Obvious Wines: A Deal Worth Drinking To
Bryce Billie, an entrepreneur originating from Champagne, France, marched into the tank looking for an investment in his company Obvious Wines, based in Southern California. With a display of red and white wines and a mime by his side, Billie explained how his company simplifies the over-sophistication of exploring, discussing and purchasing wines. Explaining his reason for starting the company, he said,
“I started to be really enthusiast[ic] about American wines and California wines, but I was lost. And then I realized that most people around me, they were not only lost, but also very intimidated.”
Billie wants to make wine easier for everyone to understand and he wants to make the culture of wine more accessible to newcomers. He and his company Obvious Wines have found a solution for the cloud of complication hovering over emerging wine enthusiasts. They sell a collection of bottled wines made by vineyards from all over the world, but their signature twist is how they label their wine.
In tandem with their label’s sleek, new-age appearance, their “snob-free” wine includes educational and straightforward information on each bottle. The front side includes the year and location of where the wine was made as well as a few hashtags, commenting on signature tastes and flavors to that type. The back side of the product’s packaging includes additional information on how the wine was made, which foods it pairs best with and a rating system with various taste metrics.
The entrepreneur quit his previous job in Finance with French personal care company L'Oréal after receiving distribution licenses for Obvious Wines. Billie made a full time commitment to his business and was able to get his product in to over one hundred locations, generating $100k of wholesale revenue. Therefore, Billie had an innovative idea, proven distribution, impressive sales and was fully dedicated to Obvious Wines; the Sharks were bound to bite. He was seeking a $150k investment in exchange for a 5% equity stake.
The Sharks were enjoying themselves as they sampled Billie’s wine, joking around and raising their glasses for a few “Chevaliers du Tastevin” chants. However, conversation regarding the business heated up fairly quickly after Robert asked, “How do you make it bigger?”
Billie responded with their strategy to build a “success story” in order to entice big box retailers to carry their product. Daymond wasn’t convinced, he went out because of the immense difficulty of building a brand. The Shark thought it would take too much time and energy to get a return. Things started to look worse for the entrepreneur when Mark went out, saying,
“I have a rule. I do not invest in any “Shark Tank” companies that bring out a mime.”
Mark’s odd hatred for mimes surely threw Billie for a loop, asking “You don’t like the mimes?” as the mime expressed his sadness through bodily motions.
“Nobody likes mimes except the mimes,” Mark responded and Robert agreed, jokingly saying the mime scared him.
I wouldn’t want to be that mime if Billie didn’t end up with a deal, but luckily Lori thought her consumer base of women would be drawn to the brand’s look and simplicity. She made an offer that was a bit steeper on equity than Billie was asking, offering $150k for 12.5%. The entrepreneur’s face was struck with mixed emotions as sipped his glass at his only offer. Billie went into negotiation mode, claiming he had already raised money at higher evaluations with past investors. Lori then emphasized her value and said, “Listen. If Kevin can sell wine on QVC, so can I.”
She also thought the product would thrive in retail due to its branding and high-quality wine. She wanted to open those retailers’ doors for Obvious Wines. Billie teetered dangerously as he countered with 7.5%. Luckily, Lori was patient with him but remained stern on needing a higher equity stake. Consequently, Billie took a risk and asked for $20k on top of Lori’s original offer for 12.5% at $150k, making it 12.5% for $170k and fixing his previous evaluation concern. Lori countered with $160k for 12.5% and Billie was forced to take the deal.
Billie almost landed on the shore without a deal because of his inflexibility as a negotiator and his choice to bring out a mime for his pitch. Nonetheless, he stuck it out by the skin of his teeth and landed a solid investment in Obvious Wines. For future contestants, if you are seeking a deal with Mark, remember he doesn’t like mimes.