Whitney and Chaz Gates, the owners of the black-owned wine label Wondry, appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” recently to explain their Texas venture.
They had previously participated on the show in 2022, where they were successful in attracting Mark Cuban as an investor. Less than a year later, their annual sales had more than quadrupled. Wondry earned $1.1 million in revenue during the preceding 11 months, according to the entrepreneurs, according to CNBC Make It.
When the duo came on Shark Tank in 2022, they told the judges that the company had only made $250,000 in 11 months of lifetime sales, with a profit of roughly $60,000. Their pitch persuaded Cuban, who volunteered to invest $225,000 in exchange for 15% stake in their new winery.
And, thanks to Cuban, their yearly sales more than quadrupled in less than a year. “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 two had a plan. They sought exposure even if none of the investors were betting on them. The alternative strategy involved an investment in infrastructure as well as a networking connection.
They went on Shark Tank because they intended to transition from manual to automated jobs. Whitney and Chaz Gates’ facility required more manual effort than they desired. They claimed to be looking for funds to purchase an automated bottling line.
Aside from his financing, Cuban introduced the co-founders to national alcohol distributor Southern Glazer’s. Wondry was able to secure shelf space in restaurants, supermarkets, and airports around the country as a result, according to Chaz.
According to Chaz, they have grown from a 1,400-square-foot building to a 10,000-square-foot facility. Furthermore, their items are now available in over 400 stores nationally, up from 50 retailers during last year’s “Shark Tank” episode.
The pair spent $100,000 of their own money, largely from their savings, to create Wondry in August 2021. With the release of their wine, the couple joins the less than 2% of Black Americans who own a winery.
The fact that the duo is black affected Cuban’s choice to invest in their venture.
“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.”