Entrepreneurs use TV appearance to further mission

Stephanie Boone and Laura Alter, co-owners of Wondercide, a chemical-free, organic pest control product, are hoping the $500,000 they were given on the ABC television series, “Shark Tank,” will help them make their product more widely available.

“We’re trying to eliminate pesticide exposure,” Boone said. “These other [pesticide] companies are selling products; we’re trying to change lives.”

Boone, the company’s founder, created Wondercide after she found out her dog, Luna, was suffering from liver and kidney failure, which her veterinarian said was caused by either the pesticide Boone used to keep her Houston home bug-free, or by the flea product the vet had prescribed.

“I was really taken aback,” Boone said.

She said she thought she was protecting her family from bugs and fleas but came to find the products were poisoning them.

The vet recommended Boone put Luna down, she said. Instead, Boone said she quit her job and nursed Luna back to health. She did extensive research and learned how to detoxify both her dog and their home.

“She lived for another six years,” Boone said of Luna.

Boone also began experimenting with different concoctions of natural pesticides and testing them on bugs in her home.

“I make the joke that I became a mad scientist,” she said.

When she came up with a formula that was both effective and safe for pets and children, Boone started selling Wondercide in 2009.

Entrepreneurs use TV appearance to further mission Wondercide offers natural pest control products for pets, lawns and other household needs.[/caption]

The product


Alter partnered with Boone about two years ago. She said she was passionate about Boone’s product because her father was a pathologist who diagnosed many cancer cases. Alter said she grew up knowing about the link between pesticides and cancer.

“To me, it was part of our family culture,” she said.

Alter said the most popular and widely-available pesticides in the retail market are designed to kill based on brain function, but the products affect animals and humans the same way they affect bugs. She said pets and children are especially at risk because of their proximity to the ground, and children’s brains are still developing.

Boone said pest control companies often market products as “chemical free” or “natural,” claiming the product is flower- or chrysanthemum-based. The products actually contain permethrin, a neurotoxin, and pyrethroids, which are highly toxic to cats, she added.

“It’s not biodegradable, it doesn’t break down,” Boone said.

Wondercide contains cedar oil, which blocks a neurotransmitter in many insects that regulates heart rate, movement and behavior. As a result, the product drives insects away, or if they come in contact with the product, they suffocate. Mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and some beneficial insects are not affected by cedar oil because they do not have the same neurotransmitter, according to Wondercide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases recently patented a similar product called Nootkatone—a natural compound containing the essential oil of Alaska yellow cedar trees, citrus fruits and herbs. According to a CDC fact sheet, “Studies show Nootkatone to be an effective repellent and insecticide.”

Entrepreneurs use TV appearance to further mission Wondercide hosted a "Shark Tank" watch party at its Neils Thompson Drive location on March 18.[/caption]

The deal


Shortly after Alter joined the Wondercide team in 2014, she and Boone sent an application video to “Shark Tank.”

Alter said the odds were slim—the company had a 0.3 percent chance of making it onto the show.

“So we had to be really realistic,” Alter said. “There’s a real cost associated with the two most senior people in the company taking their eye off the ball.”

Boone’s dog Luna died March 24, 2015—the same day Boone and Alter got a callback from “Shark Tank.”

Luna was where the passion behind Wondercide originated, Boone said. She said she felt the timing was a sign to persist. In June 2015, Boone and Alter flew to Los Angeles for the taping of Episode 22, Season 7.

The episode aired March 18, and showed Alter and Boone, along with their “Wonder pup” Mercy, being awarded $500,000 from investor Lori Greiner, in exchange for 3 percent of the company.

Alter said four days after they appeared on “Shark Tank,” their sales were up more than 1,000 percent from the previous year.

Wondercide has a storefront at its manufacturing facility near the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, but most of its revenue comes from online sales. Alter said the company wants to make its product available in retail stores, which is where it plans to invest the $500,000.

Boone said although the deal was made during the June taping, Wondercide has not yet closed the deal with Greiner. Half of the “Shark Tank” deals do not ever close after the episode airs, she said.

Even so, Boone said she is glad Wondercide received national exposure from the appearance.

“It was a platform,” she said. “We’re grateful for the opportunity.”

The recent growth has also allowed the company to hire more people. Two years ago, Alter said she was employee No. 4.

“Now we’re at 20 [full-time] employees,” Boone said.