We are excited to go to a friend’s graduation who just completed his Masters in Engineering from Stanford. When we asked him what he was going to do with it, his response came lightning fast, “I’m going to extend the range of electric vehicles another 200 miles!”

Now that’s the kind of goal we wish all the grads had – a goal that positively impacts the quality of life for generations to come. As much as we would like to think people will do the right thing to protect the future of the planet, many people are simply looking for a quick financial gain. Never mind that it’s clearly costlier in the long run to keep burning fossil fuel and poisoning the ocean, people want to see the immediate benefits.

A 400-500 mile range electric vehicle would provide immediate benefits, not because of politics, not because of concern for the environment, but because of market forces. The big challenge for today’s college grads is to discover ways that pay off immediately to compel consumers to make the right choices.

Better Batteries. Today’s younger generations are inheriting a power grid that fosters monopoly and extortive billing practices. For instance, we buy electricity from our local renewable power district to augment what our solar panels produce. But another company that owns the infrastructure charges us exorbitant monthly fees to be connected to their grid. Consequently, our electric bill has tripled!

Several states in the US are so dominated by the power companies that their pricing structures discourage home owners from installing solar collectors. And these are sunbelt states, perfect for generating solar power! So, what’s the challenge here for grads? Create products that store enough power to allow homeowners to cut the cord to the greedy power companies and be independent. Can today’s grads create local, affordable, and sufficient power storage?

Bio-Degradable Packaging. In the classic 1967 movie, The Graduate Mr. McGuire takes Ben, the graduate, (Dustin Hoffman) aside to advise him about his future. He says, “I just want to say one word to you, just one word … Plastics!” In 1967, the plastics industry was heating up and soon seemingly everything was made of plastic. …And it wound up in our oceans, in our fish, and in our bodies.

Maybe now the advice should be “bio-degradable packaging.” With the explosion of individually packaged home-delivered items, we are drowning in foam peanuts, plastic blister packs, and bubble wrap. Can our new grads create a cheaper and healthier alternative?

And what about the oceans? Can the grads develop a profitable way to harvest the plastic that’s floating around and keep it out of our food supply? Can they create a demand for this type of plastic that makes dollars and sense?

Sustainable Food. With 7.5 billion people on the planet, the food business is a good bet. But what kind of food business? We obviously can’t continue to destroy the world’s lungs to feed the world’s belly. The destruction of the oxygen producing rainforests for grazing lands is not sustainable, nor is it ultimately affordable.

We need to develop locally sourced food supplies that are sustainable. They need to compete economically with fossil-fuel-intensive global sourcing. This will mean food production close to, or in the cities, reducing the cost of transportation significantly. Can the grads find ways to make this more affordable?  Can they create market forces that favor abundant, healthy, and delicious food locally produced?

Congratulations to all the grads out there. You have a lot of challenges. The whole world is watching to see what solutions you come up with. So get to work!

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.