“Acting was her love, but she believed that she wasn’t going to make money on it, so her entrepreneurialism kicked in,” says Luis Balaguer, Vergara’s manager and business partner for over 20 years, explaining that, at the beginning, her onscreen jobs were infrequent and paid very poorly.
She began looking for a side hustle in 1997. Vergara was hosting shows for Univision, which earned her a mid-five-figure salary. With no hope of a raise, the single mother (her son Manolo is now in his 20s) and Balaguer decided to cash in on Vergara’s good looks with a bikini calendar.
One of Sofia Vergara’s first forays into print work was with a calendar she and Luis Balaguer printed in the 1990s. (Courtesy of Latin World Entertainment)
“The calender had Sofia in a bikini,” he says, recalling how he had to beg distributors to finance the printing of the calendar. “We were both broke, didn’t have a penny.”
But after selling close to one million copies of the $12.95 calendar, things quickly changed.
“We hit it, and suddenly we were making all of this money, not from Univision, but from her fans,” Balaguer remembers. That was when Vergara realized the real money was in appealing to fans through products–as she had done with that first Pepsi commercial–and not just through television or films.
It was this philosophy that has guided Vergara’s career since, in up and down moments through her career, like when acting gigs went nowhere fast, such as when she was on three consecutive shows that either did not get picked up or were cancelled after a few episodes–and busy periods, like now, when she fills her time off from Modern Family with movie roles.
“Even now, our attention is on the people watching Modern Family and how to appeal to them outside of the show, too,” Balaguer says. “Our endorsement department is a well-oiled machine.”
That means endorsing every sort of product an audience might want. Vergara has been the face of the thyroid medicine Synthroid, fast food restaurant McDonald’s, gym chain Bally Total Fitness, makeup company Cover girl, beer brand Cerveza Aguila, pepsi and more.
Vergara now commands seven figures a year for endorsement deals, but as lucrative as commercials can be, Vergara learned that licensing deals are all the more so. In licensing agreements, Vergara gets both a royalty fee and, after selling a certain number of products, a percentage of the revenue. She signed the first of such contracts with Kmart in 2011 and made seven figures off her clothing line with the retailer each year until she ended the deal in 2015.
So far, Vergara has had no trouble hitting the minimum number sold to start cashing in on revenue. Her most recent licensing deal, the Ninja Coffee Bar, which launched last October, shifted over 1.1 million units in its first eight months on the market; at $179 per machine, that is a revenue of close to $197 million—and Vergara made a handsome figure from that.
She also has a line of furniture at Rooms To Go and two perfumes, plus plans to unveil more licensing deals soon.