Trinity: hence the
Lee: pants and it was the pants. Exactly. Yeah. Tech is a whole nother animal, I feel like, but yeah, that's interesting. So how big is your team now? And I'd love to talk to you about what you've kind of learned the hard way in terms of building a team.
Trinity: I'm pretty sure we're eight people. Full-time maybe nine people full-time now I don't keep track. And then like somebody joins and then I don't update the number in my brain, but it's somewhere around 10. What was the other part of the question?
Lee: We have 20 people on the team and you're like,[00:41:00]
I feel like that's like my mom always joking with my dad about how old he is. Like, she always says he's one year older than he actually is. And he has no clue how old he is.
Trinity: This is where the prankster shit comes from. I see this now. Put it all together.
Lee: Yeah, that must be it. And now I know who to blame.
Trinity: Wait, seriously. I okay. How many people are on the team? And
Lee: you've learned like what, what have you learned the hard way about building it? Has it been like letting people go, you know, I don't know. What's, what's the hard things. This is hard to manage people. Not easy. It's hard.
Trinity: It is hard. We've had to let people go.
I think that you have to realize that a certain point that you are acting when, when you serve as the team lead for the company. And you're thinking about like, who's going, where, how you're developing them, whatever who needs to get swapped out where [00:42:00] you are acting in the interest of the company, not you, you know, so I have worked on.
Figuring out when there are at times hard decisions that have to be made that are ultimately just in the best interest of the company. And I think there is a very fine line type of balance between the, like, we're all a family here, like type of energy, which, you know, I think that's too far and I don't think that's what employees really want from their work.
But then on the other side, the sort of like tour of duty concept where people are getting like tapped in and tapped right out, as soon as, you know, they're, they're not able to bring the org to the next level. So I think there's a balance where you invest in people and you help them grow with the organization.
[00:43:00] But you also acknowledge that as a starter. You're evolving rapidly and the person that was perfect for a role that existed two years ago, that rule doesn't exist anymore. You know, like it's, it's evolved and either they've evolved to continue to fit that role or they fit another role better, or maybe they didn't.
So I think it's also kind of. Removing a little bit of that, like emotional feeling so much, which at least is the way I have to look at it because I'm so empathic. And so knackering, and I want to help everyone. Um, I think if you're maybe on the other side, you have to remind yourself to be more empathic or, oh boy.
Lee: Mean be humane about letting people go. I mean, honestly, there's been there. I haven't seen both spectrums. Like I'm on the more impact for sure. Like someone cries I'm like in tears, I just it's like Zuora, everything like a sponge. And I get really like, you know, [00:44:00] attached to my people. Cause I'm like, you are so powerful.
You're a freaking, you know, and then they're like, okay, I'm moving on to the next chapter of my life. I'm like, why, why would you go? Why would you, you know, like it's so hard, you know? Like what do you mean? I thought you're gonna stay with me forever.
Trinity: And if you know, deep down that that's totally the right thing for the business and them, but you're like, but we had a good thing going.
Lee: Separating that company and personal thing for my first company was a super challenge. Like it was all one for me, it was very hard to separate the two, which is not healthy because I'm from a self identity perspective when your identity is so wrapped up. It's not good.
Trinity: It's definitely not say that this is one of the places we're having really awesome meant for is that you can count on is in valuable, like anytime I've had to let someone go or I've been like, worried about like someone's performance, I always have like somebody that I can call up and they've been through it 10 [00:45:00] times more than, than I have.
And they're like, oh yeah, yeah. Like here's the deal. So I think that's having those, those like unofficial kind of mentor relationships is very, very helpful for, for teamwork.
Lee: I had an employee. Totally hang me out to dry when she like quit overnight. I mean, it was like the worst scenario. I mean, I'll have to tell it on the show one day, cause it's just hysterical and terrifying all at the same time and leg and brutally painful from an emotional perspective.
But anyways, it's chaotic and it's funny as a founder, you think, oh my gosh, I can't believe this stuff only happens to me like this. No, this is wild and crazy shit. Of course just happens to me and you feel alone. But of course I call up a friend who's like much more experienced founded than I, and she's like, oh, you think that's bad?
My story. And I'm like, holy shit. I'm so sorry. But that makes me feel so much better. Yeah,
Lee: What do you think gets in the way of good people making it to the next level? Like [00:46:00] what do you think people have a hard time with or hard time learning? Do
Trinity: you think as like entrepreneurs or as like employees?
Lee: like letting go of good people. Why aren't they making it to the next level? What do they have a hard time within learning?
Trinity: Or is this, I mean, it depends. I think sometime someone never had the right skillset to begin with and you tried to force a fit, which I think is sometimes, sometimes that takes, that can take a while to reveal itself.
It's not like you're like, oh one weekend, sorry, like let's, you know, do over. And that is really something that you have to work on as the employer is really being able to properly gauge someone's fit for the role and understanding what your expectations are for the role. I also think sometimes people have been there for awhile and like, they're just like ready to move on to the next thing.
They just might not have the motivation to like keep putting in that level of like effort and energy to something they've been doing for [00:47:00] awhile, which is understandable. I think, you know, at a certain point you're you're you might be ready to move on before as an employee, you might be ready to move on before you consciously realize.
So I think it's like, it's very case by case, but those are the two things that I've seen come up the most.
Lee: So let's talk about 20, 20 real quick. That was a huge year for everybody, right? Um, yeah, a lot of shit went down along the spectrum of everything, racially, politically health-wise. I was reading this Harper's bizarre article and it was talking about, of course your brand and really about how this last year was really just such a year that proved that self care is a non-negotiable, but so is supporting minority owned businesses.
Do you think that those two things were just like the perfect combination that really kicked things through the [00:48:00] ballpark? Like for you guys? Or was that like icing on the cake or like, how do you view last year affecting your business?
Trinity: Last year, our business had a bit of an explosion, which is great.
Yeah. I will say that like, I mean, honestly, 2020, it was like, it was awful for everyone. Right. I mean, it was, and I think that I personally, at least I'm still just starting to like chip away at even understanding all the trauma that I'm carrying from that year. And like the things that are like the pandemic in general, we all just kind of like put our hats on, so, okay.
We're just going to keep working through it. Yeah. So it was very strange for me in like June of last year to be like processing, you know, pandemic, you know, shelter in place, whatever. And now yet another black man has been murdered and the videos going around. [00:49:00] I remember, I, I kinda like, I like locked myself in a room and like, The snowed out.
Like I just kinda like, I think I need to say something about this, but like, I just need to sit and think about it. So I like locked myself in a room and cried and like wrote this note and like ended up leaving it with like, and by the way, we're going to donate a hundred percent of our profits this weekend, the NAACP legal defense fund.
Cause like this, like I'm just going to try to do what I can. Yeah. And that ended up being like, it started this thing of like record-breaking sales after record breaking sales, and then suddenly like everybody is donating and like, it was like, Craziness, but at the same time, you know, we're having like these great sales, they do that for great sales videos and like getting on the like team, all hands meeting, literally just like trying not to cry and like trying to process what to even say to my team and just be being, and [00:50:00] all of this at the same time that like investors are coming out of the woodwork, retailers, retailers are reaching out and saying like, Hey, we love honeypot company.
And I'm like prong black owned business. But um, oh my God. I mean everything. So it was, it was a lot to process, you know, and it wasn't just like, oh my God, what a win for us? It's like, nice. It was just like, what the hell is going on? And all of a sudden it felt like all the stuff that I had been feeling for my whole life of like going up black in America, Yachty.
I was just on display and I felt like people were feeling it as they were looking at me. Like my team was feeling it as they were looking at me to say something to them in that moment. And it it's a weird feeling. It's as if like, even though nothing, I haven't revealed any, anything in particular, but there was suddenly like this click that like [00:51:00] suddenly everyone was like aware of the plight of black people in America.
And like, they communicated that like you could hear it in their tone, you know, it was just so like, so it was a lot, you know, to, to process. But I do have to say that it, it was a pivotal moment for our business. It, I think that we were in the right place at the right time. We had, we had built out enough of our like personal brand story.
You know, people knew that we were black owned. People knew, you know, about the brand. We weren't like so teensy tiny. This was like this allow this, there was enough of a foundation there that like, suddenly like the celebrities and the press and whatever could just like flood in. Yeah. We were
Lee: time incredible movement.
