Joining me today on Female Startup Club is Trinity Mouzon Wofford, the founder of superfood wellness company, Golde.
They produce approachable, effective wellness essentials for inner and outer radiance that are powered by single origin turmeric.
Trinity’s a young powerhouse with a great story to share, she was the youngest black founder to have a brand stocked in Sephora at just 23 years old, and was named Forbes 30 under 30 this year.
We speak a lot about her journey in building this brand as a black woman, why the Black Lives Matter movement has x10 her business, her learnings from along the way and some great insights into the world of wholesale.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Yeah, for sure. So I am the co-founder and CEO at Golde. We are a Brooklyn based health and beauty brand powered by superfoods. So gold makes everything from a superfood facemasks to latte blends, really to just help you feel like your best self inside and out.
Sounds really delicious. I've seen a lot of yummy looking recipes on your website.
Yes, yes. The factor is definitely important to us.
So what made you want to start the business?
Yeah, so I have been into wellness for a while. I grew up in sort of a wellness family or I like my grandmother, ate all organic and all that good stuff, but I didn't get really super into it until I was a teenager. And my mom, who has an autoimmune disease, switched over to seeing this more sort of holistically minded position and saw an incredible improvement in her symptoms. And that was really a pivotal moment for me and made me say, OK, well, this is my career path and I want to go to medical school. I'm going to practice medicine and do it through this holistic lens. And so all was well, I went down to NYU for college. I was raised upstate. And then as I was finishing up college, I found out from my mom that she had to stop seeing that doctor because she actually can afford it anymore, because here in the States, a lot of things aren't covered by our health insurance system, including anything that's like not just like cut and dry prescription medications. So I had this realization that I didn't really want to practice medicine if it wasn't going to be for everyone. So I graduated and wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my life, like any good twenty two year old.
And I ended up kind of like falling into a marketing career in the city. I was working at a tech startup so like super fast growing, very small team. They had just closed their series and funding, which I had no idea what that meant at the time. But I, I was thrown into that world and I really, really loved it. So I had that going on. But I still know in the back of my mind knew that I wanted to get back to that mission of wellness and accessibility. And the missing piece there sort of was my high school sweetheart, who's now my co founder. You say he grew up in family business. His parents have a candle factory in upstate New York where we both were raised. And so he had that window into small business and entrepreneurship and kind of gave both of us the context that one day we could do something like that. So that's really kind of everything that was moving around in my brain and in my life that brought me toward the idea of, I think, having the guts to to launch gold.
I mean, not only did you guys have this perfect recipe of small business experience and like high growth startup experience, but you also had this young drive because you launched the brand at twenty three or something. I think I read, which is absolutely insane. That's so cool.
I definitely think that was a big chunk of the secret ingredient being young enough to be so fearless. I think that like that naivete that it'll all work out is very powerful.
Yeah, I think you go into it being like, oh well, like what's the worst case scenario? Like, just go back and get another job, right?
Yeah, exactly. I think that's the beauty of starting something when you're young. Is that like, OK, well, like worst case scenario, I'll just move back home and my parents will be a little annoyed with me. But like I can I can see the path out of failure. So I think it was really beneficial for us to know that we had that little bit of safety there.
Yeah, absolutely. And how how's the navigating the relationship of being a co founder and having your fiancee now? Right. Yeah, I actually work with my fiancee, too. We've we've been in business together. And I love to hear what other people find of the of the situation.
Yeah, it's such a good question, and I get the question very often of like, I don't know, I'm thinking about going into business with my significant other. Should I? And my answer to that question is always, if you have to ask, you already know, I don't think it's for everyone. And I don't think that's a sign that you have like a not strong relationship or anything. But I think it's a lot to put on your relationship to be really just in it. Twenty four. Seven, because you live together, you work together you don't like. You're always on one way or another. Ultimately for us, I think it has really strengthened our personal relationship because it forces a certain level of maturity and empathy that I feel you can kind of skirt around when it's like just your significant other. But like there's such an intimacy to starting a business with someone that when you have that and you have the personal relationship, you just have to be so honest and so respectful all the time because you just can't there's no room for, like, being in a tiff for the day because your business isn't happening.
You could not be off. Oh.
Oh, my gosh. And so so you guys have this moment, you're like, yeah, we're going to go all in. We're going to essentially quit our jobs and we're going to stop this business together. Did you know specifically what you wanted it to be in the wellness sector at that point? Or like, how did you come up with the idea of being like, yeah, this is what it's going to be?
I mean, I think that it's definitely evolved. So when we first launched, we launched with a single product, our original tumeric blend. And when we first started out, we actually were like, yeah, we're going to focus on Tamarac. That's going to be the thing. And this was in twenty seventeen that we launched. And what was funny was we had seen that tumeric was getting more popular, but it hadn't hit that like skyrocketing. That happened in twenty seventeen and into twenty eighteen. And so we were kind of like a little caught off guard by the level to which suddenly consumers were like I need to have to work in my life, I want to try this product. So that was great. But we also found that the other reason why people were coming to gold was because they loved our ethos around wellness, which was really like I was looking at my own experiences as a consumer in the wellness space. Right. And I was feeling very caught between this crunchy granola stuff that I had grown up with. I come from like Birkenstock land. OK, so and then the other side of it, which was like so luxe and prestige and like seventy five dollars powders. And even if it did appeal to me, I definitely couldn't afford it. And so I just I wanted to do something in the middle there. So I think, you know, we had the interest because we were doing tumeric. But then the larger fascination with the brand and our product offering seemed to really be this new perspective. And we found that over time we wanted to be able to apply that perspective more broadly because there was so much value in saying that, like, wellness should actually feel good. It shouldn't be punishment.
Yeah. You want to you want to drink the drink and enjoy it, drink the green, drink and enjoy it and not screw it. Yeah, I totally get that. Absolutely.
And so then what happened, like did you guys go out and raise money? Was this startup capital involved that you guys have? I mean even at twenty three I didn't have any savings that's for sure. What did you guys do.
Yeah. So I, I had a little bit of savings because I had been working at a fancy tech startup and I was like, I'm one of those people that's like obsessively frugal. I would be I would tell my coworkers about like my grocery budget of like fifty dollars a week maybe like how are you living?
Like tuna noodles.
Yeah, I was like very from an early age, which is interesting. I hadn't really revisited that. But once I was making like a real salary, I was like, oh my God, I only have to pull out like two thousand dollars a month, which is like I think a thousand bucks was going toward my half of the rent and the other thousand was like anything else. And so I did have a little bit of savings, not a ton. But so if and I, I think we maybe just put like a couple thousand dollars into it total between the two of us and just went with it. To be honest, we didn't really know anything about investors. The only time we'd heard about investors was through Isa's family. And they have like the opposite of an investor involved business. Like they they started pouring candles in their garage and now. Years later, they have this very successful business that they've scaled very slowly and very profitably the whole time, so they always told us like, no, don't ever get investors. Like, it's a terrible idea. So we were like, yes, we're going to be the two of us. We're just going to sell some. You see what happens as long as we can pay our rent. And that was the plan.
They like the definition of bootstrapping a brand. And we're also like, yeah, that I've worked in a high growth tech startup. So maybe like maybe I want to power it up.
What's interesting, though, is I think my experience at that startup also kind of turned me off of venture capital a little bit because that was really true. Classic like tech v.c and.
It just I didn't.
Gold has always been and the point of it was always to have something that was very close to me and I saw what a business looks like when it got, like incubated right out of the gate and then raised a lot of venture money. And it just always felt like it wasn't it felt like the founder didn't have the ownership that they wanted to have the level of just complete like there was. There are always other cooks in the kitchen.
Yeah. And someone pulling the puppet strings.
Yeah. And so, I mean, that's not always the case and we'll get into that. But like I to start out, we were very much like, no, we don't like I'm not going there. We just wanted to have fun and make a product that people would like and we didn't need a whole bunch of money to live off of. Our plan was not to, like, figure out how to build a multi-million dollar. Well, it was like it was not even remotely in a far off corner of my brain.
That's so cool that you were like, yeah, we're not really, like, thinking that big right now, but then it grows into that and it becomes this huge thing that you wake up one day and you're like, oh, shit, look what we did.
And I don't mean to say that in like, you know, I think it's such bullshit when people are like, yeah, I don't know, I just like started with five hundred dollars.
And the next thing I knew, I had this multi-million dollar company. There were steps and you made conscious decisions. Right.
So there was a certain point that we reached.
Which I think was like one year in where investors started to reach out and they started to kind of paint this picture for me, like think bigger. What if this was a multi million dollar company? What would you do? What would that look like? And it was literally the first time that I had considered it. It wasn't I wasn't thinking about like, oh, I'm going to build, like, the glossier wellness. So there was a moment there where I really kind of got put on that, like, turn gold into a CPG venture backed startup track. But ultimately, I just it didn't feel right for me at that time. It felt like too early to be jumping into that because we had started as a bootstrap brand. I felt like I needed more time to really see that out before I brought other folks in. So we kind of just let it grow organically. But we were very tactical about growth once that once we got to kind of that one year mark because we were thinking about, OK, we want to build out a team. So it wasn't like, OK, I just woke up and it was big and I had no idea. But it definitely wasn't like our plan from day one.
Yeah. And I imagine as well, like building a brand that's going to be stocked in retailers around the world and that kind of thing. You also have to have cash flow to be able to pay for orders and pay for the manufacturer to produce these these huge quantities. And I was reading you stopped in places like Sephora and Urban Outfitters and Group. And like I imagine these are the kinds of brands who are placing huge, huge orders of your product. So since that time that year, has it evolved that you've had to take on investment from other people or have you thought about or have you taken on business loans or something like that?
Right. We do a mix of things right now. So we just closed actually a very, very teensy tiny angel round from a few folks, which was like just a nice way to build out a little bit of cushion. Congratulations. Thank you. Thank you. Which is great because it's like like you're saying, it's a cash flow game. So even if you're profitable at the end of the year, there are moments when you just spent like fifty thousand dollars on product and you haven't sold it yet and you don't want to be at zero in the bag. So that was really helpful. We didn't really have to give up much equity for it because we raised a pretty small amount. And then outside of that, we've done a lot of like fairly short term working capital loans. We've also like when we had our first big purchase order, which was like, I don't know, like five thousand dollars or something like that. We had friends and family factor of that agreement for us. So they would put up the five grand and then we would pay them back like, I don't know, like fifty one hundred dollars or something like that.
Once that retailer paid us a few months later. So when it was in its early stages, we could really leverage friends and family for like small checks like that as it's gotten bigger. Now, having that small equity raise is really valuable. And we're also now exploring all of these different options because there's so many now, like there's so many different places that you can get like working capital or like inventory funding or all these pieces. So I am very open to raising more money from investors, but I want to be very thoughtful about doing what's truly right for the business and not just sort of whatever is the trending solution at the moment. Because, I mean, we've seen this crazy fall out of a lot of these, like over funded, venture backed brands that were like the industry darlings two years ago when I first started talking to investors. So I'm very hesitant to kind of just do whatever the people are telling me to do because like two years ago, they were telling me to raise ten million dollars and now they would never tell me to do that at this stage.
Yeah, I imagine like the conversations from two years ago to now would be so vastly different based on the landscape. What was your experience like going into those meetings? And as a woman, as a black woman, what were the conversations like and how was the experience?
Yeah, it's a really good question, I mean, I think that I came into the space as the female founder narrative was really blowing up, so I don't think I ever had much trouble on that front because whether it was coming from a genuine place or not, investors were very aware of the fact that they needed to bring in female founders. So that was kind of a done deal, I think, also.