rsz_11bfw_pic We’ve always been hikers and love to discover the true natural environment wherever we travel. We can’t wait get away from the cities and man-made “improvements” and venture off into the real world – on foot!

Perhaps that is why we have always been conservationists at heart and why we have a special love for groups that are trying to save what’s left of the natural world. When we built the Barefoot brand, we chose to support conservation groups nationally and internationally from the Surfrider Foundation to the Sierra Club, from the League to Save Tahoe to the Mono Lake Committee, and from state park foundations to local conservation groups. So, when we were asked to keynote the 2014 World Conference on Entrepreneurship in Ireland, we decided to stay and enjoy some touring and hiking in Ireland’s natural landscape.

In the late 1890s, Michael’s Irish grandmother left her native County Kerry in Ireland for America, never to return. She always told him that if he was ever in Ireland to go straight to County Kerry in South West Ireland. She raved about its peaceful natural beauty. So we ventured down to Kerry after the conference and visited Dingle on the West Coast (a real gem) and then off to Killarney National Park in the Killarney Lake District in the center of the County.

With Ireland’s highest mountains, it is a wonderland of unsurpassed beauty. About 20,000 years ago huge glaciers carved out pristine valleys and left a chain of beautiful lakes. Here and there along the shore you’ll spot a Viking fortress or a 15th century castle. But beyond the few evidences of our history is a timeless beauty. We saw mountainsides covered with wild purple-blossomed rhododendrons, powerful waterfalls cascading down granite cliffs covered with ferns, and the oldest remaining oak forests in Europe.

The park is big enough (28,000 acres) that you can easily leave behind the abstract, man-made world that we live in. Here is a place where the magic of nature still exists. Today we took the 7-mile hike through the Gap of Dunloe. The trail head is at the end of the highest lake reachable by boat (a beautiful two-hour ride across three of the main lakes). As we began our ascent, we saw the glacial basin expanding out below us with its sparkling blue lakes dotting a carpet of dense green forests. The air is brisk and clean with the fragrance of the ever-present wild flowers. The sky is forever changing from clouds to bright blue with beams of golden sunlight lighting up different sections of the rock faces, meadows, and lakes.

You almost have to pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming. But you’re not… this is the real world, not the cities where we spend most of our time. Living in a man-made world it’s easy to forget that places like this actually exist. That’s why we make it a point to go out and discover them as often as we can. We want to remind ourselves why we are committed to preserving our global natural heritage.

Its places like Killarney National Park in Ireland that can make a believer out of the most cynical urbanite and give young people reasons to say what we heard a young Asian tourist exclaim on the trail, “I’m glad I chose to do this today! It makes me happy!” We hope you all have a chance to visit one of our many natural heritage spots this summer and discover what it can do for you!

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.