We’re often asked if we miss the wine industry. First off, we still have clients in the wine industry and we are helping them with what we’ve learned building a bestselling wine brand. But we have branched out into other industries, and we are speaking to schools of entrepreneurship with aspiring business owners in all industries. Still, we are not producing and marketing our own wine brand any more. Now it’s mostly business ideas and philosophies.
One of the big changes for us is that for the first time, we actually get to go to and enjoy wine events as guests rather than as hosts! It’s nice, after so many years, to be on the other side of the tasting table. We didn’t realize until now how much fun the wine country can be with all of its wonderful events! We were head down, doing our best to help produce these events and were active participants. As one of our reps put it, after a particularly long day serving wine at a tasting event in the ballroom of the Drake Hotel in Chicago, “It’s hard to be congenial after standing on a marble floor for 10 hours!” But stand there we did for hours on end in hundreds of tastings and events all over the country. Now we attend events as guests. Imagine that?
We supported hundreds of non-profits with our wines and sent our people to set up, pour and break down. We often didn’t have time to go ourselves. But now we do! Recently we attended the Mountain Play production of The Sound of Music in the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre, at Mt. Tamalpais State Park. They have been producing live outdoor theater for 100 years. The amphitheater sits on the top of Mt. Tamalpais and has an incredible view of San Francisco. The Mountain Play is a cultural non-profit, surviving on donations, ticket sales and volunteers. What a treat that was!
When we attend a wine tasting event now, we have the utmost appreciation and respect for what it takes to pull it off. Aside from all the licenses and permits required to serve alcohol, wine is heavy, perishable, and requires special handling. You need glasses, ice, towels, openers, trash boxes, signs, tables, tablecloths, and don’t forget the indispensable duct tape! You need to get there early to set up and stay late to clean up after the guests have left.
What we do miss about those events is the great feedback we got that helped us improve our products, and the messages of support that kept us going when the times were tough. We also miss the camaraderie of the wine people themselves. Unlike many industries, the wine industry is cooperative and friendly toward their so-called competition. If we needed a pin or a pen, an opener or strips of, yes, duct tape, our colleagues from the other wineries were always there to help.
It really is a hospitality business and requires many hours of planning and logistics before any event happens. Then, at the events, many hours of standing and being congenial are required, along with responsible vigilance.
As we go into the full swing of the wine tasting season, let’s offer a toast to the people that make the wine events happen: the winery representatives, the pourers, and the volunteers. Thank you for your tireless hospitality! Cheers to you!
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