Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
If you’re a matcha or superfood-lover, you’ve probably heard of Golde. And even if you’re not, you’ve likely still come across the brand: the DTC darling’s sales soared 10x last summer (and 12x in 2020!) after it topped just about every Black-owned business list in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement -- and the company has continued to grow its product line and cult following since. Founded in 2017 by partners Trinity Mouzon Wofford and Issey Kobori, Golde is one of those special companies that sells feel-good products (Pure Matcha and Coconut Collagen Boost are personal favorites) and a feel-better mission (inclusive, approachable, and easy wellness). In this Quality Makers feature, Mouzon Wofford shares the story behind Golde, thoughts on building a strong and engaged following, and her vision for the future of the brand…
To begin, what’s the story behind Golde?
TMW: Golde is a superfood, health and beauty brand that I co-founded in 2017. I started the business with my high school sweetheart, so we go a little bit further back than that. It was inspired by my own experiences as a consumer in wellness and feeling caught between the crunchy granola stuff that I had grown up with in upstate New York and this next wave of offerings that felt so luxe and prestigious that it was out of reach for me. So we were really centered on this idea of taking wellness and making it more easy, approachable, and most importantly fun for that next generation.
You mentioned that you were super intentional about creating an approachable wellness brand. What steps did you take when launching Golde to make it feel less elite or exclusive than other brands you were seeing?
TMW: My partner Issey and I designed the brand in-house -- we didn't go to an agency or anything. We had a friend who helped us get set up in Adobe Illustrator because we literally didn't even know how to use the program, but we had a really clear vision of what we were looking for. At the time that we were putting this together (2016), the minimalist, black-and-white, reserved aesthetic was very popular. We wanted to bring our own voice to the space and be really colorful and warm and inviting.
One big piece, honestly, was the packaging design. Outside of that, the overall tone and the way that we communicate is big: speaking to our growing community the way that we would talk to a friend, and making it feel not overly aspirational, but very much within reach.
Something that I appreciate about you as a founder is how much you're willing to share the nitty gritty of building a company in real time -- for example, your Office Hours IG series provides actual detail and step-by-step guidance for growing a brand. How did you begin this online mentorship to fans and followers?
TMW: As our business continued to grow, we started to get more questions, even just from friends, but also from strangers on social media saying “I’m thinking about building my business or I already have a company and I'm looking for advice on this and that.”
Looking at my own experience building a business with not many resources, seeing these accomplished founders on the cover of the magazines with their arms crossed, looking amazing, but you’d never really get into the nitty gritty -- like, how did you get there? It was my duty to share insights from my story as I was figuring out how to build and scale Golde.
Speaking of building and scaling Golde, what is your process of ideating new products? How do you decide what's in the pipeline and how do you bring those ideas to life?
TMW: The product development process is typically anywhere from a year to three or four years. When a product is in its true infancy, we're just brainstorming, myself and my partner and some other folks on the team. We consider where there are opportunities to bring Golde into more of our consumers' daily routines, hitting that morning through night timeframe.
Once we have the concept down, there's a phase of what we refer to as “kitchen magic,” where we just start fooling around in the kitchen. Once we land on a rough working concept, we partner with a professional formulator to bring that concept to life, ensuring it’s formulated for efficacy, safety, and deliciousness. From there, you're finalizing little details around the packaging and manufacturing. It always comes back to the customer: where are they in their journey? And how can we meet them where they are?
As your customer base has really skyrocketed in the past year, you’ve been very candid about your experience as a Black female founder growing a brand in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. Personally and professionally, what has scaling your company been like at such an intense time?
TMW: Just baseline, being in the pandemic was a lot. And then to layer on top of that, exponential growth with the company coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement -- really forced me to try not to be too reactive to anything. We were growing so, so quickly and were having to keep up with sales that were 10x what we had done the week prior, and it was hard to know how long it was going to stay that way.
With that, there was still the sense of, okay, you've got to stay grounded and you've got to stay rooted in what you really believe in, because those are the moments that really test you -- where it's so easy to jump onto a new train or decide that you're going to try something else or not stay true to your values. This time of high growth and high intensity allowed me to recognize just how important it is to keep coming back to those values; they literally guide you through these unexpected moments.
We had to move pretty much every product to pre-order. And overwhelmingly, the response was very supportive. I think that there was the sense of us having to set expectations with this newly massive customer base as well, and transparency was really critical during that time.
After your tremendous growth in the past year, I imagine your plans for Golde have been somewhat expedited. What’s your long-term vision for the brand?
TMW: We want to keep telling the superfood story and get it in front of as many people as possible. It all starts with our phenomenal products that we're so passionate about and whenever someone gets the chance to try them, they're blown away by the quality. And so for us, it's really just about continuing to get Golde out to the world and making sure that we're reaching as many folks’ routines as possible. So we have so much more to do, and I'm really excited to keep it coming.
What does your personal wellness and self care routine look like these days?
TMW: There are a few different ways that I look at self care. In the very traditional definition, I am using a lot of Golde products and I also love to have a nicely built out like skincare and body care routine. In the morning I typically have a Shroom Shield Latte, and I like to have that iced around 9:00 AM. In the afternoon, I'm having a matcha with the perfect amount of caffeine that I need to power through the rest of the day.
In terms of skincare, I’ve been using a new oil-based serum from a small brand called Supernal for about three days and I can’t stop talking about it. I really love natural skincare products from smaller businesses where I know the founder still has some touch there. Another brand that’s not new but is new to me is called Sade Baron. All of their products are super natural, and they have this moisturizer called Cloud that I’ve been using as a hand cream. I’m very particular about hand cream, and I really love that one.
Outside of that though, I would say that there's also an important secondary definition of self-care to me, which is just like doing simple things that help you feel better, whether it's going for a walk around the block or calling a friend or making an organized to do list so you don't feel like you're in a frenzy. I think those things are just as important as all the skincare and the superfoods -- and they really work together.
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