The Barefoot Spirit

The Barefoot Spirit

How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America's #1 Wine Brand

By Michael Houlihan; Bonnie Harvey; Rick Kushman

Evolve Publishing, Paperback, 9780988224544, 275pp.

Publication Date: May 2013

It is hard to believe that such an iconic brand as Barefoot Wines began as a start-up in a laundry room of a rented farmhouse in the Sonoma County hills. Even more surprising is that the people who started it were just an average business couple, Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, with no money and no real knowledge about the wine industry.

The part that isn't a surprise is that, because of their lack of experience, and because the wine business is one massively complicated industry, they ran into difficulties and setbacks that regularly put the brand near death in the first two decades. What kept it going was an unshakable belief in Barefoot's potential, Michael's and Bonnie's use of universal business principles, and their never-say-die outlook despite facing one seemingly insurmountable hurdle after another. Those hardships, that hustle, and their heart, are the essence of the Barefoot Spirit.

For years, Michael and Bonnie, the Barefoot Wine founders, have been asked to write a book about how this brand got started and became a best seller. "The Barefoot Spirit" traces that history and tells the story of how an unknown novelty wine became an American icon. It chronicles the unlikely events that made it possible, and it lays out the cornerstone business and lifestyle philosophies that made it, ultimately, an enduring success. By the time they sold the brand to E&J Gallo in 2005, they'd won a ton of awards and helped transform an entire industry from stuffy and intimidating to fun, casual, and socially aware.

The Barefoot Spirit is not a dry business text. The lessons are cheerfully woven into a twenty-year business adventure story that's inspiring, amazing, and entertaining. It's a case study, an idea book, an uncommon peek behind the curtain of the wine business, and a snapshot of the American spirit, West Coast style.

The book was written by award-winning journalist Rick Kushman after hundreds of hours of research and interviews with Michael, Bonnie, and many others.

This book is a testament to the American Entrepreneurial Spirit of resourcefulness, imagination, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking.

The Barefoot Spirit is an inspirational guidebook for anyone in business and a great read for everyone who loves a rags-to-riches story. Filled with encouragement, inspiration, and empowerment, including:

* How Michael and Bonnie used Worthy Cause Marketing instead of traditional advertising

* How they used boot-strapping instead of conventional financing

* The surprising advantages of being small and broke

* How creating a fun, yet hardworking positive company culture encourages innovative leadership

* How making mistakes the right way builds your business and saves essential relationships

* Why attitude and determination trumps knowledge and experience

If you like wine, the wine country, or a story about how a plucky little winery transformed an industry, if you want to know what it takes to really succeed in the face of adversity, if you want to know how to use your core beliefs to build a national brand, then "The Barefoot Spirit" is for you.

About the Author
Michael Houlihan is the co-founder of Barefoot Cellars along with partner Bonnie Harvey. Though his business card read "Head Stomper," he officially served as president and CEO for 19 years. Starting with no money and no knowledge of the wine industry, he and Bonnie used out-of-the-box thinking coupled wit

Bonnie Harvey is the co-founder of Barefoot Cellars along with partner Michael Houlihan. She was Vice President and "The Original Foot" for 19 years. There she had a wide variety of duties, doing whatever was necessary to operate the business. While Michael's role was "big picture visionary," Bonnie translated his ideas into workable processes and displayed a genius for managing the millions of details that come with a start-up. She proved to possess a rare combination of creativity and business savvy that served Barefoot well.In the early days of the brand, Bonnie was responsible for bottling oversight, supply inventory and label design-in fact, the famous footprint is actually hers! Later as Barefoot grew, she focused on overview and direction of the business, setting company goals, and attending to Board of Director matters. She managed all financial aspects of the business, oversaw legal relations and compliance, and edited countless press materials, presentations, official manuals and other documents.Along with Michael, Bonnie donates professional time to non-profits to help them improve their image, increase donations and achieve financial sustainability. She also coauthors weekly business blogs at and with him, and they consult together with several clients.Bonnie has a passion for helping young entrepreneurs choose the right path. With her varied "hard-knocks" experience, she offers practical solutions for all aspects of starting a business. She loves showing others how to avoid painful and costly mistakes and directing them toward profitability.

Rick Kushman enjoys wine but doesn't know much about it. He's not afraid to ask questions. When not in Napa, he's a nationally syndicated television columnist for the "Sacramento Bee,"

Hank Beal is a wine pro who's won medals at the California Wine Tasting Championships. As Executive Wine Buyer for a California supermarket chain, Nugget Market, he buys over 1 million bottles of wine a year.

Praise For The Barefoot Spirit
New York Times named "The Barefoot Spirit" a Top 10 Bestselling Business Book for June & July 2013

“This is a warm, wonderful, inspiring book that entertains and motivates at the same time.”

--Brian Tracy, Author of The Power of Self-Confidence

"Great read, great book. This story is beyond wine and the love of wine, it's about starting a business."

--Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback, Entrepreneur, & Sirius XM Radio Host of The Fran Tarkenton Show

“Fun beach reading for small business inspiration. The Barefoot Spirit is an entertaining rags-to-riches story of American entrepreneurship. It’s the first-hand tale of California rule breakers Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, the founders, of the country’s top-selling wine brand”

--Yahoo! Small Business

"It's an inspiration to see how they broke all the rules and still succeeded against all odds. For anyone contemplating starting a business, there are lessons to be learned here and an entertaining story as a bonus."

--Alan Caruba, Book Reviewer, National Book Critics Circle, Author and Columnist

"I try to read all the books of the authors on my show and am just getting into The Barefoot Spirit. It’s one of the best books on entrepreneurship I’ve read.”

--Kip Marlow, Entrepreneur & Host of Entrepreneurs Club Radio
"I thoroughly enjoyed The Barefoot Spirit. I will make it required reading because it tells a lovely story and it embodies so much of the entrepreneurial mindset. I loved the 'voice' of the book and storytelling is such a wonderful way to communicate. I believe students will find it a fun addition to their library and in the process they will learn the most important lessons of entrepreneurship!"

--Rebecca J. White, Professor, Entrepreneurship and James W. Walter, Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship Director, Entrepreneurship Center, The University of Tampa, John H. Sykes College of Business Tampa, Florida Outgoing President, United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship