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.


 Redistricting is one of the items on the Texas Legislature's third special session, and the state Senate released proposed maps on Sept. 18. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Senate releases proposed redistricting maps as special session begins

Redistricting is one of the items on the third special session, and the state Senate released proposed maps on Sept. 18.

Photo of the Travis County sign
Travis County approves fiscal year 2021-22 tax rate

The newly approved rate, paired with higher home appraisal rates, will result in an increase in taxes for many homeowners.

Williamson County Court House
Williamson County approves nonprofit funding, and other notes from Commissioners Court

Commissioners approved public funding for local nonprofits, including funding for the Williamson Museum.

Photo of people attending ACL Fest
City of Austin approves ACL health and safety plan, holds off on final permit

Austin Public Health gave ACL the go-ahead to allow proof of vaccination in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test, but asked organizers to require masking in some areas.

Hundreds of complaints were logged against the Austin Police Department last year related to protests against police brutality and systemic racism. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police oversight office challenges APD handling of most 2020 protest complaints

Austin's Office of Police Oversight objected to several aspects of the police department's approach to classifying and investigating protest-related grievances.

Q2 Stadium at night
Mixed-use development Verde Square to bring hotel, office space to site next to Q2 Stadium

Verde Square, a mixed-use development, is expected to break ground on construction by the end of 2022.

Photo of ACL Fest
Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

Zilker Park closes in preparation for Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin city staff and officials are pursuing additional protections related to mold issues in rental housing. (Courtesy city of Austin)
City pursuing improvements to handling of Austin renters' mold complaints

New recommendations from a report launched in the wake of Winter Storm Uri detail adjustments Austin could make to its mold response.

Students at O. Henry Middle School in Austin head in for their first day of school Aug. 17. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD's COVID-19 rate lower than nearby districts after first month of school

Austin ISD recorded more cases in the first month of this school year than in all of the 2020-2021 school year. Still, Austin ISD saw a lower percentage of cases in students than surrounding school districts.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; fire kills 75 dogs in Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees will meet to discuss and take action regarding resolutions to censure Place 2 and 7 Trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston on Sept. 22. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD board to consider censuring of trustees, mask matrix on Sept. 22

Two Round Rock ISD trustees are up for possible censure, according to the meeting agenda for Sept 22.

Screen shot of Dr. Desmar Walkes speaking
Austin ICUs remain crowded with COVID-19 patients, delaying some critical care

Within the past week, there was a waiting list of patients to be transferred into Austin-area ICUs, Austin Public Health leaders said.