The Barefoot SpiritWe’ve been asked why we subtitled our book, “How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.” It is because we believe these three ingredients are seminal to our success. But what are they exactly, in the context of business? How do they relate to each other, and how can they be orchestrated into success?

Opportunity is the key to the formula:

Hardship plus Hustle equals Opportunity; Opportunity plus Heart equals Success.

So, how does that work?


Hardship is usually a given in any new business venture. The lack of sufficient capital and experience, combined with long hours, low or no pay, and the steep learning curve are some of the hardships most start-up and small business owners can relate to.  The multitude of false starts, mistakes, and backtracking all take their toll. Many businesses suffer from overdue and/or uncollectable receivables, while the payables demand to be paid on time. The future is uncertain, security is fleeting, and the pressure to make sales happen is tremendous. Now that’s Hardship.

Hustle is all about how fast you move, how quickly you correct and learn from your mistakes, and how you maximize your resources. It’s about taking inventory of your visible and hidden assets every day.  It is always looking for opportunities and jumping on them instantly. In the constantly changing marketplace, it is knowing what you really need to do and doing it when you need to do it. It’s about staying light on your feet. Hustle is about looking for, finding, and investing time in people who possess the quality of hustle. And it’s about identifying and helping your natural strategic allies in business and in the community – those who benefit if you succeed. That’s Hustle!

Heart is what drives you. It’s the way you look at the world around you. It’s putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes whether he’s an employee or an associate, a vendor or a supplier, a wholesaler or a customer. Heart is about your belief in your own eventual success, regardless of the odds, the no-sayers, or the time it takes. It’s the tenacity that keeps you going. Heart is having a sense of humor in the face of hardship, and not taking yourself too seriously. It is about being true to your core values by supporting causes that are near and dear to you by helping your community improve itself, thereby giving others a social reason to buy your product. Heart is what makes you feel good about what you do. That’s Heart!

We never set out to be in the wine business. Like so many other entrepreneurial success stories, an opportunity presented itself. Our grape-growing client was owed a good deal of money for his grapes. The winery owing him the funds had no money, so we had to hustle to negotiate a trade for goods and services before our client couldn’t get anything because they went bankrupt.  Sure, he would have preferred to have the cash, but we took what we could get. Then we had the challenge of converting the goods and services to cash – all without any funds of our own, or any knowledge of the industry!

It was tough going. We learned a lot, often the hard way. We had to delay gratification for years. But because we believed in our hearts in the ultimate success of our product and made strategic allies of our employees, associates, vendors, suppliers, and most importantly, the community, we succeeded.  Hardship plus Hustle equals Opportunity. Opportunity plus Heart equals Success. Take it from us. We’ve been there, done that. And we wrote the book on it!

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

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact