by Cyril Penn | May 24, 2013 | 2:35 PM
So I finished reading my advance copy of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart built America’s #1 Wine Brand (written with Rick Kushman). It was officially released last week.
These days, Barefoot is owned by E&J Gallo and is a six-million case brand. It wasn’t always that way.
Most people aren’t familiar with the improbable story of how Barefoot started. Back in 1985, when Chateau Souverain was taken over by creditors, it owed grower Mark Lyons (now Sebastiani’s winemaker) for 300 tons of grapes. Mark’s friend Michael Houlihan tried to help. Houlihan, who knew absolutely nothing about the wine industry, paid Souverain a visit hoping to help Lyons recover something – anything. Houlihan naively figured he could help Lyons bottle and sell wine to earn the lost money back. He made a deal for 18,000 cases of wine. In those days, the bulk market for wine wasn’t what it is today. Souverain’s people had no guarantee the wine in their tanks would ever get sold and were happy to have the debt off the books. Next thing you know, Houlihan is in the wine business.
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Who We Are
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.
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