According to Forbes, 90% of all new businesses fail. Why is the rate so high with so many great ideas? Is something missing? Something basic? According to the Small Business Administration, businesses that survive over 5 years tend to survive over 10 years. Do they finally learn something that saved them? What if they knew those things right from the beginning?

We are often accused of being Monday morning quarterbacks with 20-20 vision. Well, guilty as charged! And lucky for you!  Having been through it from ideation to monetization, we are in a unique position to offer help. After years of wrong assumptions, and actions based on those wrong assumptions, it ultimately became clear to us what we were doing right and what we were doing wrong. Our experience and success in the real world can save you a ton of time, money, and anxiety.

Like the man says, “If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?” Well, some things we would do just the same, but others, we would have started doing a whole lot sooner. Starting with no money and no knowledge of our industry, you can bet we had a lot to learn. You can bet we made plenty of mistakes.

These are the same challenges startups face today, like being undercapitalized, finding and keeping the right people, providing effective leadership, and getting the word out, just to name a few. But the biggest mistakes startups make may be in their own heads! They tend to accept popular assumptions about business that are just, well, wrong! We want to change all that.

There’s a new movement afoot. We call it “The Barefoot Startup.” Why “Barefoot”? Because it’s a great analogy for a feet-on-the-ground, step-by-step approach to starting and growing your business.  It’s beyond “bootstrap” because it’s sensitive to the terrain, its well-grounded in principle, and clears the path for success.

The Barefoot Startup incorporates the proven strategies we used successfully and the lessons we learned over 20 years building the Barefoot Wine brand. These key tenets made the biggest difference in our success. They can work well for any business. The tenets of The Barefoot Startup  (#BarefootStartup) will give you a big head start, mitigate your risk, and reduce your need for capital.

It’s not another set of tactics. It’s not another cut-and-paste process for 6 figures in 6 months. But it is a fundamental understand, and application, of the basic principles of long-term business success.  Think of it as an insurance policy for your start-up.

The 7 tenets of The Barefoot Startup spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S:

  1. Strategic Alliances. Who wins if you win? How can you help them win? How can you work with your community to get the word out?
  2. Understandings. How does your distribution system work? What are the challenges you face gaining acceptance in your market?
  3. Customer. Who are your customers? What does each of them really want? How should your company be structured to gain their loyalty? How do you turn your customers into advocates?
  4. Compassion. What does everyone who touches your product want? How can you show empathy for their needs? How do you gain their respect and cooperation?
  5. Empowerment. How can you get the most out of your people, your suppliers, and your buyers? What do they need from you to do their job better for you?
  6. Sales. What is the fastest way to create a positive cash flow? Where is your low-hanging fruit? What is the quickest way to gain a “Hot Mover” reputation?
  7. Slow Down! How can you reduce your need for capital by being more resourceful? How can starting small show you the true cost of sales? How can you get your act together before you take your show on the road?

The Barefoot Startup offers detailed answers with real world examples. How do you spell success?  Join the movement at!

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