Gary Vaynerchuk is a Belarusian American serial entrepreneur, author and a social media master who came to the limelight after launching a very successful wine e-commerce business, Winelibrary.com.
He is the CEO of VaynerX, a modern-day parent communication company to VaynerMedia, Tracer, and Gallery media group.
Though named the king of social media, Gary Vaynerchuk’s entrepreneurial gift kicked in way before he had contact with the internet. Upon understanding its power, he ventured full force into it crafting his message to empower and entertain his intended clients while everyone else entered the arena shouting to seek attention. That made him unique and likable.
With over 20 years’ experience in using the internet to his grow businesses, Vaynerchuk continues to strike gold with every acquisition and new initiates. He is a venture capitalist who isn’t shy to invest in startups. He is also an early investor in some now- established brands like Facebook, Uber, Twitter, and Venmo.
He prides himself in being a marathon kind of person; not one seeking quick Return On Investment. Instead, he builds his wealth through creating good relationships before investing or trying to do business with people. He says, “Saying hello doesn’t have an ROI, it’s about building relationships.”
Alongside writing best seller books, Gary has a derisive style of public speaking that leaves his audience motivated, thought-provoked and sometimes irritated.
At first he pluck flowers from people yard and then knock their door and sell them back. Learning the value of hard work from his parents from a tender age, Vaynerchuk operated lemonade stand franchise from 8 different locations and sold baseball cards making up to $3,000 every weekend. Though the poor in class, his mother noticed the entrepreneurial gift in him and appreciated it.
By the time he turned 14, his father had taught him to be a man of his word instead of selling products without trust. He made Vaynerchuk drop all his lucrative ventures to work at the family’s Shoppers Discount Liquors store for $2 per hour.
By the time he turned 15, Vaynerchuk’s life was all about wines. He gathered information about wines from clients’ conversations and magazines like Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
On graduating from North Hunterdon High School, New Jersey, Vaynerchuk joined Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts to pursue Bachelor of Arts in 1994. As a freshman, he discovered the internet and saw the value it could add to the family’s liquor store.
He also found out that while he was collecting baseball cards, other people collected wines. While his initial desire was to build 4000 wine shops, with the internet, Vaynerchuk realized he didn’t have to; e-commerce would do the magic.
Going home every weekend to work at the store, he persuaded his father to let him build a website for the business. His father supported the idea and gave him the money to set it up, in 1996 winelibrary.com was born.
By 1997, Vaynerchuk engaged himself more on internet usage. He sold baseball cards, collectible toys and Star Wars figures on eBay and AOL, increasing his online retailing shrewdness.
By the time he graduated from college in 1998, he had wells of wisdom on e-commerce and was ready to take up day-to-day management of the business, he did.
First, Vaynerchuk changed its name to Wine Library, making it his mission to increase sales online via email marketing, Google AdWords, e-commerce and banner advertising. Since his competitors weren’t keen on such opportunities, within five years, his sales shot from $3 million to $60 million.
In February 2006, Vaynerchuk adopted the 4-months old YouTube to launch the first of 1000 episodes of Wine Library TV.
Each episode lasted about 20 minutes where he sampled, reviewed and discussed various wines in intimate details. But with his experience in social media, he expanded the episodes beyond wine to content creation, digital marketing, personal and brand promotion.
This opened doors for interviews with local news outlets, major shows like Conan O’Brien, Larry King, and Ellen DeGeneres. He also hosted wine experts, mainstream celebrities like Wall Street guru Jim Cramer and sports personalities like hockey star Wayne Gretzky.
His YouTube and Twitter following grew with every show, increasing his wine sales online by the day. For Vaynerchuk, his love for wine, people and making honest deals did the hustle for him. He stood by his belief, “Love the process.”
Life Beyond Wine
Early adoption of vlogs catapulted Vaynerchuk into the limelight earning him the title, ‘The Internet Wine Guy.’
It also linked him to famed CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, Twitter’s Evan Williams and Digg’s Kevin Rose.
He ventured in public speaking, taking up the stage for the first time to deliver a keynote speech at the Web 2.0 Expo New York in 2008. He spoke about building the personal brand within social media, an area he excelled in while others failed. With evidence from Wine Library’s growth, he became a sought-after speaker.
In 2009, Vaynerchuk and his brother AJ founded a social media brand consulting agency, VaynerMedia.
He won the hearts of clients like New York Jets, General Electric, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Pepsi-Co. Vaynerchuk helped them tell their stories on social media to get the attention of clients they desired. This inspired his book, ‘Crush It!’
After 5 years of running the Wine Library TV, Vaynerchuk did the 1000th episode bidding the ‘Vayniacs’ goodbye. That marked beginning of Daily Grape, a video podcast on wines that ran until August, 2011 when he stopped running the Wine Library to focus on VaynerMedia.
In 2014, Vaynerchuk launched another YouTube show, #AskGaryVee Show, where he answered questions posted by his Twitter and Instagram followers without prior rehearsal.
The questions were based on entrepreneurship, relationships, marketing, New York Jets and everything else his followers wanted to know about. He responded to each one of their questions believing, “The best marketing strategy ever: care.”
