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 Are We.
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 in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. 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 offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.
Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact .
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders