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Neil Patel

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Jake Kloberdanz has built a business with a purpose, and it is touching thousands of lives all over the country. His startup, ONEHOPE has millions of dollars in financing from top-tier investors like Wesley Chain, PLG Ventures, Matt Cheng, and West River Group.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Disastrous product labeling fails
  • Partnering with the Mondavi family
  • Brand partnerships
  • Jake’s top advice for other entrepreneurs starting out in business

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    About Jake Kloberdanz:

    Jake Kloberdanz founded ONEHOPE in 2007 where he has served as CEO for 13 years. ONEHOPE empowers people to share wine and give hope by powering over 3,000 in-home and virtual wine tasting experiences monthly.

    Since launching ONEHOPE in 2007, Jake has successfully raised more than $100 million to help grow the brand from zero to over 1.5 million bottles a year, and build a flagship vineyard, home and winery from the ground up in the heart of Napa. Their wines have received numerous 95+ point ratings and 100+ medals in wine competitions. Under Jake’s leadership, ONEHOPE has grown to one of the 250 largest wineries of 10,000+ in the US and has received recognition in Inc. magazine’s “500|5000” the last six years for being amongst the fastest-growing private companies nationwide thanks to their innovative DTC model powered by thousands of independent consultants (Cause Entrepreneurs) who have put on 30,000+ wine tasting events in the last year, all raising money for over 10,000 non-profits. Sales of their wine and gifts have empowered the ONEHOPE Foundation to donate over $6M to many deserving nonprofit partners.

    Other professional accomplishments and commitments include:

    • Founding Fumé, a vertically integrated cannabis company with ultra-premium and luxury brands.
    • Serving as an advisor to 8VC, one of the most successful Technology VC’s in the world with over $3 billion under management.
    • Serving on the board of Rebuild North Bay, a foundation that’s already helped raise over 1 Billion Dollars for the long-term rebuilding of the North Bay following the recent wildfires

    Jake has been recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek’s, “Top 25 under 25”, Wine Enthusiast’s, “Top 40 Under 40”, and by Ernst & Young as a nominee for “Entrepreneur of the Year” on multiple occasions. He’s spoken at events and universities including TEDx, The UN Global Summit, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, UCLA and MIT, and his work has been profiled in magazines including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.; and on shows such as CNBC, FOX and ABC sharing his expertise in building consumer brands, communities and his new model, known as Cause-Centric Commerce, the integration of social impact into everyday commerce and culture.

    A graduate of Haas School of Business, Jake was a four-year Scholar-Athlete at Berkeley playing football and rugby, where he won numerous national championships.

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    Connect with Jake Kloberdanz:

    Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

    Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we a really interesting guest. Definitely, we’re going to be learning a thing or two about wines and then also about the incredible journey that he has embarked on. So without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today. Jake Kloberdanz, welcome to the show.

    Jake Kloberdanz: Thanks, Alejandro. I appreciate it. It’s great to be here on DealMakers.

    Alejandro: Let’s talk about your upbringing and a little bit of a walk through memory lane. Your parents met in German. Tell us about you coming to this world and them meeting there, and how did everything happen for the family?

