Gary Vee’s Story: From Salesman to Proto-Influencer

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Crush It!" by Gary Vaynerchuk. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is social media guru and entrepreneur Gary Vee’s story? How did he go from working in his family’s liquor store to being a self-made millionaire?

Gary Vaynerchuk (or Gary Vee as he is known online) is famous today for being one of the first internet personalities and for being a very successful entrepreneur. However, Vaynerchuk wasn’t always in the spotlight.

Learn about Gary Vee’s backstory and how he grew to be so successful.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Story

Gary Vee’s story starts when he and his parents immigrated from Belarus to the U.S. in 1978, when he was three years old. In 1983, Vaynerchuk’s father opened a liquor store in suburban New Jersey and, when Vaynerchuk was 15, he began working in the family store. Although beer and liquor made up most of their sales, Vaynerchuk recognized that there was a culture around wine, so he began focusing on how he could tap into that community to grow the store’s wine business. 

While in college, Vaynerchuk got his first glimpse of the internet and immediately recognized that he could use the web to grow the store’s wine business. A year later, he suggested to his father that they sell wine online. From there, it was a short road to rapid growth. 

In 1997, he launched winelibrary.com; within a few years, the store’s revenue rose from $4 million to $20 million. In 2005, he began focusing on how to leverage the rising popularity of video blogs and social sites (like MySpace and YouTube) to increase wine sales. In 2006, he launched Wine Library TV, a video blog aimed at creating a community around wine. 

Vaynerchuk’s Road to Success May Not Fit Everyone

Vaynerchuk’s casual and sometimes brash approach to tasting and talking about wine in his videos shook up the wine industry, simultaneously upsetting traditionalists and making wine more accessible to newbies. As the vlog’s following grew, Vaynerchuk’s experience and success led him to co-found VaynerMedia, a full-service advertising agency specializing in digital marketing, in 2009—the same year that this book was published. Known to his millions of social media followers as Gary Vee, he continues to be a prominent social media influencer, focusing primarily on digital marketing and business development. As of 2021, he is worth $200 million.

However, critics say that Vaynerchuk’s work-around-the-clock approach is unsustainable and unscalable. While Vaynerchuk asserts that passion fuels the tireless work schedule, it may be the case that passion fuels his incessant schedule—but that might not work for everyone.

Gary Vee’s Story: From Salesman to Proto-Influencer

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Gary Vaynerchuk's "Crush It!" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Crush It! summary:

  • Step-by-step instructions for building and monetizing a personal brand
  • How to quit your day job and earn a living off your brand
  • Why a few loyal followers are better than a crowd of passive subscribers

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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