I mean, I would be, I wish I was a fly on that wall with the, with your meeting. You I'm going to know what you said too. How do you, I mean, it's hard enough as a leader to like, have to have something to say in any kind of critical moment, [00:52:00] one that's so personal, you know, as a whole nother level.
Trinity: I don't think I said much, honestly.
Yeah, it was, you know, it was, it was weird, but I, we lived through it and the business thrived through it and, um, it's really never been the same. That's
Lee: incredible. That's really, really cool. I feel like there's a lot of, you know, this is kind of outside of the topic, but a little relating, I guess, is to choose kind of like have a very strong opinion, right.
About things. I think brands kind of have been sitting on that line and I think also last year was a crucial time where it was like, you better choose a side, you have to choose, or you're not relevant, you know? And so I think that kind of, kind of pulled it a lot of change to hopefully, and I hope it's still continues.
Have you seen it continue on your end? Like, is it still that same momentum or is it last year's
Trinity: thing? [00:53:00] Um, isn't really there anymore. And I think that that is. That was very devastating to companies that I think we're in a different, I think if you were a little bit smaller and you went from being teensy tiny to like suddenly having sales and then you didn't have the infrastructure to support that you didn't have supply chain built out yet or anything.
I think that could be pretty devastating. I think that we were fortunate in that we were able to just see like a, uh, like a level set change with our business and, and a lot of things have stuck around. I mean, you can see, there are a lot more initiatives to like bring in black owned businesses to tell black founder stories, whatever.
Like, I don't think that's going anywhere. I think there has been a bit of a shift, but as far as like people rushing to our website to buy our products, like just to like feel relieved of like the guilt over the death of bird flight, [00:54:00] Done, you know, and, and I hope that's not coming back because it's not really sustainable anyways.
And I don't think that we should like require some sort of like, awful, like social brutality to like encourage people to support independent businesses and black ban. So I think it did make some changes, but like a lot of that has also I think, faded away.
Lee: Right. Right. Well, it's such a crazy, crazy time we're living in well.
So what are some of the other, like maybe the hardest things in building the business, like early days, what were some of those big challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them? I'm not a numbers
Trinity: person, which is very difficult.
Lee: A lot of creators aren't actually like, I think break visionaries are not numbers.
People. Right. So it's good. Well, thank
Lee: You [00:55:00] can learn numbers any time. Like now I'm in more spreadsheets that I wish I was not in. So
Trinity: exactly. And I mean, like eventually I did get to that point of like, being able to like, I mean, I never built a financial model entirely on my own, but like I was the one like working with our finance person saying like, okay, now, like this number needs to go here.
This goes here. Like, here's how I'm thinking about this, blah, blah, blah. Here's how we're going to model that. So, you know, I did get that skillset of eventually, but I think that in the early days, that was really hard because like, not only was I not naturally skilled in numbers, like they kind of freaked me out.
Like I got panicky, I was stressed about them. I was afraid. I would also like, this was a time when I was, I was in a lot of debt I had already. Let things spiral for them. They should have maybe. So I was always worried that like, I would click into the wrong like QuickBooks, like corner and be like, oh God, like scary number, you know?
And, um, that took me [00:56:00] a while to like, Get a hold of myself, but I did. So it's
Lee: probably best that you didn't try to put some numbers together early on because spreadsheets and numbers can literally crush dreams and ideas very quickly. So where I would
Trinity: have seen, I would have just like girl, you're going into debt.
Lee: Literally. I mean, I, I, yeah, my husband's more on like the COO financial side puts everything in a spreadsheet. Most ideas I have go down into a trash can because of that sheet. So like right now I have a very good appreciation for people that don't, you know, don't look at those things early on. It made me a little bit like don't let it crush the idea until it's at a certain point.
Like give it some time to grow. I was not a numbers person either. I remember having a conversation with an advisor of mine. And I was like, oh, I gotta get these financials done for this investor meeting. And I'm really don't want to, and I like, don't know how to do it. I don't know how to do it. I guess just kept telling her I'm not a financial [00:57:00] person.
Like, I don't know, numbers are not my thing. And she looked at me and she's like, straighten the, I was like, what are you talking about? Of course, you know, numbers. And of course you're going to be just fine, figuring this out. Like you can do it. Right. And kind of like, oh, like, yeah, almost embarrassed if I kind of argued against her.
