Founder Sarah Shadonix is uncorking the truth about what’s in our wine and toasting to a cleaner, better tasting bottle.
|SCOUT & CELLAR
Headquarters: Farmers Branch, Texas
Top Executive: Sarah Shadonix, Founder
Products: Clean-Crafted Wine™
IN A MARKETPLACE DRIVEN BY THE MOST EDUCATED CONSUMERS IN HISTORY, transparency is everything. The food we eat, the personal care products we use, the clothing we wear—we’re seconds away from learning what’s in it, how it was made and where it was sourced. As millennial buying power inspires companies to pull back the curtain on where our food comes from, consumers collectively raise a glass to our newfound awareness. But what if we forgot to question what was in the glass? That’s what Sarah Shadonix, Founder of Scout & Cellar, cares most about.
From Practice To Passion
As a practicing attorney, Sarah Shadonix was a skilled investigator who loved research almost as much as she loved wine. But after six years in the courtroom, her passion for wine won out. “I was a litigator and had this gut feeling,” she explains. “You know what I’m talking about. That feeling, that voice inside of us that doesn’t use words.” It was telling her loud and clear that she needed to pursue this passion she had for wine. “I love wine so much, but perhaps for less obvious reasons,” she says. “I love wine because it’s this beverage that, with a little help from humans, can transform into this magical living liquid.”
She started her journey by studying to be a sommelier, then expanded her wine education to tasting groups and ultimately joined a company in California sourcing wine to sell online. Though she was now finally fully immersed in the wine industry, she suddenly hit a serious roadblock. Whether it was one glass or even the smallest amount of wine, she began to develop debilitating headaches. “The headaches were so bad that I started to regret my decision to leave my practice and present wine,” she shares. “I had this fear of drinking it. Here I am supposed to be living my
dream, and I hate it.”
“I love wine so much, but perhaps for less obvious reasons. I love wine because it’s this beverage that, with a little help from humans, can transform into this magical living liquid.” —Sarah Shadonix , Founder
Determined to stay on her newfound career path, Sarah knew only a professional could crack this case. “Like any good lawyer would, I had to do a bunch of research and figure out what in the world was going on,” she laughs. When doctor visits and tests didn’t yield specific results, she turned her sights on the wine industry itself. “I read the regulations that govern what goes into wine and was shocked at what I found,” Sarah says. Through her research, she found that wine, both in the U.S. and abroad, can legally have hundreds of pesticides, dozens of synthetic chemical additives and added sugar. “It’s all that junk that made me feel like junk,” she says. “I had to share what I’d found.”
A Wine Revolution
Armed with her revelations about the wine industry and the truth of what’s really in the 770 million gallons of wine Americans drink each year, Sarah decided consumers should have access to cleaner wine. From 2016 to mid- 2017, she researched regulations, worked with vineyards and developed Clean-Crafted Wine™, which is wine that contains only synthetic pesticide-free grapes and a minimal amount of sulfites.
Sarah’s mission to source and share a clean collection of wine was beginning to take shape. She named her venture Scout & Cellar. “Scout means ‘to be the first to find,’” Sarah explains. “Cellar is, not only a beautiful word, but means the act of storing wine. And has a double meaning–to be a seller of wine.”
She started by hosting tastings in her home state of Texas. “We hosted six to ten tastings around the Dallas/ Austin area, just to generate some buzz,” she says. “We let people taste the wine, talked about the brand, the brand story, the Clean-Crafted Commitment, my story. That developed an initial set of consultants who were interested in being a part of our movement.”
In September 2017, with the support of family and friends, founding consultants and partnerships with certified Clean-Crafted vintners, Scout & Cellar was ready for launch. “We launched on a Wednesday at 3:00 in the afternoon,” she recounts. “We had 55 consultants sign up that first day.”
A Confident Risk
While Sarah’s experience in wine sourcing and online wine sales prior to founding Scout & Cellar gave her the confidence that her vision would succeed, she entered the direct sales industry with no previous experience with the sales model. What she may have lacked in direct sales expertise, she made up for in research.
“We started in this space very purposefully,” she explains. “People buy wine based on three things: the story, the label, and what their friends are drinking. I knew how people bought wine online and thought this is a perfect model in which to share this inherently social product based on these buying behaviors.”
