In 2008, native Tucsonan Chase Hoyt and his dad, Robert, sat down to enjoy an old bottle of wine that they had recently opened.
At the time, Chase was predominantly a beer drinker and it was time that his dad felt he should educate his son on the finer things in life, such as a decent bottle of wine.
“It was fantastic,” Chase recalled about this $3,000 bottle of wine that was bought back in 1982.
The two used a regular pump wine stopper and held off on finishing the bottle at a later time. But to their dismay, the stopper they had used didn’t hold its seal, air got back in the bottle, and it spoiled the wine.
Needless to say, the two were fairly upset that such a fine wine was destroyed by a faulty product.
“We took a look around over the next few months thinking, ‘there has to be something out there that preserves wine better than this piece of crap,’ and there wasn’t,” Chase said. “The problem was that we couldn’t see that air was getting back in.”
It was at this point that the idea for the True-Seal Intelli-Stopper was born. But it would be a long and arduous road to get to where he and his company are today.
The first steps the father-son duo took were looking into patenting something, which led them to conceptualizing and designing a wine stopper that let the consumer literally see that their wine was properly stopped.
After this point, they hit their first major roadblock. They had invested about $200,000 of their personal savings into this idea, the economy began to sink, and the 21 banks they visited weren’t lending money.
“We were at a point where we either fold this thing or we take that bold step and go all in,” he said. “So we decided, let’s sell the house and let’s do this.”
Their house in the Foothills that he had grown up in, which was home to his fond childhood memories, and essentially was the birthplace of this idea, was put on the market to help finance their invention.
“A little of this makes me feel like a crazy man,” he said jokingly. “But you have to. In order to get anywhere, get ahead, you have to be willing to stand behind something you created and be a little crazy.”
One of his mother’s favorite quotes comes to Chase’s mind: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
The leap of faith was made and they were all in. They got the product in Bed, Bath and Beyond, almost 100 wineries, numerous liquor stores, and mom and pop shops. They were getting lots of orders, gaining traction, but a little more than a month ago, the two were looking to fold up shop.
“We didn’t have enough money to purchase bulk product to fulfill the orders that we were getting.”
Then, all at around the same time, an investor offered them $250,000 for 10 percent of the company, and the duo were slated to appear on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank”. The show is where very well connected and educated investors listen to sales pitches and decide if they want to invest in a company – the same amount they had recently received from another investor.
While on the show, in front of 6.77 million viewers, Chase and his dad pitched their product and asked for $250,000 for 10 percent of their company.
Chase started out by giving glasses of wine to all of “The Sharks” (the term given to the investors on the show) and let them know their stopper had preserved the wine for five days. Without a stopper in place, the wine would have kept for maybe two days, and with their Intelli-Stopper, the wine can be preserved for up to two weeks.
The Sharks questioned their sales and Chase cited sales around $150,000 last year and projected $300,000 in sales this year, and how their patented technology is moving in the direction of preserving not only wine, but olive oil and coffee.
Though it didn’t air, they also let The Sharks know that their product has been endorsed by one of the 201 master wine sommeliers that are in the world. A master wine sommelier is someone who has The Master Sommelier diploma, which is the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and beverage service.
To their surprise, none of The Sharks bit at their idea and they left only with the exposure that the show gave them, which seems to be enough for now.
“We absolutely got a spike in sales, a big time spike, which is great, just online,” Chase said after the show aired.
After reading the blogs centered on the show, Chase said the consensus seemed to agree with his thoughts and were surprised they passed on investing with them, but he doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
To buy one of the company’s three stopper and pump kits, or additional stoppers, visit savethewine.com.