Seth Goldman: [00:00:00] And that's one of the most amazing aspects of college is you get to have these intense connections with people from all types of different backgrounds and interfacing. And you, literally, are limiting your education if you're only interacting with a subset of that much wider group.

Andy Molinsky: [00:00:21] Welcome to From the Dorm Room to the Board Room, a podcast where we provide insights, tips, and inspiration for college students and young professionals, so they can make a really successful transition from college life to the professional world and beyond.

Andy Molinsky: [00:00:38] My name is Andy Molinsky, and I'm your host. I am also a Professor of Organizational Behavior and International Management at Brandeis University's International Business School, where we record and produce this podcast.

Andy Molinsky: [00:00:58] So, our guest today is Seth Goldman. Seth is a change maker in the food industry. He did it first with Honest Tea, the organic and fair-trade beverage brand he launched out of his house in 1998 with co-founder Barry Nalebuff, his former Yale School of Management professor.

Andy Molinsky: [00:01:20] Now that Honesty has been acquired by the Coca-Cola Company, Seth continues to play a role with the company, but has also taken on an additional role as Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat, a fast-growing, plant-based protein that's redefining the way we eat meat. Seth, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Seth Goldman: [00:01:40] Thanks, Andy. Good to be with you.

Andy Molinsky: [00:01:42] So, we just heard your impressive bio. I'd love to start at the beginning though. Tell us about your college experience. Where did you go to college? What did you major in? Did you like it? Just what was college like? And then, sort of, bring us to the point where you were kind of just about to leave college and gone into the "real world."

Seth Goldman: [00:02:03] Sure, yeah. I went to Harvard College. And I definitely enjoyed it. I think it was not the typical experience. I was probably more focused on my extracurricular activities than my academics. I mean, I know I did complete all my courses, and I majored in Government, and I graduated with honors, but most of my time and activities was involved with doing things aside from school.

Seth Goldman: [00:02:35] So, I was on the track team. I was in a music group. I was involved with student government. I was involved with political organizations. And then, I was in a musical at one point as well. So, I was starting up all types of different organizations. I started up a music group freshman year. And then, started a few other different things.

Seth Goldman: [00:02:59] So, for me, it was just a buzz of activity the whole time. And I realized that all of that activity was really preparation for being an entrepreneur, even though I wasn't. I really didn't start any businesses in college. I was getting used to this idea of multitasking, interacting with lots of different people around, lots of different issues. And so, it really was an entrepreneurial college experience.

Andy Molinsky: [00:03:29] What was your first job? Would did you do right after college?

Seth Goldman: [00:03:32] Well, right after college. So, my major was on Comparative Government. I had studied how Soviet Union - which, of course, became Russia - and China were changing and evolving. I was so interested in that, I wanted to see it firsthand. And so, I actually had applied then. Harvard had some travel fellowships. I applied for them. I didn't get them. And then, I realized I didn't need the fellowship to or not getting a fellowship didn't prevent me from going to those countries.

Seth Goldman: [00:03:59] So, I ended up getting a job teaching English in China. So, I did that for a year. And then, I got a job teaching English in Russia. And I got to do that for a year, a year and a half, actually. And so, those, also, were entrepreneurial undertakings, going into these countries where I didn't really speak the language, I didn't really know many people, and figure out how to make a living, and, of course, interacting with lots of new people. So, those were also entrepreneurial existence and opportunities that I had.

Andy Molinsky: [00:04:37] It's funny, a lot of college students that I come into contact with nowadays want to be entrepreneurs, want to create something. And it's funny that if I said to them, "You should go off and teach English in China and Russia. That's your path to success."

Seth Goldman: [00:04:53] Yeah. I think a mistake people assume is that the only way to be an entrepreneur, to prepare yourself to be an entrepreneur is by working for an entrepreneurial company. And, really, the way to prepare yourself to do entrepreneurial things. And so, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations and figuring out how to cope and how to navigate, that's entrepreneurial work. Going into a country or a community where you don't know people and, sort of, building your own networks, those are entrepreneurial things.