    Jake Kloberdanz: My folks met each other in Germany on a military base in the early ‘70s and traveled the world for a few years after they got out of the army. They found themselves in New Zealand, actually, where they had my older sister, Michelle, who is a dual citizen. She’s a Kiwi and a U.S. citizen. They moved back to the states, and my mom went to get her Master’s at Chico State, and my dad got his construction management degree there, and they moved to the Bay Area to a city called Fremont when I was two. I was born in 1983. In 1985, we come to the Bay area, have a great childhood. My mom was really my business role model growing up. She started her business when I was just a few years old there when we moved to Fremont and partnered with an amazing and brilliant woman named MiMi, and they started a marketing research business together. My grandma was actually the first entrepreneur in our family. She’s from Cleveland, Ohio. They moved out here when my little sister was born. She’s six years younger than me, so I was six at the time when they moved out to Fremont. My grandma and my mom had a profound impact on my understanding of what the elements of building a business were. I don’t know that I understood business as a kid, but I certainly observed it and what it took. To fast-forward, I went to high school. I lived in Fremont my whole childhood. I went to UC Berkeley for school. I got into the business program there. I was also playing football initially when I showed up as a freshman and transitioned over to rugby my sophomore year. I was involved in sports, a social life in a fraternity, Sigma Chi. I was social chair and philanthropy chair while I was there at the same time, which is a lot of where I got this love for combining social things and philanthropic things. From UC Berkeley, I checked all the right boxes for the best wine company of the last few generations to hire me out of college. That’s where my career started formally. I was always an entrepreneur and started a little storage business in college, and did some other fun things as a little kid. But my formal career post-college started down in Newport Beach, and it started in the wine industry. That’s the background and my progression along the way.

    Alejandro: Why wine? Out of all the industries and also seeing your parents, your mom, your grandma starting their own business, not only do you decide to start your own business, but then also going into a very difficult segment, which is the winery business?

    Jake Kloberdanz: Yeah, that’s right. I would say wine was a little bit by chance. At Gallo, when they think about people to join their company, especially people who are just starting their career, I captured a lot of the things they look for: very coachable, hard worker, capable of doing some manual labor, which was certainly part of the job. And I fell in love with the romantic side of it. They had me down in Newport Beach as a sales territory. It sounded very romantic to sell wine in Newport Beach. In reality, I found myself in the back of grocery stores, like down stacking pallets with a grocery team in the middle of the night, trying to build relationships with them so I could get the best sales spots around. What I thought was a glamorous position in the trenches was actually like stocking shelves, dusting bottles, doing a lot of the grunt work to build those relationships. It was actually in those grocery stores, though, surveying the shelves and stocking the shelves where I came up with the idea for ONEHOPE. I’m really thankful that it wasn’t quite as glamorous as I had envisioned it, and it was a lot of hard work in grocery stores and seeing how those stores work and how consumers work in those stores.

    Alejandro: So if you’re not born into the wine industry, why is it so difficult to get into it?

    Jake Kloberdanz: It’s not complicated to become a salesperson in it or to join a distributor, but it’s a very hard business to build a brand in, mostly because it takes a lot of assets to do it. Historically, you had to own a vineyard. You need to own a winery to be able to produce wines. Then, having the money to invest into getting distribution, marketing, getting it to sell through and off the shelves is very expensive. The wine industry also has something that’s known as the three-tier distribution system. Historically, up until 2005, if you were a wine brand, you needed to sell to the distributor. The distributor sells to the retailer or to the restaurant. Then that retailer sells to the end consumer. There are three different tiers between the supplier and the customers. Up until 2005, that was the only way you could do it. As a Supplier, you don’t have any understanding of what’s really happening day-to-day, and you don’t have a lot of the data accessible to you. You have to depend on getting it from the distributor who is getting it from the retailer who is getting it from the customer. I think, historically, it’s been really hard to build a wine brand for those reasons. I came and arrived in 2007 when I formally started the company, and I first came up with the idea, all the way dating back to 2005. 2005 is the year that the [8:00] case went down that allowed direct consumer shipping of wine across state lines. I entered into the industry at a very lucky time to be thinking about the way you can meet the consumer where they are and in their home. Also, to be entering during a time where custom crush and making wines at other people’s wineries started to become a thing. In the past, there wasn’t as much of an opportunity to go and make wines if you didn’t own a winery, and there weren’t as many opportunities to go and buy grapes if you were a newcomer to the industry.

    Alejandro: Got it. Let’s talk about your next chapter here because it’s really the birth of your baby of ONEHOPE. What was the sequence of events that happened for you to say, “You know what? I’m going to start my own thing in this industry.” What led you there?

    Jake Kloberdanz: Yeah, that’s a great question, Alejandro. It’s a series of events, and it dates back to everything from childhood and seeing generosity firsthand to my feeling of presenting the first big check as our philanthropy chair to the Oakland Children’s Hospital and feeling what that felt like, and my first time dressing up as Santa Clause and giving out presents to school kids, in college. Things like that are where I came to realize that giving back and living a life of purpose was the most rewarding thing, and it was more rewarding than a lot of the things that I think I had been taught to think were the sign of success: cars, big houses, or whatever it may be. I think that mentality is a lifelong build. ONEHOPE is the culmination, I think, of that. It starts in 2005 in October; it’s breast cancer awareness month. I’m in these grocery stores early morning. I’m stocking Campbells Soup to an end-cap, and I notice the pink ribbon on the can, and I’m like, “What’s that for?” I read that every can is helping the fight against breast cancer. I realize, “Wow! People are buying this and a lot of it because it’s totally sold out, and I’m stocking it.” Then I move over to the milk box, and I’m filling that up, and there’s the Yoplait Yogurt next to the Dannon, and the Dannon’s fully stocked, and the Yoplait Yogurt is totally shot. There, again, on the lids, I see the pink ribbon and see that they’re donating to breast cancer. October comes and goes, and so do, too, those temporary marketing campaigns. But it was that day that I came up with the idea of ONEHOPE and committed that it would be year-round, not just a marketing campaign, but part of the brand. So we were building impact into our business model. To this day, our purpose is still to nourish the future, and our mission is to share wine and give hope to serve that purpose every day. We’re still who we were from day one, built on hope and rooted in purpose from the very beginning. We’ve been able to keep all of those things since that original idea, and the authentic original idea, and the values that we had in place from the very beginning, even though a lot of things have changed. If you flash-forward from that moment of thinking of ONEHOPE to actually getting it started and sparking it. April of 2006, so flash-forward another six months. I’ve done what most people do when they have a great idea, which is nothing done with this good idea. I decide that I’m going to write down a few goals. But for the most part, I haven’t gotten started on anything, and I get a call from one of my best friends from growing up, and she tells me that she has blood cancer, and that flips my world upside down. It makes me, for the first time, get in touch with my mortality. It makes me realize that as a young man that life is short. And, at the same time, it makes me really brave and courageous, and I realize that life is short, so you better do what you want to do. I’d been thinking about this idea for a long time. I flew home to see her, and as a way of inspiring her, I told her about the idea and that I was going to start building it. I flew home the next day and incorporated the business. That was in 2006. I started at Gallo with a handful of other people that were my same age and just jumping into the wine industry with me. There were seven other people that came when it was time to launch the business. Another year later, June 1, 2007, we’re driving with 168 cases in the back of a U-Haul truck, load it into a public storage unit, and that’s the first day that we really recognized the launch of ONEHOPE. But, like most great things, the launch day and the first day that it originated and the idea came to you were different times, and even that, the progression took about a year and a half from the initial idea to actually having that first bottle and that first case of wine.

    Alejandro: And as they say, obviously, sometimes ideas are dormant in our heads. We don’t even know that they’re there, and they take time to incubate. Absolutely. In this case, Jake, for the people that are listening to really get it, what ended up being the business model of the company because the approach and the perspective have shifted quite a bit. What is the business model today of ONEHOPE?

