Gary Vaynerchuk: Cover boy for the American Dream


We take a closer look at Gary Vaynerchuk, a highly successful entrepreneur, whose website states simply: “Gary builds businesses”.

Gary Vaynerchuk was born in Babruysk, Belarus, in the former USSR. Vaynerchuk’s first big break in life came when his parents found their way to America as part of an exchange programme where Soviet Jews were allowed to immigrate to the US in exchange for food aid. While the entire extended family shared a studio apartment in Queens, Gary’s father, Sasha, began working at a relative’s liquor store in New Jersey.

Young Vaynerchuk settled quickly into life in capitalist America – he hit the streets running. His first entrepreneurial success consisted of ripping flowers out of his neighbours’ yards and then selling them back to them. Soon he had upgraded to operating an entire lemonade stand franchise, managing multiple locations and commuting on a tricycle to collect his profits.

In his early teens, Gary moved up another gear, cornering the local market for baseball cards, often making thousands in a weekend with his keen eye for deals and his razor-sharp sales tactics. All of this came to a dramatic halt when, at the age of 14, his father dragged him into the family business. In the blink of an eye, he went from making thousands of dollars in a weekend to making $2 an hour bagging ice in the basement of Shoppers Discount Liquors, which his father had taken full ownership of by that point.

However, that is all clearly water under the bridge. “If you’re an entrepreneur and go into the family business, you want to grow fast. Patience is important. But respect the other party… My dad and I pulled it off because we really respect each other. The reason we love our parents is because they loved us first. Every single company should take this advice.”

As soon as Gary realized that people could collect wine in the same way that he collected baseball cards, everything changed. He would sneak copies of Wine Spectator into class to read up on the latest Bordeaux vintages and display his knowledge on the shop floor.