Respect timing — There are no shortcuts to success. There will be moments in business where your decision making will be tested and this is where you have to practice patience and be calculated, rather than making snap decisions with the hope that success will be achieved quicker.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-Jean Pelletier.
Considered by his peers as a natural, inspirational, visionary leader and master networker, Jean-Jean Pelletier is a proud father and serial entrepreneur that has launched numerous startup companies.
Over the last few years, with all the ups and down of entrepreneurship, Mr. Pelletier has focused on ventures within the mobile e-commerce sector. Along with his younger brother Robert, a genius mind for design and corporate image, he co-founded STARSHOP, an online marketplace for celebrity products with Kevin Harrington, television shopping pioneer, inventor of the infomercial and original investor from the ABC television show “Shark Tank.” The trio partnered with Hollywood celebrities such as Paula Abdul, fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger and telecommunication mogul, Sprint Corporation.
His latest endeavor is the launch of GrapeStars, a game-changing online specialty wine and premium & craft spirits marketplace which allows celebrities and celebrity endorsed brands to promote their wines and spirits directly to their followers on social media. The GrapeStars app features more than 200 celebrities including Post Malone, The Rock, Jon Bon Jovi, George Clooney, Andrea Bocelli, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ryan Reynolds, Michael Jordan, Drake, John Legend, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sting, Conor McGregor, Mike Piazza, Guy Fieri, Christie Brinkley, JayZ, Maluma, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, Bruno Mars, David Beckham, Dwayne Wade, Terry Bradshaw and many more.
He played semi-professional hockey and tennis and pursued his education at the Montreal University and the prestigious HEC International business school in Montreal, Canada.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My passion and drive for business in general definitely comes from my wonderful father. As a young kid, my dad would finance start-ups and help companies go public. My two brothers, Michel and Robert, and I would sit at the table for dinner where our lovely mother would cook a delicious roast beef and we would host entrepreneurs that would pitch our dad their projects. It was basically Shark Tank at home every Sunday and I was personally hooked. Listening to these entrepreneurs’ passions and innovative ideas, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I remember staying after dinner with my dad to discuss those projects and I learned a lot about business from a very young age. It was a chance for me to bond with my family and learn something I was passionate about.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the hardest times I was faced with was during the dot-com bubble. Two years before the market collapsed, I had launched Chase Communication Network, an investment relations firm that assisted publicly listed companies in order to bring attention to the media and financial sectors. With many clients paying the company in cash and stocks, our firm was becoming very successful. Subsequently, the stock market was rising and many investors were eager to invest at any valuation in any dot-com companies. While our company was at its peak, all of the sudden the market collapsed, making this one of the hardest times in my career because it meant I had to start all over.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My late father, who was like Rocky Balboa in my eyes, always taught my brothers and I to have a macro-economy mentality — to “Think Big”. I’m not a quitter and with my upbringing, perseverance and confidence, success is the only option regardless of any struggle because there are no problems in life, only solutions.
On a fall morning, our older brother Michel, who studied at Harvard University and was the Vice President at Fidelity Investment, decided to reunite the family for a business meeting. He then shared his business idea where, through extensive research on the water crisis and evolving trends within the sector, we agreed to create a new holding in the booming water sector. The initiation of this new partnership with my brothers became great motivation and drive. After 15 years, we are still all involved in our water company and we are very proud of this decision we took during a moment of crisis. Knowing that water is more of a commodity than ever, owning spring water assets is the way to go.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
It’s a very exciting moment as an entrepreneur and I am so thankful for the success I am having today. With a lot of hard work, a great team of professionals and investors who trust the vision of GrapeStars, things are going exactly on the path I was expecting.
The education that I received and the failures that I’ve had are what has formed me today. I’m the type of person that doesn’t accept “NO” for an answer. Staying true to myself, respecting time and keeping total confidence in my end goal has allowed me to see many rewarding and successful moments in my career.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During my early university school years, I had the pleasure of seeing my father involved in the political scene in Canada. On a municipal election day, I was given a job by the running candidate which happened to be a very good friend of the family. Keeping in mind that nothing was electronic during those years, my role was to assist in collecting the voting polls. After a long day of collecting all the boxes containing the public votes, I placed the boxes in my car to then deliver them at the election headquarters. I decided to do a quick stop at my house to take a shower on my way to the election headquarters. Little did I know that the police would come knocking on my door asking my parents where I was. This was a live, national, political event on TV and everything was on hold because of me. Long story short, I was escorted by the police to deliver the voting polls. Thankfully, no charges were pressed and my father’s friend was elected mayor of our city. The lesson I learned from this was to always stay on task and be responsible, especially when others are counting on you.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
GrapeStars truly has everything to succeed. Our company is a game-changing app, where celebrities can promote their wine and spirits brands directly to fans compliantly via social media through the first-ever, virtual direct-to-consumer sales channel in 45 states. Until today, consumers have struggled to find any of these 200+ celebrity brands at retailers. Now through the launch of GrapeStars, fans can get a personalized experience with their favorite celebrities’ wine and spirit ventures, shipped directly to their doorstep. With the wine and spirit industry seeing an insane boom of 30.7% increase on average in sales since the quarantine began, the timing could not be better.