    Jake Kloberdanz: ONEHOPE is an Omni Channel business. We sell through multiple channels, so we’re in thousands of restaurants, hotels, and retailers. To get the word out there and get people trying our wine, we also have a beautiful tasting room in the heart of Napa Valley just right up the road from Opus One and Robert Mondavi about half a mile north on St Helena Highway there in the Rutherford region of Napa. Our fastest-growing sales channels for us are selling to companies for gifting and selling directly online at ONEHOPEWine.com. Our biggest, by far, is this community of cause entrepreneurs. We have nearly 10,000 of them around the nation who share wine and give hope every day, and they bring people together around wine to do wine tasting, and they also raise money for a cause each time they do this. For instance, last night, or really on Saturday, probably the biggest day of the week, there were a little over 400 events going on. We’ll do 5,000+ events this month where people are raising money for their kid’s school or their breast cancer walk or something important to them and bringing people together around wine, albeit virtually a lot of the time, right now. But also, now, it’s beginning to be in small groups again and wine tastings. We realized along the way that our service wasn’t just wine tasting. Our service was bringing people together around wine, and that our product wasn’t actually just wine, it was hope, and that we do that in the form of wine. But really, the product that people are consuming is hope with us and being able to impact another person’s life just by the choice of what wine may buy, and by engaging in a wine tasting experience.

    Alejandro: In this case, obviously, it takes some capital to do this. How much capital have you guys raised to date, Jake?

    Jake Kloberdanz: A lot of money. [Laughter] Tens of millions of dollars, and the company has been valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s at least a good ratio, but it’s a very capital-intensive business. We’re now at a stage where we’re sustainable on our own, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to raise money. The one thing I’m really proud of is that the people that we’ve raised money from, a lot of them have been families and individuals who are brilliant visionaries themselves and have built game-changing companies that have changed the world, whether it’s in technology or health or these different spaces. Not only are the people at our company aligned with our values of hope, unity, authenticity, and empowerment, which are our four pillars and values of the company. But our investors and shareholders are too.

    Alejandro: How many people do you guys have now in the company, Jake?

    Jake Kloberdanz: We’re about 120ish the last time I looked. Then another 10,000 independent contractors, and we call those independent contractors, cause entrepreneurs, by the way. They’re commissioned sales reps or marketing reps for the brand, and their mission is the same as ours: to share wine and give hope.

    Alejandro: It keeps coming back: having a purpose, having a real purpose. I find that for you, as the founder, as well as your co-founders of the company, ONEHOPE, you are the ones that establish those values that establish the culture that people are going to be influenced by. As you’re building this up, and now you have over 100 employees, how do you make sure that the essence and the core values don’t get lost?

    Jake Kloberdanz: I think, make it a collective commitment. I think it helps to get it right at the core, and a lot of my job is keeping the band together and keeping us all humble and keeping myself humble, and we all keep each other in check. There are six original co-founders that are still with the company today. There were eight originally. It’s a unique story. Six people coming together in their early 20s and devoting almost their entire career to building a brand together that serves a purpose much greater than themselves and even their own family units. I think that commitment and accountability to each other at the core and our leadership across the organization, and everybody taking that collective responsibility, that’s up to all of us to find people that are built on hope and rooted in purpose and keep each other the way we were from the beginning and uphold those values that are in our brand name: ONE and HOPE and ONEHOPE as a singular word captures two of our values of hope and unity. I think there’s a lot of easy ways to remember being around the right people who reinforce it and your brand and the values of your brand reinforcing it, and those two things going hand-in-hand. That creates an authentic brand and voice to the brand, and people can tell how strong your purpose is. When your purpose is strong, they want to be a part of that because everybody is looking for purpose. Whether it’s our consumers that draw fulfillment and purpose from consuming our brand to our hosts who host parties and share our brand to our cause entrepreneurs who educate people on our brand and share it to our own home office to our supply partners to our investors, all of those people have this common passion for the purpose that’s at the core of our brand and to nurse the future, and they feel good doing it, and that’s priceless. Certainly, our company is exciting from a returns profile standpoint to investing, but I think just as much the idea that you can also create more than a dollar of return on the community and an impact on top of that return on investment has been really important to people. That’s across the organization, not just investment of dollars, but investment of time, investment of your career to put your career and your precious minutes into something to build it, you’ve got to have something more than just money. There’s got to be soul to it, and that’s why people will come back day after day and stay committed and commit a huge portion of their life to building this vision with us.

    Alejandro: Absolutely. In this case, the journey is also about learning, and in your case, there was quite an experience with misspelling Chardonnay on one of the labels, so tell us about that story.

