BarefootSpirit_3D_FF_083012 (1)Over the past few years, we’ve changed our personal brand from wine industry thought leaders to entrepreneurial and brand building thought leaders. In the process, we did what we always do when faced with a challenge. We took inventory. We were surprised at how many marketing assets we developed for Barefoot Wine that were transferable to our new brand.

Aside from successfully negotiating a mountain of challenges in one of the toughest businesses out there, we found that the lessons we learned were applicable to any business and essential to most start-ups. So we had something to offer brand builders and aspiring entrepreneurs. But there are many thought leaders out there on every aspect of branding, business management and success. How could we distinguish ourselves and our personal brand in such a crowded market?

The Best From Our Former Brand

We looked to our former brand for clues and hidden assets we could apply to our new brand.


Barefoot wine was designed to be wine for the average person, not necessarily the wine aficionado. It was friendly, affordable and accessible. It actually expanded the wine business by attracting many who didn’t like wine. We wanted to carry that user-friendly theme into our new personal brand.

That meant breaking down complex business ideas and principles into simple terms that the majority could understand and apply. After all, many of our new customers are folks who have found themselves in self-employment, many times out of sheer necessity. These folks want practical tools, delivered in plain English, demonstrated by real-life events they can use today.


Barefoot was a fun label born into a world of deadly serious wine brands. So our personal brand had to be fun as well. But how do you have fun with Business Principles? Seems like a pretty dry subject. Perhaps, we thought, we could tell the many laughable and surprising stories of our own entrepreneurial and brand building adventures. Perhaps we could write our own story so our readers could laugh while they learn lessons we learned the hard way, lessons applicable to any brand.

We tapped our friend Rick Kushman to help us get our story down in book form. He is the former wine and food writer for the Sacramento Bee and had written a book of his own. We found it smart, funny, and informative. We met with him at our home and told him our stories over a hundred dinners and as many bottles of wine.


We marketed Barefoot Wine through what we called Worthy Cause Marketing. So, with our new brand, we decided to support the causes that could benefit from our experience. We decided to donate our expertise to students by speaking at entrepreneurial schools throughout the country. We are donating coaching to disabled, returning, post 911 veterans who want to start their own businesses. This year, we will speak at several Entrepreneurial Veteran Bootcamps. We are also returning a portion of our book sales proceeds to some of our favorite non-profits.

Brand Name.

We had to choose a brand name for ourselves that was a link to the past brand and at the same time identified with our new brand, which promotes the American entrepreneurial spirit. We also looked for a name that would describe the idea of philosophy, drive, and can-do attitude that got us through the tough times. So we decided to name our book and our new personal brand, “The Barefoot Spirit.”

Our book is a true American entrepreneurial success story and recounts the specific strategies, tactics and guiding principles we used to build a national best-selling brand. The lessons we learned are not commonly taught in school. It is our hope that this book will be used as a case study to encourage, inspire and empower students, entrepreneurs and brand builders, no matter what their industry.


Oh, and Barefoot wine was at a great price for a gold-medal winner for only $6.99. The Barefoot Spirit book, now available everywhere, is priced right at under $14 at most retailers. We hope the marketing secrets, brand-building techniques and guiding principles wrapped in a fun tale behind the scenes of the wine business will entertain as it educates.

The true brand story of Barefoot Wine will be released in paperback on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013. We are first timers at this, just like we were with Barefoot Wine. So please tell us what you think of The Barefoot Spirit!

Happy Branding!

Michael & Bonnie


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) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. 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 business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact