Our clients come to us because of our credentials as the founders of the largest wine brand in the world. They want to know how we began (in our laundry room), how we were financed (we assumed a debt which we traded for wine and bottling services), and how we overcame the challenges of personnel management (we paid for performance).

All that and more is covered in our New York Times’ Best Seller, The Barefoot Spirit, How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. It contains the lessons we learned told in a humorous business adventure story. It answers the top 10 questions start-ups and business owners need to know on their way to success.

And we are really excited to announce that we are currently recording it in an audio book! Like the paperback, it will be fun. Instead of having someone read it to you, we have engaged a live troupe of actors who will dramatically act it out for you. You will enjoy the unique format and learn from their interactions. We will be releasing it in the fall!

So, here’s the short list of a few of our favorite answers to the question – “How do I…”:

1. Start a business without financing?

  • Trade for goods and services
  • Use your buyers as banker by offering quantity discounts for cash
  • Use your supplies as bankers by earning extended credit and terms
  • Pay for performance rather than for attendance
  • Use the assets you already have, such as a spare room, family members, or contracted services

2. Start a business with no experience in the industry?

  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Work for someone who is already doing what you want to do
  • Talk to everyone who will be working with your product or service
  • Use your suppliers and vendors as teachers

3. Find, hire, train, and keep good people?

  • Look for hustle and integrity
  • Overkill on orientation
  • Give them appreciation and time off
  • Pay for performance

4. Get my product to the market?

  • Start in a small area to learn your lessons
  • Offer samples, tastings, etc.
  • Ask the buyers what they need
  • Get the reputation, even in a small area, of being a “Hot Mover!”

5. Give my brand a soul?

  • Identify what your brand offers its users that they love
  • Identify what your brand and your company stand for beside the mercantile product you are selling
  • Work with your community on your shared goals
  • Be inclusive and earth-friendly
  • Treat your people right

6. Build a brand without advertising?

  • Donate your products or services to community fundraisers
  • Build brand advocates who will sing your praises to all they know
  • Attend farmers’ markets or other social events where your customers can be found
  • Do many in-store demos

7. Think outside the box?

  • Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes in every position of responsibility
  • Meet regularly with everyone on your staff, with your suppliers and your buyers and ask them what their challenges and goals are
  • Be open to new ideas, especially those that seem to be contrary to your own
  • Practice “Know-the-Need” instead of “Need-to-Know”

8. Get the most out of my people?

  • Use performance-based compensation and share the wealth
  • Share information freely; share your goals, challenges, and opportunities
  • Give employees your respect by asking for their feedback and advice
  • Acknowledge their successes in writing and copy the entire staff

9. Use outsourced services?

  • Communicate your needs clearly and in writing
  • Pay only if your project has been completed to your specs
  • Oversee their work on your project to assure quality control
  • Look for long term relationships

10. Sell my business?

  • Talk with a business broker who recently was involved in a sale or purchase of a business like yours
  • Put your peanut in front of the elephant
  • Work towards the metrics required to become an acquisition target and ultimately monetize the brand equity you are building
  • Organize your filing system according to your future acquirer’s due diligence

As advisors, we help our clients identify and move toward their goals. We learn about their business, their challenges, and their opportunities. Then we meet with them regularly to help them stay on track. They get the many benefits of our 20 years growing the Barefoot Wine brand.  We learned a lot of lessons – most of them the hard way!

You too can benefit from the knowledge we gained without having to go through the time, mental anguish, and money that it took us. Think of it as saving $300,000 or more on mistakes and 3 years or more in wasted efforts. Here is to your success!




Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.