    Jake Kloberdanz: Oh, you heard about that one, huh? The old Chardonnay story. A year into building the company, it felt like a really big deal to be doing a run of 5,000 labels that would help label up about 400 cases of Chardonnay. We had built ourselves. We started with a Chardonnay toward breast cancer, a Merlot towards Aids, and a Cabernet toward autism. Now, all of our wines have a built-in donation that goes toward hunger, water, health, or education. Those are our four main-cause categories, and all of the non-profits we give to fall within there. We also do direct community grants. But when we first started, we had three wines, and each one had a different cause affiliated with it. Our Chardonnay went toward breast cancer, had a pink ribbon on it, and it was basically the design that one of the other co-founders and I came up with, and it was not impressive. Now, you go back and look at our packaging, and it’s just beautiful, and we have so many great creatives on our team. But 400 cases were about eight times what we had bottled to start with, which was 56 cases, which is a pallet of wine. They call me the day of the bottling. It’s about to start. The controller says, “We’ve got a problem here. All the labels are ready to go. We’re about to press go. I’m firing up this bottling line, but one of my guys on the floor just noticed that Chardonnay is spelled wrong. There’s an extra n in it, and it says Chardonnanay. I was like, “Seriously?” It had gone through government approval and all the gates that got it to there with people looking at it. That was back in the time when we would send it to our parents to double-check, you know?

    Alejandro: Yeah.

    Jake Kloberdanz: We decided to put new processes into place. At the time, 5,000 labels, throwing them away, I was really stressing out about it because it was like $2,500 at the time. I almost ran it. I was like, “We can sell this with Chardonnanay on the front.” But I called one of our partners, and they’re like, “No, there’s no way we could do that.” It was a big learning lesson. We put new processes into place. We’ve only had two other label errors that I’m aware of over the last decade since then. It probably helped us early on. Now, I look back on it, and I’m like, “That was really a small mistake compared to mistakes these days,” and it was well worth it for the learning.

    Alejandro: Of course. For you guys, too, the partnership with the Mondavi family was a big one. How were you able to secure that partnership?

    Jake Kloberdanz: Yeah. In 2009, one of our co-founders, Sarah—she’s doing what we did all the time. We’re working at these trade shows and selling the vision of the brand, pouring some wine. A gentleman comes up named Michael, and he says, “Hey, I’m Michael. It’s nice to meet you. I would love to hear about your brand.” She gives the pitch. He’s then like, “I love you guys’ story. Here’s my card, and if there’s ever anything I can do for you to improve the quality of your wine or help you scale your brand in the volume, give me a call.” She takes it and doesn’t really look at it. She’s just collecting cards and trying to be polite, shakes hands. At the end of the night, we’re going through the cards and Michael Mondavi, the past CEO and Chairman of Robert Mondavi. Michael and I connected another week later. I knocked on his door a few times, making sure that I got a sit-down with him. He introduced me to his son Rob. Rob Mondavi is a great winemaker and follows in the lineage of all those family members. Michael is a great winemaker too. They are great business people too. They are great partners. They did a lot for us. Rob helped make our wines with Tony Coltrin. They’re another family winemaker for many years there, and it allowed us to step up our game when it came to making award-winning wines and wines that we are proud to have at any dinner table—all the fun ratings, the 90+ point ratings and metals. It gave us that momentum all the way to our head winemaker now, Mari, who has been our head winemaker for over three years. She has made many 90+ point-rated wines, 95s, 96s, 97s, and she’s delivering on these types of scores for wines that are $25 or less. That’s where our brand starts at. We certainly have those $100+ small production, ultra-luxury Cabernet, and other wines in our portfolio, but our brand promise starts there, and she’s done a great job there. Rob has continued to make reserved wines for us and other fun wines with us along the way. Their family was a critical turning point in the company to just add credibility, quality to our wines and help us navigate the hard, hard road that is building a wine brand that we wanted to be a generational wine brand, like a generation transcending wine brand and be one of those brands that changes the wine industry in our generation.

