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The Making of a Wine Superstar
Gary Vaynerchuk has captured attention with his pioneering, multi-faceted approach to personal branding and business. After primarily utilizing traditional advertising techniques to build his family’s local wine business into a national industry leader, Gary rapidly leveraged social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to promote Wine Library TV, his video blog about wine. As his viewership swelled to over 80,000 a day, doors opened to a book deal, several national TV appearances, and a flurry of speaking engagements around the world. Gary’s dual identity as both business guru and wine guy has made him the “Social Media Sommelier.”
Gary’s remarks on personal branding, social media, and business at FOWA, Strategic Profits, and South By Southwest occasioned praise from established web denizens including Kathy Sierra and earned the admiration of countless bloggers and aspiring entrepreneurs. Check out the Keynotes tab above for more video and check out Gary’s national TV appearances on the left!!
Gary’s landmark seven-figure book deal with Harper Studio was featured in The Wall Street Journal and he was recently profiled by The New York Times and Market Watch. Watch his interview with Business Week for Gary’s advice to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Question: Do you have a story of when you first fell in love with wine?
Gary Vaynerchuk: Yeah. You know what funny is that my Dad had a liquor store. We were Shopper’s Discount Liquors. That was the store I grew up in.
Wine was not at play in my household. My Dad drank Vodka and Cognac because he’s a good Russian boy. That’s what we do.
I first fell in love with wine when I realized people collected it. And so my reading began at 17, 16 because I wanted to know a lot about it because people collected it. That was my hook. I was a collector. The actual loving of wine started really happening at like 22, 23, when it started going from being a commodity to being, oh, man I really like this stuff. This is interesting. Look at these crazy flavors, like how the heck did that just taste like a racquet ball? Like, those kinds of things.
So, there was one specific Amarone that I had at a tasting when I was 22, when I could really taste the chocolate. So much so that I walked outside and called my Mom. Remember when cell phones were like this big, like that. I called my Mom and I was like, “Mom, it’s going to happen. I can taste these things. I can’t believe this, but I just tasted chocolate in this wine.” And that was probably when I was, like oh, this is really getting good. I was just enjoying it.
Question: Did dissatisfaction with your retail job lead you to Wine Library TV?
Gary Vaynerchuk: I think, I turned 30 on November 14, 2005 and there is a one percent of unhappiness. Like, okay. I want to buy the New York Jets and so that's going to cost a couple billion dollars. Am I going to really make a couple billion dollars selling just wine? And the realization was I could have big, big things happen. I launched Wine Library in 1997, but the laws in this country—people watching this video right now in Boston can't buy wine from me.
So I want to do something else and at the same token, as I was feeling this itch in November, I went to a tasting in December and realized people did not have wine self-esteem. They wanted to drink the same 'ole stuff, they wanted to be jerk-offs to each other because they felt they knew something because they read it in the latest Spectator.
I just felt the wine culture had a lot of opportunity to be much cooler and there is so many places around the world that I've traveled to where there isn't this uptight aspect to the wine industry. It's much more a part of culture and daily life and I felt like I was the kind of character, I knew my personality, and my DNA, and my hustle could create this platform that, not only would be successful then by virtue of that success, would create a different kind of culture.
It wasn't so much that I was dissatisfied as if it was just I wanted to change the game again. There was an amazing feeling for me when I launched WineLibrary.com in 1997. It was one of the first wine shops to do so—less than a handful—and it changed the game. It blew up my family business from a couple million dollars a year to a 50, 60 million dollar year business. I wanted to do that again. I want to be a pioneer. It's what I want to do.
So that's what I did with Wine Library TV.
Question: What mistakes did you make when you were starting Wine Library TV?
Gary Vaynerchuk: You know, if anything maybe I was little bit too aggressive. I just e-mailed everybody and was like, "Hey. Let's do this. Check out my show, what can I do for you." And the same token—I don't think of that as a mistake. I feel as though I was a little bit more raw. I think six months later I was a little more polished, but I wasn't more selective. Everyone was like, "Why don't you get selective? Don't hit up everybody. Hit up the top tier. You can't blanket e-mail everybody." When people talk about marketing, I think that's crazy.