Seth Goldman: [00:05:27] So, those experiences I had, both in college and after college, were very formative for me. Certainly, while it can be intimidating to launch a company and go into this. For me, the beverage industry was a place I had no prior experience. It was also scary.

Seth Goldman: [00:05:46] I remember one night in China, I had traveled in to [Fujian]. It was a place I was just curious to see. And I got out of the train, it was about midnight, and I realized that for probably hundreds of millions of people around me, no one knew me. So, that was a pretty wild experience. It's lucky. I didn't speak the language, walking into a dark city where there was nobody I could call or talk to. That's intimidating too. And I thought, "Well, if I can do that, I can certainly figure out how to put tea in a bottle."

Andy Molinsky: [00:06:19] We should contextualize t too because you, like me - I'm assuming here - went and did these things. I also lived abroad too when I was younger, but this is pre-internet. You didn't hop on your iPhone.

Seth Goldman: [00:06:32] Yeah, there's no way you could tell me how to get anywhere or no translator thing. Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:06:39] Or Facetiming your friends and parents, right?

Seth Goldman: [00:06:43] Yeah, that's right.

Andy Molinsky: [00:06:44] So, then, bring us from Russia and China to, I guess, the next stop here that seems important to talk about is Yale. What came between those and in your business?

Seth Goldman: [00:06:57] Yeah. Well, there were some very important stops along the way. One was that when I got back from Russia, I reconnected with some of the -- I mentioned I worked in some political organizations. When I got back from Russia, I connected with some folks who had been part of Mike Dukakis's organization. I was in charge of his campaign at Harvard when he was running for governor.

Seth Goldman: [00:07:21] And by the time I returned, he was running for president, and had become the Democratic presidential nominee. So, I ended up doing advance work where I would go -- once again, entrepreneurial work, I would go into a city and help set up an event for him. So, basically, get on the ground. It could be any city around the country, and put together a campaign event in three days, working with some other people, and the first to go on the ground in that community.

Seth Goldman: [00:07:50] I was doing it, actually, for Lloyd Bentsen, who was the running mate of Dukakis. And that was important work, not just because it helped me get exposed to the political world, and I eventually ended up working for Bentsen, but, most importantly, I met my woman who became my wife doing that work. And so, that was something that although the campaign ended up not becoming -- they didn't win, but my wife and I are still together. So, from my point of view, it was a successful campaign.

Seth Goldman: [00:08:22] And then, of course, I ended up working for Bentsen, who did run for the Senate at the same time, and he was re-elected, and I ended up working for him.

Andy Molinsky: [00:08:32] How long did you work for him? And in what aspect?

Seth Goldman: [00:08:35] Two and a half years. So, that was what I did after I returned and before I went to business school. And then, just before Bentsen left his Senate office to go work at the Treasury, I went up to Baltimore, and I launched a demonstration program for what became AmeriCorps. And so, that was a chance for me to manage a group of people and run, I guess, my first mission-driven organization. And that was something that I really liked and got excited about. And for me, then, going to business school was for the goal of helping prepare me to run a larger organization.

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:14] It's interesting. So far, it's -- I kind of know the moral of the story or the ending of the story, but I don't know if I would have predicted where this is all going.

Seth Goldman: [00:09:26] [Crosstalk]. And so far, we have yet to talk about anywhere putting liquid in a bottle, right?

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:33] Right. So, tell us about Honesty. I'm a fan actually.

Seth Goldman: [00:09:38] Thank you.

Andy Molinsky: [00:09:38] I used to drink Honest Tea in the glass bottles when it first came out. I was a big fan. My wife's a huge fan. She is a huge tea drinker. We both have loved it. Just tell us about the story of how you came up with it. I think people would be interested.

Seth Goldman: [00:09:54] Sure, yeah. So, one thing that I mentioned is that I ran track in college. And so, when you run a lot, you're thirsty a lot. And so, I was always dissatisfied with the refreshment options in bottles. And so, I just couldn't drink the sports drinks. They were too sweet. And I tried drinking bottled tea, and those were too sweet. And that idea crystallized when I was in business school.