    Alejandro: Talking about changing and becoming a really big company in this segment, if you were to close your eyes tonight and you wake up in a world five years later, in a world where the vision of ONEHOPE is fully realized, what does that world look like?

    Jake Kloberdanz: Our vision is a big one at ONEHOPE. It’s to build the most purpose-driven consumer goods marketplace in the world, and that’s starting with wine. First and foremost, build the most purpose-driven wine marketplace in the world. When I say wine marketplace, I mean our brands, which are ONEHOPE, and we have a couple of other brands in our portfolio, Estate 8, which is our sister wine brand, small production, high-end wine brand comes off our Napa property as well as a joint venture with John Elway and a brand called 7Cellars, which we’re really proud to also market and help build. We see a future where more and more wine companies and family wine companies are going to need help with the digital transformation, and they’re going to need help with the technology to power their wine brand and bring it direct to consumer, the opportunity to run their tasting room in an efficient way, and alternative routes to market because the old traditional way of selling wine isn’t working for a lot of those smaller brands and families. I think we’ve created this amazing demand creation and gem in building this really purpose-driven and inspired community of cause entrepreneurs who go out and share our story, our wine story. Why not share other family wine brand stories and be able to bring great wines to people in states where they don’t necessarily get a lot of access to those kinds of wines. Bring a Napa Valley wine tasting experience into people’s homes and to people’s front doorsteps and also bring the opportunity to be in and own a Napa business without taking all the risk of having to raise those tens of millions of dollars to build it. We really are building a platform to empower people. Ninety-nine percent of our cause entrepreneurs are women, and over half are moms. A lot of who are empowering our moms around the nation to be in the wine business, to learn about wine, to find fulfillment, to make an impact in their local community, all in the same hour, and that’s a powerful thing.

    Alejandro: That’s amazing. Now imagine I put you into a time machine and bring you back in time right before you were getting started with ONEHOPE. You were thinking about bringing something to life, but you were not sure what that would be. You have the opportunity of having a chat with your younger self, and you’re able to give that younger Jake one piece of advice before launching a company; what would that be and why based on what you know now?

    Jake Kloberdanz: People are everything. Invest in people, and find the right people as fast as possible. Enjoy the process and respect it. The journey is a long one in front of you, so have fun with it and enjoy it, and take it all in as a learning experience. It’s easier said than done, for sure, but I would still tell myself that, and that someday, you are going to realize a lot of the things that you envisioned, but there would also be new things that you didn’t envision, and that vision is dynamic. There will be some things in your vision that you didn’t accomplish at the rate or the way that you wanted to, and that’s okay too. Those are a few of the things I would probably share with myself.

    Alejandro: I love it. Jake, for the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?

    Jake Kloberdanz: Go to ONEHOPEWine.com. Learn about us. Send us a note if you’re up in Napa. There’s information on how to come and see us at our tasting room. It is private, and it runs like a social club with this really deeply rooted purpose. We have a very high-touch amazing food and wine experience there, so come visit us. Shoot us a note early before. There’s a long waiting list. If you’re giving gifts out, we have a perfect gift for people. It’s a bottle of wine, but it’s so much more. It’s making an impact in somebody else’s life, and it’s also going to make the person on the receiving end also feel hope. So it serves all these purposes. Outside of that, just share the word and be a good person and be civil with one another. ONEHOPE, keep an eye out on the best menus that you see in town, too, because we love to show up in places where hospitality and great food are occurring. Whether it’s in a home or it’s in a restaurant, if you see us, support us, and if nothing else, connect the dots and know that restaurant is doing a good thing just by carrying our wine.

    Alejandro: Amazing. Jake, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.

    Jake Kloberdanz: Thank you. I really appreciate it, Alejandro. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share our vision with people and share our purpose with people. It really helps the brand, and you’re helping people just by getting the word out about us. So, thanks.

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