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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Trinity Mouzon Wofford on Creating the Wellness Brand Golde

a graphic that says name trinity mouzon wofford date january 19 2022 office hours with a headshot of trinity in black and white

Issey Kobori

In ELLE.com’s monthly series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we spoke with Trinity Mouzon Wofford, the co-founder of the Instagram-favorite wellness brand Golde. Mouzon Wofford started the business with her partner and high school sweetheart Issey Kobori in 2017 when she was just 23 years old. Since then, Golde’s range of beauty and wellness products—everything from superfood latte blends to exfoliating face masks—have landed on the shelves of Target, Madewell, and more. (In 2019, Mouzon Wofford became the youngest Black woman to launch her brand at Sephora.) Now, she’s passionate about sharing what she’s learned with the next class of founders. “When I started my business, I didn’t know anything,” Mouzon Wofford told ELLE.com. “I felt like it was important to talk about how this actually worked, because entrepreneurship right now is so sexy and exciting, but there’s not a lot of transparency into what goes into that.” The CEO shares some of her biggest takeaways from the past five years, including the worst career advice she’s ever received and the beauty of starting a company when no one’s watching.

a graphic that says from the desk of trinity mouzon wofford and then has questions and answers that read

go to email sign off

best career advice i've received 
know when you're lucky

worst career advice i've received 
just don't fuck it up

dream job i haven't done yet
some version of professional gardening or farming

Issey Kobori

My first job

It was at this frozen yogurt shop, the very first one that came to our town in upstate New York. I remember feeling like I had the coolest job. I just weighed people’s custom fro-yo, but it does feel in keeping with my future path that I started off in this fun, slightly wellness-y space. Any customer service job is so valuable, and I take a lot of those lessons with me, even in my work as a CEO, because so much of what you’re doing is just an extension of customer service.

How my mother influenced my career

My mom raised me as a single parent, and she deals with an autoimmune condition called rheumatoid arthritis. It’s always been pretty severe, and when I was a teenager, my mom started seeing this holistically-minded doctor who prescribed different alternative therapies to improve her symptoms, and she noticed a massive change. I decided I wanted to be a doctor too and help people through this lens of nutrition and total body wellness. I was pre-med in college, until I found out my mom had to stop seeing that doctor because she couldn’t afford it anymore. That was pivotal for me and forced me to consider what exactly I wanted to do in this wellness world and how accessibility came into it.

How Golde is disrupting the wellness industry

The idea first came up in 2016, when I was looking at my own experience as a consumer and feeling caught between the crunchy-granola stuff I’d grown up with and this new wave of wellness that felt so prestige and luxe. As a young person and as a woman of color, I didn’t see those offerings speaking to me in any way. From the very beginning, I was centered on taking this world of wellness and superfoods and making it a bit easier and more approachable and fun. I’m not here to say luxury products shouldn’t exist or they’re wrong, but it seemed crazy to me that something as essential as wellness—something every human being can benefit from—was speaking to such a small portion of the world.

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What I loved about the early days of Golde

I didn’t have much of a personal brand, so when we started the business, I think we showed up on Instagram and that was it. Today, brand launches are this big, splashy thing with advertisements everywhere. But what was really nice about the early days was that we could do whatever we wanted because no one was really watching. There’s something special about just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Oftentimes now, I speak to founders who are in their very early stages, and they have such pressure on them to achieve at the highest level within their first year. But to me, that first year is like your first year with a newborn baby; you’re just trying to learn and enjoy.

a graphic that says from the desk of trinity mouzon wofford and then has questions and answers that read

my mantra
it doesn't matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop

my wfh snack
right now, i am eating a lot of popcorn

my proudest career moment
seeing my product on a retail shelf for the very first time in 2017

my first salary
50,000 dollars as a marketing manager in 2015

Issey Kobori

How I’ve navigated being a public Black female founder

2020 was a rollercoaster in terms of being put on this pedestal of a successful Black founder. Everyone wants to tell your story, and that’s exciting; you can grow your business that way, and you’re getting new eyes that you couldn’t have imagined previously. But it also means your likeness is being leveraged to tell a story that someone else needs to tell, and it’s not always your narrative. Those are the things you can’t fix or do away with, but you can figure out your truth and not feel the pressure to keep evolving based on what the world wants you to be this week. One thing people get confused about with Golde is they say that because I am a Black woman, I make products exclusively for Black women. It’s this idea that it’s impossible that I could be creating things for a larger market than that. That’s a tricky one, because of course our products are for Black women, but they’re also for everybody else on the planet. It all can feel like this narrowing around you of, I need you in this box.

How I coped with feeling overexposed online

I came into the public eye, to some extent, through building Golde. At a certain point, I had that sense of feeling overexposed and like I wanted to retreat. I felt like people on the internet had the right to place judgment down when, of course, they didn’t really know me. In 2021, I really had to work on reassessing my sense of balance and how much of myself I’m going to share with the outside world vs. what I can do to continue to support the business. Finding the balance that feels right for you is critical. For me, it was taking a step back and not feeling the pressure to share every cool thing that happened and doing things without my phone, like going on walks and visiting family and reading a book. And therapy’s good. That helps.

What I see other entrepreneurs struggling with

We are so fixated on success, and we crave it, and we need more and more of it. The social media engine kind of fuels that, because you need another win to talk about. The biggest thing I see is impatience and a lack of kindness to the self and to the business. So much of the journey comes back to finding a way to give yourself the grace to enjoy the process vs. just trying to get it all over with, because it’s kind of unclear what’s at the other side anyway. Even if you were to sell your business, you would still have more life to live, and you would still need to have this sense of satisfaction in your daily life. I think it comes back to bringing more kindness into our daily practice.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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