Seth Goldman: [00:10:20] And my professor, Barry Nalebuff, we're doing a case study of the beverage industry, and he asked if there was anything missing. And of course, the first answer is, how could anything be missing when you walk on the beverage aisle? There's two walls of beverages. Especially back in 1995, when I was Barry's student, what was missing was that there just weren't any less sweet drink. They were all super sweet or watery. And so, Barry and I had talked about trying to do something about it.

Seth Goldman: [00:10:49] But when I was a student, and I was in my second year in business school, I was focused on trying to get a job and, probably, wasn't fully prepared to really launch of a company at that time. But, eventually, graduated from the school, and then spent two and a half years working down here in Bethesda, Maryland for an investment company. And after a presentation, I went for a run, and then got thirsty again, and said, "Okay, I think I am ready to do something about this."

Seth Goldman: [00:11:19] And so, I got in touch with Barry, and he was so excited about the idea. And he had just come back from India where he had been studying the tea industry and had gained some insights, but had also came up with the name, Honest Tea. And so, we put together a great name with a really unique positioning opportunity.

Seth Goldman: [00:11:40] And then, I think the third part of the equation was me at a point in my real life where I was ready to try something like this, and it all came together. And that was enough for me to leave my job in the investment world and launch Honest Tea in my house.

Seth Goldman: [00:11:54] And then, I managed to get an appointment with the local Whole Foods buying office in Maryland, and brewed up some thermoses of tea in my kitchen, and got an empty snaffle bottle that we'd place a label on, and brought it to the buyer, and said, "We want to sell this in your store." The buyer said, "Well, I'll give it a try," and he ordered 15,000 bottles. So, we were in business.

Andy Molinsky: [00:12:18] 15,000 bottles? How did you fulfill that order?

Seth Goldman: [00:12:23] That was one of those moments where I said, "Oh, that's great," and then, in the back of my mind, I'm saying, "Oh, how am I going to make that happen?" But I didn't tell him that. I just had to figure that out.

Seth Goldman: [00:12:32] And so, once we got the order, I went around to bottling plants all up and down the East Coast and talked to different -- everything from like a soda packing facility to a beer, a craft beer facility, to a manufacturing plant for jellies. And, eventually, I found an apple juice packing plant up in Buffalo, New York that was willing to give it a try. And we figured out it wasn't pretty, but there's a lot of generations that took a lot of creative thinking and a lot of problem solving, but we figured out how to make the tea and delivered it too.

Seth Goldman: [00:13:10] So, that happened in March of 1998, and we delivered before the end of May. So, pretty quick turnaround from first order. We had to raise the money for the business, and design the labels, buy the ingredients, finished the formulations, and all of that.

Andy Molinsky: [00:13:29] That's interesting. As you're telling your story, I was thinking to myself, how does someone in your shoes at that point sort of go all in and commit to something where they don't know if it's going to be successful or not? And then, I was -- I mean, I was starting to think back about your campaign work. And I suppose that's the essence of working at a campaign, isn't it?

Seth Goldman: [00:13:50] Yeah, but it does take that full commitment. And I remember when I, as I said, worked in this investment business before, the day that I was going to turn in my resignation and launch Honest Tea, I remember calling Barry because, as I said, we hadn't made the tea before at scale. And so, I was calling him, hoping to get one last surge of confidence to make sure I was taking the right chap.

Seth Goldman: [00:14:16] And I said, "Okay. I'm about to leave a good job." And my wife and I had just had our third son at that time. So, not necessarily great risk profile. I said to Barry, "Are you sure we'll be able to make the tea?" And he said, "Well, I'm pretty sure, but I bet if you walked in there and asked to take a sabbatical, they'd let you do that. Take a three-month leave to see if this works."

Seth Goldman: [00:14:41] And that wasn't what I was hoping to hear. That would have been sort of, "Hey, I'm counting my bets," and I realized that I really would need to take a full lead. The buyer wasn't going to place an order if he didn't think I was committed to this. And, of course, investors wouldn't invest if I was moonlighting. So, I really did take that full. I had to take the full lead. I couldn't just try this on the side.

