Couple Whitney and Chaz Gates, who are the founders of the black-owned wine label Wondry, recently appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to discuss their Texas business.
They had previously appeared on the show in 2022 where they managed to win Mark Cuban as an investor. Less than one year later, they saw their annual sales more than quadruple. According to the entrepreneurs, Wondry brought in $1.1 million in revenue over the previous 11 months, according to CNBC Make It.
When the duo appeared on Shark Tank in 2022, they told the judges that the company had made only $250,000 in 11 months of lifetime sales, including about $60,000 in profit. Their pitch convinced Cuban, who offered to invest $225,000 for 15% equity in their start-up wine company.
And less than a year later, they saw their annual sales more than quadruple thanks to Cuban. “Before ‘Shark Tank,’ we were just a local Texas business,” said Whitney, Wondry’s CEO. “But after, we became a nationally recognized brand overnight.”
How did Cuban’s $225,000 turn into $1.1 million? The duo had a formula. They wanted exposure even if they did not get any of the investors betting on them. The other formula included an infrastructure investment and a networking connection.
They went on Shark Tank because they wanted to shift from manual work to automation. Whitney and Chaz Gates were performing more manual labor than they preferred in their facility. They wanted money to buy an automated bottling line, they said.
Aside from Cuban’s investment, the Shark Tank investor also connected the co-founders to national alcohol distributor Southern Glazer’s. According to Chaz, that helped Wondry land shelf space in restaurants, retailers, and airlines across the country.
From a 1,400-square-foot facility, they now operate from a 10,000-square-foot space, said Chaz. What is more, their products appear in more than 400 stores nationwide, up from 50 retailers at the time of last year’s “Shark Tank” episode.
To launch Wondry in August 2021, the couple spent $100,000 of their own money, mostly from their savings. The launch of their wine adds the duo to the less than two percent of Blacks in America who own a winery.
For Cuban, the duo being black influenced his decision to invest in their company.
“When you’re a Black winemaker, you’re a rarity,” said Cuban. “And as a rarity, their community looks up to them. And you compound that with them being successful and growing so quickly, they’re going to be encouraging entrepreneurs across the country.”