TBSTen years ago there were very few schools of entrepreneurship. Many asked, and some still do, “Can you really teach entrepreneurship?” They felt you just had to do it, take your lumps and learn from them. Many heroes of entrepreneurship actually dropped out of school altogether to pursue and master their own businesses. We think this sends a wrong message to aspiring entrepreneurs.

With all the hard knocks we got on the street, we would have certainly benefitted by some formal education in business and entrepreneurship. Today there are many schools of entrepreneurship popping up all over the country. We have spoken at more than 30 of them in the past 18 months. This experience has given us a unique perspective on the state of the art of American (and international) entrepreneurship education.

For one thing, the entire world looks to the United States as the cradle of entrepreneurship. So what we decide to do in terms of entrepreneurship education has international ramifications. For another, like the entrepreneurs they are trying to develop, schools of higher education are casting about for best practices, effective content, and real-world experience.  They want to discover what works in the classroom, the start-up hub and the marketplace.

Each school we visited had a different idea about how to teach entrepreneurship and how to measure its effectiveness. Most schools view entrepreneurship as an offshoot of their business schools. For them the business curriculum is ready made with courses you need to run your own business. We agree, but there’s more to it than that.

Some schools take a different view. For them, entrepreneurship education is an offshoot of whatever they specialize in, whether it’s engineering, agriculture or hospitality. They realize they must have at least some courses in entrepreneurship so their sciences and technology grads who want their own businesses leave with the knowledge to do so.

Still others see entrepreneurship as an offshoot of the liberal arts school, pointing out the need for entrepreneurs to obtain such core competencies as psychology, philosophy, communication, history, sociology and the other humanities. They recognize that in order to run a business, one must find, hire and train good people and build great people. One must communicate and bond with a wide range of customers, vendors, and other business people who have varying psychologies, philosophies, cultures and communication styles. We tend to agree with this approach although business form and function is also a must.

Some schools merely offer classes in entrepreneurship, others offer majors, a few offer masters degrees, and still others have start-up incubators with academic credit.

So the approach is still in its emerging stages even here in the “cradle of entrepreneurship.”

The jury is still out on what the metrics of success are. Unlike a business school where you can tout how many of your grads received high paying jobs, entrepreneurship educational success is not as clear. Is it how much money was raised for business plans? Or how many new businesses were launched?  Or even how many entrepreneurial super stars graduated from your school? These are easily measured as the data is readily available. But we think schools of entrepreneurship should start keeping track of how many of their grads’ newly launched business are still in business three years later!

We salute the schools of entrepreneurship for their multi-faceted approach to the teaching of this multi-faceted subject! It is from this melting pot that the consensus will be built on the foundation of their students’ success. We are honored to be a part of this process.


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.