Gary Vaynerchuk: Be Happy. Build Your Brand.

By Josh Catone

With all due respect to Fred Wilson and Jason Fried, who gave great talks, it was really Gary Vaynerchuk who stole the show at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York today. Vaynerchuk, who is behind the ultra popular wine-centric video blog Wine Library TV, delivered the last of the day’s keynote’s at the conference. And though he was at times a little over excited for his own good, and contradicted himself once or twice (for example, he urged the audience to both not worry about making money and make sure they have a sound business model), his message was essentially very simple: Do what makes you happy and rock as hard as you can at it.

Vaynerchuk, who inherited his family business — a liquor store — at a young age when the store was doing about $4 million per year in revenue, has built it into a $50 million per year business by transforming it into a specialty wine shop. Vaynerchuk said building up the business took a lot of hard work and long days of answering the same stupid questions about pairing wines with chicken. And even though revenues were exploding and everything was going well, a few years ago, he became “just 1% unhappy” with what he was doing with his life, he told the audience, and that was enough to cause him to want to make a change.

So Vaynerchuk did what he advised everyone to do: he looked in the mirror and ask himself, “What can I do that will make me happy?” Don’t worry about if you can make money doing it, he said, because you can. “If you want to write a blog about ALF, do it,” he told the audience. “If you love the Smurfs, then Smurf it up.”

According to Vaynerchuk, there are a ton of niches out there that are yet to be exploited. “You don’t want to compete with me on wine,” he joked, “but there’s an opportunity out there for someone to do the ‘Pinot Grigio Hour.'” Even obscure niches, he said, can be huge, so there’s definitely a way to make whatever makes you happy fly as a business.

Vaynerchuk decided that what would make him happy was to create a video blog about wine, and Wine Library TV was born. It was an easy choice, but had tough consequences. After he started Wine Library TV, growth at the store flat lined, he said, and he actually lost money. But he kept at it, putting out content every day, and hustling (the most important word in the English language, he says).

By tirelessly meeting people, creating quality content, talking up his videos all over the social media space, and responding to every fan email, he slowly built his brand into the juggernaut he runs today. Vaynerchuk now helms one of the most popular video blogs on the web, has done numerous national TV appearances, and has turned down multiple television offers.

And that is the essence of his message: figure out what would make you happy, then do it and do it as hard as you can to build up your brand. There are no excuses, said Vaynerchuk, in 2008 to be doing something that makes you unhappy. If you have to work after hours from 7pm-2am every night for no pay to get your business off the ground, then it is worth if it makes you happy in the long run.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Great! Thats how one should live. Great job.

  • Impressive.

  • Colin

    It’s great that Gary can shout from a podium that we should ask ourselves “What can I do that will make me happy?” Don’t worry about if you can make money doing it, he said, because you can. When you inherit a $4 million dollar business at a young age it’s pretty easy to look in the mirror and ask yourself just about anything. I’ve been following the stories of people who make statements about “Following your dream” and it turns out that many of them have a wealthy family background or inherited a lot of money in one way or another. When you come from a working class background (most Americans are not familiar with this term) and your whole life has been surrounded by a struggle for money, it takes a great deal of courage and commitment to just do what you love. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, I just wish that these “do what you love evangelists” would stop to think for a second what they would have done first day without the security blanket of a few million!

  • “If you have to work after hours from 7pm-2am every night for no pay to get your business off the ground…”.

    I’ve got that part down cold.

  • Alpha

    It’s funny how the guys who say ‘don’t worry about the money…’ are always the guys who have plenty of it!

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