Exclusive One-On-One With Jean-Jean Pelletier, Founder Of Celebrity Wine & Spirit Online Marketplace, GrapeStars

There are certain matches that are unquestionably made in heaven: peanut butter and jelly, chocolate chip cookies and milk, and, as we’re seeing more and more, celebrities with their alcohol brands. And now, thanks to GrapeStars—a first-of-its-kind online marketplace where users can source and purchase all of these exciting celebrity wines and spirits with its distribution network in 45 states across the country—there is a one-stop destination to buy them and have them delivered straight to your door within days. This notion of quick alcohol delivery to the home has become particularly appealing in recent times; as the world has adjusted to the new norm of staying home due to the global pandemic, it was recently reported that, according to data obtained by the market research firm Nielsen, alcohol sales have skyrocketed during the crisis. Moreover, making GrapeStars even more unique is the involvement of Kevin Harrington—serial entrepreneur, inventor of the infomercial and one of the original “sharks” on the hit TV series Shark Tank—as an investor and board member, especially since his behind-the-scenes work in business ventures has yielded over $5 billion in global sales. Here, we chat with the founder of GrapeStars, Jean-Jean Pelletier, who discusses the inception of the platform, his inspiration behind it, and what we can expect from the brand in the near future, looking forward to its launch next month.

Jean-Jean Pelletier x GrapeStarsPhoto Credit: Andrea Mate

HAUTE LIVING: Tell us about GrapeStars, in your own words.
JEAN-JEAN PELLETIER: GrapeStars is a game-changing platform that allows celebrities to leverage their massive social media followings to sell their wines and spirits through a revolutionary online platform that also offers them a comprehensive online distribution network in 45 states.

HL: How did the idea of GrapeStars come about, and who came up with that very clever name?
JJP: I was sitting in a restaurant in LA and was served some Miraval Rosé. I found out it was Brad Pitt’s wine and the lightbulb lit up in my head. My brother Robert came up with the GrapeStars name and after six months, our colleague/childhood friend Stephan Fortier joined the team, as did web designer Stefan Lindqvist. We researched the market and legislation and morphed into more of a third party marketer for celebrity products already on the market, including spirits.

HL: From where do you get your passion and drive?
JJP: My passion and drive for business in general definitely comes from my dad. As a young kid, my dad would finance start-ups and help companies go public. My two brothers and I would sit at the table for dinner, my mom would cook a roast beef, and we would hear entrepreneurs pitch my dad their projects. It was basically Shark Tank at home every night and I was hooked! Listening to these entrepreneurs’ passions and innovative ideas, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. I would stay 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.

Jean-Jean Pelletier, GrapeStars, jon bon joviPhoto Credit: Art Greene for Cashman Photos

HL: As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to self-motivate, especially at times like this. Who or what motivates you and gives you the inspiration to keep building and growing your business?
JJP: I launched this company with my brother Robert [Pelletier] and our close friends: Charles-André Sauvé, Robert Boisjoli, Louis Roquet—the former CEO of SAQ, one of the largest buying groups of wine and spirits with $4 billion in sales—and our buddy Stephan [Fortier]. It’s much easier to do it with family. We all motivate and push each other hard on one hand, but also have no problem keeping each other in check when needed, as we are all so comfortable with each other. We don’t let each other slack off, no matter what the times and challenges are. Conversely, we also encourage and motivate each other all the time. Family has always been the most important thing to me, so I always surround myself with my close friends and family in all of my projects. Business is important, but the quality of people you do business with everyday is way more important to me.

HL: How and why did you decide there was a need for this type of platform in the market?
JJP: Well, one distinction to make is that we are in the business of marketing and selling the wines [and spirits], not producing them; so that segment of the market is much less saturated. That being said, the production market is overly saturated because of the extreme inefficiency for celebrities to sell their products. The laws prohibit them from selling directly to consumers without a liquor license, which limits their reach, as opposed to selling clothes or perfumes, which they can do online on their own platforms. We “unclog” this whole mess for them and provide an elegant solution for celebrities to compete with the big brands that have widespread nationwide distribution online.

GrapeStarsPhoto Credit: GrapeStars

HL: Who is GrapeStars for?
JJP: We target millennials who represent 55% of the market. Their consumption habits are greatly influenced by celebrities, but the surprising quality of these products have a universal appeal. Major wine enthusiasts may not buy these products everyday for themselves, but they can certainly see the entertainment in bringing a bottle of wine by someone’s favorite celebrity to a party; it’s a fun gift and a great conversation starter. So, we basically target the masses, with products of great quality and very competitively priced, so it’s really for everybody.

HL: In your opinion, what are some of the more unexpected celebrity/alcohol pairings that you are most excited about?
JJP: We have identified over 300 celebrities with their wines or spirits, and it’s ever-growing. Some of them are really well-known like Pitbull, David Beckham, Drake, Jon Bon Jovi and Sarah Jessica Parker; but it’s always fun to find out about some less publicized products, like Robert De Niro who has a vodka—we were floored to find that out.

HL: How does the platform work and how can users buy from it?
JJP: It’s basically an online marketplace (iOS, Android and the web at grapestars.com) where users can purchase products from celebrities that are available in their state and get it delivered to their door in a few days, depending on the chosen shipping method.

David Beckham x grapestarsPhoto Credit: GrapeStars

HL: What’s next for GrapeStars and what can we expect from the platform, moving forward?
JJP: After a successful round of beta testing, we are ready to launch at the end of May. We plan for aggressive international expansions in China, India, Europe and Latin America, and we also plan to bring other celebrity products onto the platform, essentially morphing into a little Amazon of celebrity products. We are also developing some really interesting features on our app (like AR and AI) to create a more interactive experience between our users and the celebrity, turning it into a community and more of a social media/entertainment platform than just a morning e-commerce platform. One thing is for sure: it’s an exciting time for GrapeStars and for everybody that believed in us.

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