Growing By Relationships
Vaynerchuk partnered with RSE Ventures’ Matt Higgins and Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross to create Vayner RSE, a $25 million investment fund focusing on financing, incubation and consumer technology. Companies that benefited from the fund include Medium, Epic magazine, and Coinbase.
He also partnered with social TV entrepreneurs Jesse Redniss and David Beck to form BraVe Ventures, TV networks, and mobile technology start-ups incubating company.
Turner Broadcasting System was among the companies that scored early advice from BraVe.
In 2016, Vaynerchuk invested in Symmetry Sports to form VaynerSports, a full-service athlete representation agency aimed at helping players leverage on social media and post-career options.
While still investing in various industries, Vaynerchuk’s savviness in Social Media strategies saw VaynerMedia grow to 600 employees and $100 million in gross revenue in 2016.
That encouraged partnership with Vimeo, a video sharing website to connect brands with Vimeo’s top filmmakers for digital content creation. Vimeo’s desired to work with Vaynerchuk citing; he has “some of the best understanding in the world of how content behaves on social channels and emerging formats.”
Placed under The Gallery, Vaynermedia’s sister company, Vaynerchuk acquired PureWow, a women’s lifestyle publisher featuring lifestyle topics for millennials and Generation X in January 2017. He boosted its competence, growing its massive audience through social media and video production resources. His belief, “Pay attention to what people care about, and reverse engineer it.”
A good part of Vaynerchuk’s career is his authorship. While running Wine Library TV, he wrote his first book, ‘Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight and Bring Thunder to Your World.”
In the book, Vaynerchuk, ‘The wine guy for the average Joe’ reveals great wines while encouraging his readers to read it with a go-drink-wine attitude.
Rodale published the book in May 2008, and it scooped the No.1 seller on Amazon’s food and reference lists by mid-June.
Vaynerchuk also signed a 10-book deal approximated at $1 million, with HarperStudio, the forward-thinking imprint at HarperCollins to write books for them. 4 out of the 5 books he released by mid-2018 aced the New York Times Bestseller.
In 2009, Vaynerchuk released the first of the 10 books, ‘Crush It! Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion’, a book showing readers how to convert what they love into a business. The book also became Amazon Bestseller on Web Marketing books.
With ‘The Thank You Economy’, Vaynerchuk addressed the level ground provided by the internet in enabling customers to voice their opinions on various brands through social media. He released the book in March 2011.
November 2013 saw the release of ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.’ After getting his audience hooked on social media in his last book, Vaynerchuk prepared this book to help them order their content on social media. They had to learn to “Give valuable information before asking the customers to buy from them.”
In ‘#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness,’
Vaynerchuk gathered the questions and answers from his popular YouTube show, #AskGaryVee and converted it into a book.
It was released in March 2016.
While the four books got a fair price of above $10 per paperback copy and became bestsellers, ‘Getting It: Your Social Media Guide- Learn How To Build Your Brand’ attracted $8.99 only. The book was published in March 2018 and from the first day, it didn’t perform well.
Though his donations are not mentioned in public, Vaynerchuk sits in the board of Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization that reshapes education’s landscape to allow children to enjoy quality education. As of early August 2018, the organization had built 477 schools, giving quality education to over 90,000 children in Nicaragua, Laos, Guatemala, and Ghana.
Vaynerchuk is also a Well Member for Charity Water, a non-profit organization that aims to provide clean and safe drinking water in developing countries.
He helps both organizations provide quality content on social media to educate those who don’t know them and seek help from those who know them and want to help.
Gathering revenue from his books, speaking engagements, and businesses, Vaynerchuk’s net worth hit the $100 million mark in 2015 and since then has continued to soar.
Gaining rapid fame through self-promotion and tangible results, he loves his ‘immigrant hustle’ as he calls it. As of mid-2018, his net worth stood at $163 million and had no plan to stop rising.
Here his Top Rules:
Gennady ‘Gary’ Vaynerchuk was born on November 14, 1975, in Belarus, Russia to a Jewish couple, Tamara and Sasha Vaynerchuk. His family migrated to the USA when he was three when Soviet Jews were allowed to move to America in exchange for food aid.
With 8 other members of his extended family, they lived in a studio apartment in Queens. They later moved to Edison, New Jersey where his father, Sasha Vaynerchuk, worked for a relative at a liquor store.
His father rose from a clerk to become a manager at the liquor store enabling him to save enough to buy his own store in Springfield, Shopper’s Discount Liquors. This ushered Vaynerchuk into entrepreneurship, trying his hand in various businesses like selling flowers picked from the neighbor’s yard.
Though known to many as the man with over 15-hour work day, Vaynerchuk married to his longtime girlfriend, Lizzie Vaynerchuk on November 13, 2004. He refers to her in his shows as an independent person, most suitable for him and recognizes her influence for his successful growth. She is not involved in any of his businesses.
He is a father of two, a daughter, Misha Eva born in 2009 and a son, Xander Avi born in 2012. Vaynerchuk maintains a ‘Family 1st’ motto in his Twitter bio citing, “My great-great-great-grandchildren are watching this right now. And I want to make sure they’re proud of me.” He keeps his extended family close too.
Asked by his audience and social media followers what business is best to venture in, Vaynerchuk says, “Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, what do I want to do every day for the rest of my life? Do that.”