By Ben Steverman

You’d think selling your wine brand to E&J Gallo would put you squarely on Easy Street. As accidental wine merchants Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan found out, personal finance and entrepreneurship can make an awkward pair.

Before the mid-1980s, the married couple’s main experience with wine was drinking it. Then, while working as a consultant on office management to a wine maker without a brand of his own, Harvey learned that a winery owed her client a lot of money. She brought in Houlihan, a business consultant, who discovered that the indebted winery couldn’t pay cash — but could repay the debt with bulk wine and bottling services.

The couple developed a plan for the client to use those resources to set up a brand. When the client passed on the idea, Harvey and Houlihan took over the debt and launched Barefoot Wine in 1986. They sold the company for an undisclosed sum in 2005. Their book about the 20 years spent building the brand, “The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand,” will be published on May 21. Here are excerpts of their reflections on life and money.

Michael Houlihan: We like to say we fell backwards into the wine business. We didn’t know enough to realize what was involved.

Bonnie Harvey: Ignorance is bliss.

To read the complete interview, please visit Bloomberg News 


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