I feel like Wine Library TV was itsy bitsy tiny in 2006 but if somebody hit me up they'd be really happy to have the relationship today.
So, what? Just hit up the top 500 Twitter people today? That's insanity, that is elitism. I pride myself in having a lot of hustle and that's what I did. If a top wine blogger was upset that I was hitting up everybody, that might have been a mistake in some people's eyes but not in mine.
So I am sure, a million mistakes. I built a big business around me, it's not the most scalable thing in a lot of people's opinions, but, to me, I understand kind of the vision that I see going forward and I try to stay away from mistakes. The mistakes I make are the opportunities I haven't taken, like big platform television and things like that.
I am sure there are mistakes in my no's, but there is very few—let's get really obnoxious—there is zero mistakes in my yes's because normally my threshold for a yes is first learning—not necessarily the results. I need to know this. I've thought about bc'ing companies just because I've never been bc'ed even though it's a stupid thing to do financially, for the learning process.
Question: Was there a big publicity moment that launched the show to the next level?
Gary Vaynerchuk: There was one big moment—that was the day I was on Conan O'Brien show, and Slate.com wrote a huge profile on the same day. This was in August 2007, so Twitter was still a baby and that whole community we all knew each other kinda sorta. So it became the only thing people talked about on Twitter—watch Gary on Conan—which was really cool. I was really starting to foray into the tech world, the Web 2.0 world, the social media world, whatever the heck you want to call it. It was one of the first people to kind of make it, right. Oh, my God. He's in his office talking about wine, he's not on the Conan O'Brien show. It went really well on top of that.
So it was a big moment. It was the first time wine was getting late night exposure. On multiple levels, it was an interesting and important moment, both in the wine business and in the tech space. I would say that is the one moment that really I can pinpoint. Other than that, I am not very big on analytics and metrics and paying attention to traffic and did we go 23% and this and that. I know what I am doing is right. There is no ounce of me that has any doubt and I work for myself, so there is no justifying it to the dinosaurs that sign my check. So it puts me in a very substantially good position in a lot ways, plus I've done it before.
I was making lots and lots of money; thousands of dollars a weekend selling baseball cards. I've built up a family business. In the first year, I ran it from three to ten million in sales. I know what I am doing. When it comes to making money and building brand, it's just something I was born with. I'm not going to pat myself on the back, this is just DNA.
Question: How did you capitalize on that exposure?
Gary Vaynerchuk: I'm a marathon runner. Capitalizing on something like that just doesn't work. I signed with CAA. I got more exposure. Nightline did a piece, Ellen did a piece. I got lots more Twitter followers. People cared more.
There's a lot of things that happened, but at the end of the day, what I think is important is that people have to understand it's a marathon. Building a business doesn't happen in six weeks. There are no shortcuts. Getting a Twitter account isn't a magic potion. People roll up on me, especially in 2008, "I got a Twitter account." I was like, "Great. What do you want? A cookie?" It's not going to change your business, but at the same token, the people that think this stuff is silly and it's not important are just trying to draw lines in the sand because they don't want to be a part of it. That's a huge mistake because unless you're retiring in the next six to 12 months you better understand what this is all about inside and out.
Question: What is your vision for your upcoming ten-book series?
Gary Vaynerchuk: My vision is that I sell so many copies of Crush It!, that Harper Collins gets off my back and I can wing these next nine for the rest of my career. Is that a good answer?
Question: Can we tell HarperCollins that?
Gary Vaynerchuk: Oh, you can tell them. They know exact – you know the funny part is this. What I loved about it was I signed with Harper Studios. It’s a totally different model. I got offered almost as much for one book as these guys gave me for ten, but the rev share on the back end was substantially more. So, they’ve changed the model quite a bit, and I’m betting on myself, right? So, obviously I want to participate and win on the back end. So, I am very hungry to see what I can do with this book and I’m going to work really hard at it and I’m very confident.
Recorded on: September 15, 2009.
Gary Vaynerchuk recalls how he first fell in love with wine, and explains how he turned his successful career as a wine retailer into an even more successful career as a video webcast host. He also clues Big Think in on his upcoming ten-book series.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".