Golde’s co-founder and CEO Trinity Mouzon Wofford’s entrepreneurial path has always been about calling shots on her own terms. Whether it be daringly reaching out to fellow entrepreneurs or standing firm in letting her brand grow naturally, she always goes with her gut.
While her initial decision to not take venture capital wasn’t one that she describes as being backed by consciousness, it’s a move that demonstrates how trusting the process can be just as effective. As a young Black female CEO a part of a group that isn’t typically embraced by investors, the way her business unfolded ultimately worked in her favor. Not having to focus on the ins and out of the investing world allowed her to flip the narrative on its head of the effects of someone of her background being shut out of the space.
It’s following the beat of her own drum that has landed Golde in the stores of big-name retailers such as Sephora and Target.
Wofford’s path is an inspiration for those who come behind her to prove how there isn’t only one way to become a successful CEO. After learning the ropes to building her business — starting from 23-years-old when it all started — she’s now leading the way for young future founders.
“I think that one of the biggest rewards of building out my business has been having the opportunity now to pass that knowledge back and get on the phone with aspiring entrepreneurs or folks who are just kind of getting started in their journey and walking them through what I know,” Wofford told AfroTech.
The AFROTECH™ Future 50 honoree spoke with us about building Golde from the ground up, the misconceptions of being an entrepreneur, and lessons learned from navigating in her own lane.
Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
AfroTech: We're honoring you in our 'Innovative Startups' category. Who are a few Black innovators that inspired you growing up to run your own brand?
Trinity Mouzon Wofford: I was really fortunate to grow up watching my own family and seeing what they were able to accomplish on the entrepreneurial side of things. I think the best example is probably my grandfather who was born in Yonkers and worked his way up to being a really popular disk jockey in the music industry. And was actually the one who coined the nickname “Godfather of Soul” for James Brown and was an announcer at the Apollo. He came from very little and just kind of hustled his way to it. I obviously didn’t end up choosing a career in the music industry, but I think seeing what you could do with just nothing, but optimism and tenacity — that’s something I was very fortunate to have access to at a young age.
I would say more recently once I started [Golde] and was seeking out mentorship, there were so many incredible entrepreneurs of color that rooted me along, got on calls with me, and walked me through different big decisions. One person that definitely stands out would be Tristan Walker from Bevel. I like cold Instagram DMed him four or five years ago. The business was just getting off the ground and he took my call and we kind of kept in touch over the past few years. He’s just been so phenomenal about keeping it very, real and just trying to be helpful where he can.
AT: What has been the most rewarding part so far for you in your journey of carving your own lane in the tech industry?
Wofford: I think that one of the biggest rewards of building out my business has been having the opportunity now to pass that knowledge back and get on the phone with aspiring entrepreneurs or folks who are just kind of getting started in their journey and walking them through what I know. And it’s funny because so often you go through this process and most of the time you feel like you don’t know anything and then you get on the phone with someone who can really benefit from what you have to share. I think it’s a really special part of this process that I certainly didn’t have in mind when I started my business, but it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts.
AT: Your brand focuses on wellness. How has your definition of the word 'wellness' evolved for you from when you first launched to now?
Wofford: If anything, I’ve become more grounded and steady in my definition of wellness, which is that it’s really just about what you do to feel like your best self. It can be calling up a friend. It can certainly be your favorite superfood product from Golde. It can be anything that gives you that sense of space and comfort. I think that’s an important differentiation from the way that wellness can often feel like this overwhelming world of complicated rituals, expensive supplements, or impossible workout routines. I think it’s just finding what feels good for you [and] leaning into that.
AT: One of the things that stands out about your journey is how you initially chose to not have investors for your company. How would you say that initial decision has shaped who you are today as a young Black female CEO?
Wofford: What’s interesting is that it almost wasn’t a decision initially. When I started my business, I didn’t really know the first thing about investors or raising money. So, it wasn’t this kind of conscious move that we made of like, we’re gonna bootstrap it. We just didn’t know that there were other things out there. [Issey Kobori] and I started the business the way that we knew how which was a couple of thousands of dollars in savings and just a lot of grit. In the end, I feel so fortunate that at that time we didn’t even have exposure to the concept of raising money for a business because it really allowed us to treasure those first few years where we were much more focused on building the brand and understanding the product and our customer rather than being fixated on trying to create exponential growth.
The beautiful thing is that exponential growth came to us very organically just as we continued to build that — and far before we had raised anything close to a million dollars in investor capital. I think that it absolutely had a significant influence. Also, for myself as a young black female CEO, I think that it was kind of nice to keep the blinders on and stay out of the fundraising conversation in the early days because as we know there are massive disparities in where funding goes when it comes to race and gender. Just choosing to stay out of that lane for a while and focus on my brand just gave me one less thing to kind of have on my plate. All I had to worry about was building the business the way I wanted to build it. Not trying to validate my existence or the business’ existence to outside investors.
AT: What's a misconception about entrepreneurship that you wish more entrepreneurs would help to dispel?
Wofford: I think there’s a myth of instant overnight success. And I see that perpetuated often in the conversations that I have with early-stage founders who launch and within a few months they’re feeling really frustrated because they haven’t received the type of traction that they were expecting. That they haven’t had that like viral blow up. They often come to me like, ‘Hey, what do I have to do? How do I unlock this?’ I tell ’em, well, I don’t know, because I didn’t have that either. I think that when you’re building a business, there are always exceptions to the rule, but you should be prepared emotionally and financially to have to work at it for a while before it starts getting off.
AT: What is a lesson you've learned that you would time travel and share with 23-year-old Trinity?
Wofford: The biggest thing that I would just remind myself of is that you just need to keep going. And, that sounds like a very simple piece of ‘Oh yes, of course, keep going.’ But that’s the key. That’s the unlock. I found myself and I see other people analyze things so much like, ‘Is this working? Is it not working? Should I keep doing this?’ Just stop thinking so much about all of that stuff and just keep going. Not every day is gonna be a win, but you will get to the next day that will. And those things do come back around.
AT: Are there any details you're able to share about what's coming up next for you and Golde?
Wofford: Overall, our focus is continuing to take what we’ve done and grow it on a national scale. I think we’ve got this incredible brand and this incredible assortment of products. Now, our focus is really bringing it to everybody. We do have some new products launching this year.