Seth Goldman: [00:15:05] And I think, there are certainly ways to explore. If you have an entrepreneurial appetite on the side, you could do little side projects. But, ultimately, if you are going to launch an enterprise, it does take a full commitment. You can't have any fallback.

Andy Molinsky: [00:15:20] Yeah, very interesting story. So, let's step back now. When we think about young professionals, people leaving college and just entering the professional world, you've been through it. It sounds like you've got some kids maybe on the cusp of that. I'm not sure how old your kids are, but you certainly are in the position to offer advice to your kids at some point.

Seth Goldman: [00:15:42] Yeah. So, just a round orient. My oldest is 26 and my youngest is 21. So, he's graduating from college this spring.

Andy Molinsky: [00:15:51] Oh, there you go. Okay. Well, that's perfect then.

Seth Goldman: [00:15:55] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:15:55] So, here's a question for you. What misconceptions do you think college students have, sort of, entering the workplace?

Seth Goldman: [00:16:03] I think they get into such a pre-professional groove, and they think that's what they should be doing. And I just think that's a mistake. It really shouldn't be about, "Well, do I have this skill?" It's really, "How flexible, how nimble is your thinking, and how capable are you with your abilities?" So, meaning, can you handle whatever task there are?

Seth Goldman: [00:16:25] I discourage my sons from entering these pre-professional tracks because, then, in a way, what a pre-professional track does, whether it's a business school, it narrows your sights. And what I want when I look at somebody coming out of college to hire is somebody who has the broadest range of thinking and abilities. So, I would encourage people to think expansively and creatively.

Seth Goldman: [00:16:53] And so, when you only can, sort of, handle an accounting statement, as an example, you're stripping away the creativity that I think is so important for, at least, the kind of work I do. I mean, obviously, if I'm hiring an engineer, yeah, even if I hire an engineer, I want someone who has the skills, but I want them to be able to also think about how it applies to broader concepts.

Seth Goldman: [00:17:19] And, of course, you think about where the breakthroughs have been in our society, certainly around technology, and even in food as well, it's when people have been able to connect some of the science to some of the broader societal issues we have. And so, to me, that said, I would encourage people to develop into thinking. I would encourage them to develop.

Andy Molinsky: [00:17:42] So, I imagine that that, sort of, advice from a curriculum standpoint, like what to study, what to focus on. Earlier you talked about -- I think, I even wrote it down. I thought was a good term, that you had a buzz of activity in college from track, to music, to student government, and so on. What advice do you have around, sort of, balancing extracurriculars? It sounds like-

Seth Goldman: [00:18:05] Yeah.

Andy Molinsky: [00:18:05] Yeah.

Seth Goldman: [00:18:05] So, look, I think it's great when someone can specialize in something, but it's a little like with young children as athletes too. If you're only doing one activity growing up, what if you get sick of it, or what if you get injured? So, I really encourage my son to do sports through school, but just don't do one sport. Don't just do one activity. There is a benefit to being well-rounded.

Seth Goldman: [00:18:36] And so, one of the downsides of just doing one sport is you're only associating or connecting with one group of people. And in college, that's one of the most amazing aspects of college is you get to have these intense connections with people from all types of different backgrounds and interfacing. And you, literally, are limiting your education if you're only interacting with a subset of that much wider group.

Seth Goldman: [00:19:02] So, I do think it's useful to really -- when you can pursue certain activities, you get to meet people, and really bond with them, and be part of a community. So, that part's good, but don't limit yourself to just that.

Andy Molinsky: [00:19:18] How about mentoring advice you've had from professors, from colleagues, even from bosses? Did you get any advice early in your career that was helpful or maybe even advice that you kind of wished you took? Just tell us a bit about mentoring and advice?

Seth Goldman: [00:19:36] Yeah, I did. I've been really fortunate. Certainly, as I launched Honest Tea, we had these great board members. Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt, and Jeff Swartz, the CEO of Timberland with an apparel company. And they were great with business advice, and even with life advice as well. I still run big ideas by them or questions I have.

Seth Goldman: [00:20:00] In terms of, sort of, life advice, I think, for me, actually, a great model were my parents. I think, what I took away from them, there were three things in life with the three big decisions I made that they got right. And so, I always think about, can you get these big three right?

Seth Goldman: [00:20:20] So, the first one is who do you spend your life with? And not everybody thinks this in the binary, but who do you really choose to be your closest partners in living life? And so, for me, my wife has been that person. And so, you do want to get somebody who shares your values, who can be a life partner, who can be a creative partner around work or around other key decisions you make. The other one, of course, is what kind of work you do. And that, obviously, defines sort of when you wake up every day, what you do. And then, the third one is where you do it, which community you live in, which community you become a part of.

Seth Goldman: [00:21:03] And I think my parents got each of those three things right in terms of they were great partners for each other, the community they felt very close to, and the work they do, and did literally -- at least, that's my -- things until their last breath was work that they enjoyed and found meaningful. As my father used to say, "Getting paid to do what you would pay to do is a great way to make a living."

Andy Molinsky: [00:21:32] That's great. And I can't help but ask about some of the advisors from your company that you've had. How did you use them? When did you meet with them? Just, sort of, like, is it a phone call? Is it an email? Is it in person?

Seth Goldman: [00:21:52] Yeah, different cadence. So, someone like Gary, who is busy, we would basically just have a monthly check in. And it was something that was scheduled, so we won't have to play phone tag. And I would sort of have a list of things that I would put on. I would say, "I'm going to have to ask Gary about that," and then we'd get together, and I'd get to ask him about it.

Seth Goldman: [00:22:11] Somebody like Jeff, it was more as the occasion rose. I didn't always have a question for him. But when I did, he was there, and he got the chance to go through it, and have as much time as needed to really work through a big decision.

Seth Goldman: [00:22:28] And then, of course, Barry, my co-founder, was also a great advisor. And he and I, especially during the intense period, we would talk probably every day. And sometimes, it was a short conversation. Sometimes, it was long. Sometimes, it was him pushing me. And, sometimes, it was him, I would say, sort of, supporting me, consoling me, depending on the need.

Andy Molinsky: [00:22:53] It's funny, I was just going to ask that when you just said consoling me. Was there a moment in all this where you doubted yourself?

Seth Goldman: [00:23:02] Oh, yeah. You have to. Well, you don't really have to. Well, you do have to because you have to be pushing, and stretching, and trying new things. And so, from the very -- As I said, I had no experience in the beverage industry. So, I remember early on, we knew we wanted to have a chai recipe, spicy tea or spice tea. And we found this one supplier who we were real excited about who made this. We tried a bunch of different recipes, and his was, by far, the best. And so, we asked him, we wanted to get a larger bag to make up samples, and it took a long time to get that to us.

Seth Goldman: [00:23:35] And then, we came back and said, "Well, we wanted to order, not just a 10-pound bag but 200 pounds for our first batch." And he's like, "Oh, 200 pounds. I can't do that that. I just grind the spices in my backyard on the weekends." "Okay." So, we knew that wasn't going to work. And I said to Barry, "Well, what are we going to do now?" Now, he says, "Well, we're going to make our own chai recipe." And I'm like, "What? How would we do that?" He said, "Why is it so hard?"

Seth Goldman: [00:24:00] I mean, he gave me some great advice that I still -- like, which when you have a big problem that seems overwhelming, and of course, I have had no experience making chai before, he would just break it down into its smallest components. And so, in the case of chai, I literally said, "All right. Well, what's in chai?" And, of course, it's a mix of difference spices. And one of the spices is cardamom, and cloves, clothes, and cinnamon, and ginger as well. Do we have a place where we can buy those spices? And we're based in Bethesda, Maryland. It turns out that Baltimore is one of the big spice-importing cities. So, we found a spice company. And sure enough, we managed to buy a bunch of each of those spices. And then, just started blending them in the kitchen until we found the recipe that we liked.