Cause it was like, she was trying to lift me up and I kept trying to push myself down and she wasn't tolerating it. And I'll never forget that moment because it really pushed me to be like, yeah, what am I talking about me? I should, uh, maybe I should try this. Like now I feel like I have to, because she's challenging me about this.
But yeah, I think numbers can be easily learned is basically the moral of the story, but, um, which it sounds like I'm sure by now you are in spreadsheets over spreadsheets at some points, so, oh yes.
Trinity: Oh yes.
Lee: Well, so do you have any final advice for entrepreneurs? And then before we wrap up, I'd love to hear also where is gold going next?
Trinity: Hmm. [00:58:00] I feel like I deposited by two strongest pieces of advice already, which is number one when you're lucky and number two, know your, why, if you have those two down, you'll figure it out.
Lee: And then her why though, what's your, why did we let's see? Well,
Trinity: I mean, I feel like, you know, there's this piece of like making wellness easy, fun, and accessible, like, which is what I come back to again and again and again.
And when I think about like product lineup, when I think about marketing opportunities, I come back to. And then the other piece that is a little bit more personal to myself and my partner, he says that like, we've really set out to do this because we wanted to do something that like, felt good. We wanted to do something and have fun with it.
So I remind myself again and again, if I'm like [00:59:00] complaining about it or like, oh, this is so hard. I don't want to do this. I don't like the. Taking a step back and saying like, okay, is there something you need to adjust about the way that this is running right now to get back into that? Or you just not appreciating what is right in front of you, which is like a lot of good stuff.
So don't have to have just one why, but coming back to those things, especially like in the moments where you're making these pivotal decisions around, like, am I going to bring in a big investor? Am I going to go onto this retailer? Whatever, like, what are, what are you trying to do? Is it like a big exit that you're after?
Is it, do you want a lifestyle business, whatever, like come back to those things and they can adjust over time. It's okay if they change, but like, make sure that you're like staying in touch with that and not just reacting at like the stuff that's like coming in front of you. Yeah,
Lee: absolutely. I think a lot of people are like, I don't know what my, why is.
Well, I don't know why, how do I find my, why?[01:00:00]
Trinity: You know, just sit with it and they just go, I don't know. I go on long walks and I find that like that there actually is some sort of scientific proof that like going on with like walking helps. I don't know what it is, but like, it helps you think through stuff. So go on some walks, talk to a friend, whatever we'll get there.
Lee: It's a process. You don't know what the hell I wanted to do for a really long time. Like, it's just, it all kind of comes together. I think a lot of young people are stressing all the time. I know I was, what am I gonna do with my life? What's going to happen? I don't know where I'm going, but it, yeah, just got to trust the process.
Trinity: I feel like also what's going to happen is you're gonna get one year older every year. And the best thing you can do with. Yeah, enjoy quiet and be grateful for it. And hopefully build some stability around it in the meantime, like not saying like Yolo or whatever, but
Lee: yeah, but like Yolo and work [01:01:00] hard, you know, have a balance.
Trinity: There's gotta be some new, like, terrible acronym that we can use, but not Yolo, but no something else.
Lee: So what's next for gold, but can we see some cool products coming out or what
Trinity: we didn't do? We launched five new products in like the first six months of this year. So we're taking a little break, the rest of 2020 besides like a few fun things.
Like we have like little. Things that are going to, you know, pop up whatever, but like, no, like true newness, but 20, 22, you do have some new products coming. And I think all it's really just like really focused on this goal of like continuing to like make wellness and super foods accessible to everyone.
Like we're thinking about that across product formulation, price points, retail locations, marketing opportunities, whatever. Like, that's just what I'm excited to keep doing.
Lee: Absolutely. Well, I love the [01:02:00] superfood lattes. You guys have such cool products. Those who are listening, definitely go check out gold.com.co co.
I thought it was co I'm less so concerned about making sure that we say there's an E at the end of gold, that I forgot
Lee: gold with an e.co. Thank you, Trinity so much for being on the show. Really appreciate you taking the time.
Trinity: Thanks Lee.
Lee: Thank you so much for listening to the stairway to CEO podcast. Once again, I'm your host Lee green. And if you have any burning business questions, please feel free to reach email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you, and if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to the show, tell your friends, leave us a review and follow us on Instagram at stairway to CEO until next time guys keep on climbing.[01:03:00]