Tonight on Shark Tank, out lesbian entrepreneur Stephanie Boone will appear with her natural product line Wondercide and hopefully hook one of the sharks to help with the expansion of her pesticide-free pest control items. Based in Austin, Texas, Wondercide was inspired by Stephanie’s late dog, Luna, who had allergic reactions to vet-prescribed flea and tick medications. After finding out there weren’t any safe pet products that could help ward off insects, Stephanie decided to create her own, and Wondercide has been thriving ever since.
photo by ABC/Michael Desmond
We spoke with Stephanie about her business and what we can expect to see when she heads into the tank with business partner, Laura Alter, tonight on ABC.
AfterEllen.com: What made you want to go on Shark Tank?
Stephanie Boone: It’s something that my business partner and I, for the last couple of years, when we talk to people about Wondercide, we always hear from friends and family and our customers and people out and about, “Oh my gosh, this would be amazing for Shark Tank!” And so we finally decided to apply and this season alone I think there were over 40,000 applicants for Season 7, which is the one we’ll be on, and 120 companies were selected. And I think maybe 90 or 100 of those will actually air, so our chance to be on the show was .03 percent. … But the really interesting and sort of amazing event hat occurred is that Luna, my Akita Husky and the reason I started the company, she was 16 and a half and actually passed on March 24th last year, and within hours of that happening, we got the phone call from Shark Tank. And so it was hard, it was a really emotional time, but I knew it was something that was so important to our mission and to her legacy, to move forward with that process. And so when it got really tough—because there were a lot of hurdles and it took a lot of time to go through the process—but she was always sort of the driving force to help us through.
AE: Can you talk a little bit about how Luna inspired the creation of Wondercide?
SB: I was at a period in my life where I was really happy at my firm and doing really well professionally. My wife and I had just bought our first home, and we were doing all the adult things you’re supposed to do on the checklist—you know, having the yard done, having pest control come on a routine basis. So we were doing that with our new house and with our dogs and cats we were using vet prescribed flea and tick medication. And Luna started to have really severe skin irritation or hot spots, just constantly chewing on herself. We did allergy testing, and we couldn’t figure out what it was; the vet didn’t know what it was. And then she started having little seizures, and the vet didn’t know what it was. And finally, the vet we took her to did some liver and kidney testing and found she was having liver and kidney failure, which they thought was a result of either single use of the flea and tick medication or a combination fo the product used on the yard and her flea and tick medication. That sort of rocked my world; I didn’t understand how we were doing all the things we were supposed to do, and we were making our child sick.
So I started researching and learned that we’re basically all just sort of blindly poisoning our kids and our homes, whether it’s our two-legged kids or our four-legged kids, and our properties. So it sort of lit a fire in me I couldn’t turn away from. I didn’t really have a plan; I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I was just sort of overwhelmed with this information. The vets recommended that we put Luna down, and she had a good long life, and it wasn’t an option for me. It just couldn’t be that way. So I left my firm and did everything I could to detox her, detox our homes and our lives, and that’s when we started learning about organic and organic gardening and eliminating all of the chemicals.
And I just sort of kept going and I started a website, initially, that was just information-based to let parents know, “Hey, we’re all poisoning our animals—you should know this.” And so many people started contacting me saying, “Yeah, that’s great, we know, but what are we supposed to do about it?” And so really I became a mad scientist. I put some shelves up in my garage and started tinkering with things, and fixing things and within a few months I had several formulations that I put in little sample bottles and passed out to everyone I knew. And then picked the dtop three or four of the best ones and took them to a lab to be tested, and the one that had the best performance is the one we went to market with.