Jeannine Fradelizio liked to throw parties.
Since she lives close to Northern California's wine country,
they always included good wine-but that led to a big headache.
When people put down their glasses, they often forgot which one
was theirs, so they would either abandon the drink or reach for
During one of her parties, after one too many hands reached for
her glass, Ms. Fradelizio hit upon a solution: She got a marker
from a drawer in her kitchen and scribbled her name on the glass.
"It became a thing," says Ms. Fradelizio, who was helping
her husband manage his restaurant at the time. "Throughout
the evening, when my guests tried to grab my glass, they quickly
saw my name, and they retreated to find their own glass."
Ms. Fradelizio realized that she was on to a potential business
idea, but also knew that not just any marker would do. "It
had to be nontoxic and odorless so it wouldn't interfere with
the bouquet of the wine," she says. In addition, it had
to dry quickly without smudging but also needed to wash off easily.
She enlisted the help of a chemist, and about a year later, the
Wine Glass Writer was finished. With the help of a sales rep,
she got the markers into 50 stores within a few months.
That was 2011. Today, Wine Glass Writers are sold at wineries,
cooking stores and other retailers in the U.S., Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, Peru and Chile, as well as online; the company is
also expanding into Europe. Sales for 2015 topped $1.5 million.
Ms. Fradelizio says the secret to the company's success is also
its motto: Keep it simple. "What this means is not adding
too many products to the line, keeping the artwork and packaging
simple so everyone knows what the product does with just a glance,
keeping contracts simple with distributors and growing at a pace
we can keep up with," she says.