From the official launch in mid-2017 to mid-2018, Scout & Cellar grew to over 2,000 consultants and sold more than $20 million in revenue. Consultant numbers doubled by the start of 2019 to more than 6,000 consultants nationwide.
Scout & Cellar Today
The Scout & Cellar collection features reds, rosé and whites, sourced both domestically and abroad. Individual bottles and sets are available through Scout & Cellar consultants who host in-person tastings and online events. Customers also have the option of joining as a member, which provides a discount and allows them to choose the wine type, quantity and frequency they’d like for their subscription. Scout & Cellar’s Clean-Crafted Commitment wine is unique and proprietary to the company and in the future, all of the wines in the collection will be exclusive to the company as well.
“Like any good lawyer would, I had to do a bunch of research and figure out what in the world was going on. I read the regulations that govern what goes into wine and was shocked at what I found. — Sarah Shadonix, Founder
Sarah applied her background in online wine sales to the Scout & Cellar purchase experience. “All sales take place online, but one of our core values is transparency,” she says. “We recommend working with a consultant to receive the personal service and attention that a consultant will provide, but you don’t have to. We want to empower folks to shop the way they want to shop.”
While it is not required, 99.5 percent of all sales are facilitated by a consultant.
Scout & Cellar consultants market the company’s Clean-Crafted Wines in many ways, most of which are tied to the social nature of wine itself.
“Some of our consultants host tastings. They talk about it in the grocery store aisle with a stranger. They post on social media, talking about a wine that they’re sharing with friends. They bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party or to a book club. They donate the wine to a charity event. There are dozens and dozens of ways that consultants are very successfully growing big businesses with Scout & Cellar. And they all do it in different ways,” Sarah explains.
Cheers To Opportunity
New Scout & Cellar consultants join the company through existing consultants, opportunity events the company hosts or they simply sign up online. The Business Basics Kit includes all of the materials new consultants need to start their new wine business, including four bottles of clean-crafted wine. As they wait for their kit to arrive, new consultants can explore The Cellar, the company’s back office platform, which includes tools and resources for launching their new business or building a team. This platform will be expanding soon to include a new training component.
“We’re launching a really immersive, content-rich on-boarding and training program through an LMS system,” Sarah shares. “It features videos, images, living content and will be supported by live users. The system will be gamified, so consultants will earn badges as they go through the program. It covers everything from wine knowledge to leadership to team building, to core values, to ethics, to business practices. We’re really excited about it.”
The company’s team of consultants is only expected to grow, both organically and through a series of opportunity gatherings that Sarah will be hosting this spring on the East Coast, West Coast and back home in Texas.
As Sarah and her team look ahead to what’s next for the company, they’re most focused on steady growth and improving what they’ve built so far; they’re not quite two years old, after all. “We want to improve on what we do every day and continue to grow at this rate; that’s our focus right now,” Sarah says. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there in this industry, so we want to continue to grow in the right way and support our consultants.”
Discovering The Unknown Good
Sarah’s passion for wine has become a movement that she and her team are proud to be a part of.
“At Scout & Cellar, we’re on a journey to discover the unknown good and share it along the way,” she says. “Most literally the unknown good is, of course, the Clean-Crafted Wine, but it’s also so much more. On this journey, we discover the unknown good in ourselves, which could be in the form of a new consultant joining and finding confidence that she didn’t know she had.”
Her hope is that Scout & Cellar can be part of the larger conversation about where our food and beverages come from. “We’re creating a platform to have a dialogue about how our fruit is grown, how wine is made, why that’s important, why that matters, what’s okay, what’s not okay,” she says. “We’re sharing all of this in a variety of ways, whether it’s through a bottle of wine or through a story, or through an opportunity.”
One unexpected aspect of the “unknown good” that Sarah has discovered personally is her newfound insight into the direct sales industry.
The best part about it, for Sarah, has been the consultants, she says. “This sounds so naïve, but I have to share that when I started this company, it was almost methodical. I thought, ‘we’re going to be in this space because it makes sense because these are the reasons people buy wine.’” What she honestly hadn’t considered when she started the company was the impact that this could have on consultants, and the opportunity to be a part of their lives in any kind of a way, much less a meaningful way. “What I’ve been able to be a part of, which has been so amazing, is to see consultants have these life-changing experiences,” she adds. “Getting to work alongside these folks and spread this Clean-Crafted Wine movement has honestly been an honor. That has been the best part for me by far.”