March 9, 2021

From Vitamin C to DTC

with Nina Mullen, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Hilma

About this episode

Whether you're seeking relief for a headache, upset stomach or needing immune support, Hilma is on a mission to create a new standard for your medicine cabinet. After two years of research, assembling a world class team of scientists, and kicking off three clinical studies, Hilma makes natural remedies that are scientifically backed. In this episode, Hilma’s Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Nina Mullen, shares with us her journey from dreams of becoming a wedding dress designer as a kid, to interning at Theory, to working at Harry's, where she helped with their first retail launch, to taking the leap into entrepreneurship launching Hilma in 2019 with her two close friends, Lily and Hilary. She talks with us about how a vitamin C packet sparked the idea for Hilma, how the name Hilma was born, and shares some great insights about what kind of metrics retailers look for.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • Why as a kid she thought she’d one day be involved in the fashion industry and what kind of dreams and aspirations that desire led to
  • How her parents, who are both doctors, were instrumental in the mindset Nina grew up with of listening to the body and taking care of yourself in as many natural ways as possible
  • How she gained a wide array of experience with internships during college and learned a lot about business and people at companies like Theory and Kekst
  • Why her time at Bain was a great way for her to learn and understand so many aspects of business and be exposed to a variety of different industries, which led her to falling in love with startup culture
  • How the idea for Hilma came about after an aha moment between three friends and how the name Hilma was chosen for the company
  • What the process of starting a company like Hilma was, how they measured success and proof of concept, and how they took off from there
  • What it is like to have Co-Founders and Co-CEOs and why that works really well for Nina, Hilary, and Lily
  • What is next from Hilma and what they’ve learned as a DTC brand that is going to help them in their launch into retail
  • What it is like to be a Founder and CEO and what advice she has for other aspiring and/or existing entrepreneurs out there

To Find Out More:



“My parents are both doctors. Their approach to medicine and caregiving in the home is very much focused on kind of listening to your body and waiting before you take anything or kind of overreact to something.”

“I knew I wanted to be in business, but I really hadn't picked a lane yet. And I thought that consulting was a great way to get exposure to a lot of different types of businesses, a lot of different industries, and also just gain that quantitative skill set that I felt was really important.”

"Why is it that the medicine cabinet really feels stuck in the past when all of these other consumer categories have leapfrogged towards natural as being totally mainstream?" 

“We didn't even know what products we were going to start with. So talking to people and getting advice and just hearing how they react to you and engage with you was a very important part of the process.”

“Our metrics for success were did people think the product worked and did people want to recommend it to their friends and family? Both of which very much we were able to prove.”

“I think, in the beginning, a really big thing that we kind of misunderstood was the mindset of our target customer.”

“I think viewing an investor as a potential consumer and kind of testing out what rationale works with them if I'm trying to convince them and how do I bucket this type of person and think about how to use that to my advantage in the future is kind of the positive thing that we're able to take away from those experiences.”

“There also is a lot of interesting research that's been done on women as Co-CEOs and Co-Founders versus men, which tend to struggle in those types of relationships, whereas women tend to thrive, which is not shocking in my opinion.”

“We are a category that the vast majority of consumers, even today, shop in-store. And so for us, it was less of an if. It was really a when. And I think having that in our sights and as part of our focus from day one was really important because as you know, like there's a million different priorities. And if you want to make a true retail launch work, it needs to be a focus.”

“There are a lot of good moments and there are a lot of bad moments. And both of those moments need to be kept in perspective. Not one thing is going to make your business and not one thing is going to break your business.”

“Those at bats of having negative things happen to you just naturally make you stronger over time. And you view them as opportunities, number one, to make a positive interaction, if you can.”

“I really view "negative pitches," whether it's to an investor or a manufacturer or whoever it might be, as opportunities to get better at what you're doing, because you can always get better at selling your vision and your brand.”

“One thing that worked for us and our founding team is just I do think that it's worthwhile to work on your idea for as long as you can before committing to it, mostly as a test of commitment to yourself.”

Read the transcript

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