The Barefoot Spirit AudiobookWe had the honor of presenting to the MBAs at the University of San Francisco. Professor Thomas Maier gives a unique class on business modeling, research, and development where students form into teams and become their own virtual “consulting” firms. But that’s where the virtual meets the real world.

Each team takes on a challenge brought to them by real companies. Over the term of the semester, the student teams delve into the challenge, doing research and discovering potential solutions. They then deliver a tangible and actionable report of their findings and recommendations. The students get their feet wet doing real consulting work and the companies get the results for “free!” It’s a classic win, win!

Target Audience for The Barefoot Spirit Audiobook

This is our 2nd year participating in the program. This year, our challenge to the students was to discover and access the target audience for our new theater-style business audio book of The Barefoot Spirit. We prepared a short deck that identified what we know about the project. This includes the types of folks who would buy, the media we think they frequent, the unique features of the audiobook, and the various suggested business models.

We were clear that we were not experts in this field. As far as we could see, the field of audiobooks itself was in upheaval with virtual monopolies like Audible finally facing challenges by Apple. The students told us that Google and others were also developing their own audio sales platforms. The growth in audio is phenomenal. We thought the trend was going to video, but video immobilizes your mobile device. With audio, you can commute or jog.

We spent some time describing the selling points, including why our audiobook is unique: It’s the true and humble story of the wine that’s in your fridge; and it’s already a NYTs bestseller in paperback; and it’s presented in a dramatic theatrical style. Audio theater has made its way into many fictional novels. But, to the best of our knowledge, this will be a pioneer audio theater performance of a businessbook.  

Audiobooks and Audio Theaters

That’s where they surprised us. They said that our biggest challenge was to describe what audio theater is, especially when the first thought that comes to mind when someone mentions “audiobook is a narrator reading the printed book to you.

This is also a generation whose only reference to audio theater may be Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” Some may have heard Garrison Keillor’s, “A Prairie Home Companion”  with audio theatrical skits like “Guy Noir”. But most folks require a more detailed explanation.

The new style will engage the listeners’ imagination as they put the scenes together in their mind. Like NPR’s “Theater of the Mind,” listeners will enjoy a form of experiential learning from stories dramatically acted out by real actors.  Our audiobook also has an original musical score and sound effects! The paperback book is already written as a series 1-3 minute short stories. It is void of the boring prescriptive lists typical of most business books. So it lends itself to this theatrical format.

To get this new concept across in the marketplace, the students suggested a free chapter to sample the style. Thereby tempting the listeners to buy the entire audio book. They also suggested selling the book in chapters, kind of like an installment plan.

Classroom Learning Meets Real World Lessons

Over the next four weeks, we will be working closely with the students to develop our marketing program.

For us, the interaction with students of this caliber is exciting and rewarding. It’s a truly wonderful opportunity to get the latest on the rapid pace of innovation and applications that can help businesses prosper. We are very excited to see what the students come up with to help us address this marketing challenge!

We feel like we have a state-of-the-art consulting company working for us. So we are happy to return the energy with the benefit of our experience building the Barefoot Wine brand. To that end, our presentation covered our two biggest challenges which turned out to be our two biggest assets: no money and no knowledge of our industry. We also covered the three critical relationships which can turn soft skills into hard cash: your vendors, your employees, and your customers.

Want to know more? Well, it’s all in our new, soon to be released, The Barefoot Spirit audio book which, with the help of the USF MBA students, will start a new trend toward business audio theater.

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