After seeing George Clooney selling Casamigos tequila for $1B in 2018, and the recent sale of Aviation Gin for $610M to Diageo by the actor Ryan Reynold, I realized just how much opportunity there is for GrapeStars within the celebrity wine and spirit industry. This has allowed us to connect directly with many stars and their teams, such as football legend Terry Bradshaw and his new Bourbon, New York Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and his new Vodka, Snoop Dogg and his new Gin, the heavy metal band Metallica and their Whiskey, among many other celebrities.
It’s such a pleasure to discuss promotions and establish contacts with celebrity winemakers who really help to elevate the work we do and the partnerships we pursue. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Marco Fantinel, for example, who’s leading the internationally prestigious Italian family winery, Group Vinicolo Fantinel, and is behind the success of Mary J. Blige’s Sun Goddess Wine. We’re also excited to partner with Jean-Charles Boisset, one of the most respected leaders in the wine industry, who created John Legend’s LVE wine, is a French vintner and the proprietor of the Boisset Collection. Under Boisset’s leadership, the Boisset Collection operates 28 wineries in California, France and Canada, and we look forward to seeing how the partnership elevates all brands involved.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
Every successful company has a strong team. Great things are rarely achieved by just one person. Usually, they are accomplished by a group of people who are all committed to the overall goal. Teams move faster together, are more innovative and more successful. As an entrepreneur, you have the vision, but to truly be successful, you need to surround yourself with even greater and smarter people. I love this quote from Steve Jobs, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
I have partnered with great individuals who strategically have helped GrapeStars to be where it is right now. We all motivate and push each other, but also have no problem keeping each other in check when needed. We don’t let each other slack off, no matter what the times and challenges are.
Lastly, family has always been the most important thing to me, so I always surround myself with my close friends and brothers in all of my projects.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are many people that have helped me and mentored me along the way, and I’m very thankful for their roles in my career. Beginning with my parents, I’m grateful for their love, devotion and education given to me; Support from my brothers Robert and Michel as highly skills as businessmen; And my childhood friends, Charles-André “Chuck” Sauvé and Stephan Fortier for always guiding me through the ups and downs of life.
After both Chuck and I graduated from the Montreal University, I convinced Chuck, who had just begun work as an attorney, to represent my brother Robert and I in the acquisition of our first company as entrepreneurs. We all flew to Paris, France. We had zero money to pay his legal cabinet and his new boss had told him that he couldn’t represent us if we didn’t pay him upfront. Chuck still got on that plane to Paris and against all odds, without a dollar in our pockets, we managed to succeed in the negotiations and signing of the Letter of Intent. Following the meeting, we celebrated our first deal as friends and partners on the Champs-Élysées.
Shortly after, we managed to raise $3.5M and we were able to complete the acquisition. Chuck has been a true friend and believer of my business endeavors and integral in my journey to success.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Recently, our team and I decided to move forward in order to give back. Our mobile app programmers are now creating the “Cheers for Charity” feature. With each purchase made on GrapeStars, users will be offered the option to donate to a charity. Once you’re going to purchase your favorite celebrity’s wine or spirit on the app, you’ll see the option to donate to a charity or organization associated with the spotlighted celebrity. We can all agree that drinking is an enjoyable social experience, but also presents an opportunity to give back. We believe that through this app feature, we can all together join forces in order to make a difference.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Respect timing — There are no shortcuts to success. There will be moments in business where your decision making will be tested and this is where you have to practice patience and be calculated, rather than making snap decisions with the hope that success will be achieved quicker.
2. Be confident — Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.
3. Don’t take “no” for an answer — Keep working toward your goal. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but you have to continue moving in the direction you believe in. Others opinions will not always be positive and encouraging, but don’t let this be a reason to stop you from pursuing your vision.
4. Money is not the end goal — Choose the path and vision that you’re passionate about and that you truly feel could stand out. “The most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart.” (Howard Schultz)
5. Be innovative — There are no bad ideas. Think outside the box, be a game changer.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am a proud father of my 10-year-old son, Jean-Jean Jr., and have a passion for supporting children in need. While there’s still more work to be done, there are a couple of big initiatives I’m proud to be involved with to bring some more good to the next generation.
I’ve been a big supporter of the Breakfast Club of Canada, a Canadian charity that promotes and assists the establishment and maintenance of school breakfast programs in Canada. The Breakfast Club provides more than 40 million breakfasts every year to more than 250,000 students in over 1,700 schools across Canada.
Shareef Malnik, who joined the GrapeStars advisory board earlier this year, introduced me to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, where he is the Chairman Emeritus. Through GrapeStars, I hope to leverage all of the powerful connections we’ve made with celebrities and their many respective teams to support the organization to help children with critical illnesses fulfill their wishes as it relates to the entertainment industry.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
· Instagram — @jeanjeanpelletier
· Instagram — @grapestars.official
· Facebook — @jeanjeanpelletier
· Website — www.jeanjeanpelletier.com
· Website — www.grapestars.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!