Seth Goldman: [00:24:47] So, what had seemed very intimidating was once just a matter of, first, you have to get over the big idea, and then to say, "Okay, let's start tackling the issue ingredient by ingredient." So, that happened a lot that things have seemed imposing, they can be. When you break them into smaller parts, you can figure out how to get it done.

Andy Molinsky: [00:25:12] And would it have been different alone, do you think, or I guess it's a hard thing to answer?

Seth Goldman: [00:25:17] Yeah, it would have been. It would have been. And, for me, and I encourage this among a lot of -- whenever I speak to an entrepreneur, this is hard work, and it's something that you --first of all, there's no need to -- why do it alone if you could do it with somebody else? I mean, you have to be on the same wavelength with that other person, but when you can have somebody else to bounce your ideas off of, it's just so much healthier, so much easier, and so much less -- I mean, I was always the chief executive of the company. Barry wasn't, but there was just less stress knowing that I had somebody to talk to about it.

Seth Goldman: [00:25:58] I mean, that's what happened at Beyond Meat. Ethan Brown there as the CEO, but I chair of the board, talk to him several times a week. And there's big decisions that he makes and that we're able to talk through together. And I know, he's still bears most of the burden on these decisions, but it's always easier to know you've got someone else you to talk through it.

Andy Molinsky: [00:26:22] Let me just ask you one last question. This has been really interesting. If we could sort of rewind, I don't know, however many years ago to your, sort of, 20-year-old college self, and you're in the musical, in the political organizations, and so on, and so forth, you've been through a lot, is there a piece of advice that you'd give to that, sort of, 20-year-old version of you?

Seth Goldman: [00:26:44] It's funny. This is probably not the advice you'd expect. It wasn't like I'll do more studying. What I didn't do enough is I, actually, probably didn't have as much fun. I mean, I enjoyed. For me, it was fun to do the things, but I wasn't -- I had fun with the people I was with. And then, I guess, I was just very -- I, sort of, have mixed feelings about this advice but just enjoy.

Seth Goldman: [00:27:15] I guess I'm correcting myself because I'm going to say I could have gone to more parties and stuff, but I had fun. It was just, I guess, know what you enjoy. So, I didn't have the typical partying experience in college, but that was fine. I was happy with what I was doing. So, I guess, rather than give my advice to party more, just sort of figure out what makes you happy and don't be afraid to pursue that.

Andy Molinsky: [00:27:45] Yeah, it's great. A lot of people, when I ask them, I kind of like this question, and a lot of people say relax.

Seth Goldman: [00:27:52] Yeah. Yeah, probably try to relax a little bit.

Andy Molinsky: [00:27:57] All right. Thank you so much. This has been great.

Seth Goldman: [00:27:59] Sure.

Andy Molinsky: [00:28:00] So, if listeners are interested in learning more about you, or Beyond Meat, or Honest Tea, where can they go?

Seth Goldman: [00:28:06] Sure.  Well, I have my own Twitter handle, which is @HonestSeth. And then, Honest Tea's website is, and Beyond Meat is Lots to see there.

Andy Molinsky: [00:28:17] All right. Easy enough. Thank you so much again.

Seth Goldman: [00:28:22] Okay. Thanks, Andy.

Andy Molinsky: [00:28:22] Thank you for listening to From the Dorm Room to the Board Room. If you're interested in learning more about the work that I do in helping people step outside their comfort zones and transition successfully into the professional world, please visit my website. That's A-N-D-Y-M-O-L-I-N-S-K-Y dot com. And, also, feel free to email me directly at with any feedback or ideas for guests for future podcasts.

Andy Molinsky: [00:28:56] This podcast is brought to you by Brandeis University's International Business School. By teaching rigorous business, finance, and economics, connecting students to best practices, and immersing them in international experiences, Brandeis International Business School prepares exceptional individuals from around the globe to become principled professionals in companies and public institutions worldwide. Thank you so much for listening.