Houlihan Wide 1

Being Resourceful with What You Have with The Barefoot Spirit’s Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Helping Entrepreneurs Tell their Stories.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the Authors of The Barefoot Spirit and the Creators of Barefoot Wine.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey were in debt when they started Barefoot Wine. After successfully building the wine brand, they sold it, but it propelled them into developing The Barefoot Spirit, a program designed to help entrepreneurs tell their stories using real actors to voice the roles.

Learn more about The Barefoot Spirit and how you can tell your entrepreneur story by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on   Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

All right with us right now. This is such a pleasure. I actually have Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, and you guys are the founders of Barefoot Wines. Thank you so much for joining me!

Yes, yes.

Bonnie's footprint on the label.

Oh, interesting. Well, we'll definitely talk about that. And I also wanted to share that, you know, one thing that we're definitely going to talk about is the Barefoot spirit which you know, Obviously a lot of followers of this podcast, love audio programs. They love listening to podcasts. And the Barefoot spirit is something that you've recently released. We're going to talk about what that is. And that is very unique in the world of audiobooks. Because it's not just an audio book. But first off again, thank you each for joining us.

Pleasure. We love it. Thanks, Josh.

So would you mind by kind of sharing just a little bit about your journey? And where did barefoot wines come from? And how did you create such an empire in the wine world and kind of when was this and what were you doing differently that that caused you to rise above the rest?

Well, I think our key assets were that we had no knowledge of the industry and we didn't have any money. We were forced to be creative, to be innovative, to be resourceful and we started being resourceful by taking advantage of an opportunity that was presented to us. I had a client who was owed a good deal of money for some grapes for three years of harvest. And he was a great grower. And Michael went to the winery that owed him the money to collect the funds and attempt to collect the funds and found out that they had just declared bankruptcy. But he was able to get bottling services in bulk wine. So that's what we started with trade, a trade. And then eventually the grape grower had said, You know, I can't take on a new business. So Michael had the brilliant solution that we would take the debt and we would take the bottle, the bottling services and the bulk wine, sell it on the you know, top of the chains and pay the grower back, put a couple bucks. in our pocket, and how hard could that be? How long could that take?

Yeah. So it's it's one thing though, to have and

how we got started.

Yeah. And some people might say, Bonnie that you just got lucky. But but it you know that there's, you know, luck is where opportunity meets preparation. That's right.

Absolutely. We asked a lot of questions because we really didn't know the industry. And the answers we got were the real key to our success. And we learned where there was a space in the chain stores where they needed another product, which was in the larger size. So that was a real big key, it had much less competition. And we were also told to make the name same as the logo, which we did, and to make it visible from four feet away as she the female shopper in the chain stores where the majority of wine is sold, can see it as she pushes her cart down the aisle. So these were all jam That really helped us succeed. No, plus, the full title of our book and our audio book is the Barefoot spirit, how hardship hustle and heart built America's number one wine brand. So it took a lot of all of those things. I'll say.

Yeah, yeah. So another thing, of course, is talk about the wine world prior to barefoot coming on the scene.

Well, it was staid, and it was exclusive. Yes. I guess in today's world, you know, you would say it was stuffy are uptight. snooty, snooty, you know, and, you know, somewhat snarky toward people who couldn't speak the language. Right. It was mostly male buyers.

At the retail level, yeah. At the retail. Yeah. Army, not

Iraq. Ironically, the end user was like 75% female, but all the buyers and gatekeepers were making wines that were Saturday night Bragg wines that were vintage dated and vineyard designated. And here we come with a non vintage varietals wine for, you know, 599. And oh, Boyd, in trouble with the establishment, they said we were trying to cheap and wine. And of course, we were actually trying to make wine more, you know, available and to compete with beer and other kinds of alcohol beverages that were much less I mean, people aren't going to get turned on to wine at $29 a bottle.

Well, you showed them wrong.

Yeah, it took a while. We had to beat him up. There was a lot, there was a lot of missionary work, you know, it's not enough to have a good idea. You have to get the other person to realize that there's a need and that's called missionary work where you're actually Actually educating people. And it was much more than we thought. And we have clients today and we listen to their great ideas. And we go, Yeah, that's great. But you know, you got to convince people that they need it.

And so he was what were the conversations like, when you were talking with retailers? Were they receptive at first?

Not really.

It was a new product that nobody knew what they were most interested in, was bringing customers are bringing customers into their store to buy the product. So how are we going to sell the product, help them sell the product. So we saw and we supported what those communities were interested in, whether it was a park or whether it was cleaning up a beach or any kind of community nonprofit event. And because we were supporting these nonprofit events, And we told them where the product was available in the marketplace, they would go in and buy them. And that worked very well for us. Because remember, I said we didn't have any money. And that was one of our key assets. So we couldn't afford paid advertising. So we use the existing

networks of nonprofits and support them with, you know, all the free wine they wanted for their fundraisers, and in the hopes that their members would have a social reason to not just buy our wine, but to be advocates for it.

And what would what went into the thinking of the actual brand barefoot? I mean, obviously, I know what it comes. You know what I start thinking of, but I would imagine that I don't know if that was the first thing that came out of your mouth or mind was like, Let's name it barefoot. You probably thought about maybe some different alternatives.

When we were talking to bar you know, when you don't know what you're doing. Yeah, more. Hi. And you, you know, you've got this opportunity, you traded this debt for wine, but you know, wine is going to go bad if it doesn't get put in the bottle and sold, especially white wine. And so you know, here we are, we're desperate. So we're asking people, you know, what should the label look like this and that, and one of the buyers said, Well, you know, the label has got to be easy to read from four feet away, it's got to be a symbol that is the same as the word and the word has to be in plain English. These are buyers talking to us, you know, and now seeing thousands of labels, and most of them fail. And so here they're giving us what they think is the ideal label. So the name is the same as the logo so barefoot in a picture of a barefoot and we like the Barefoot idea because for one thing, it was as far away from nose in the air as humanly Paul. Yeah. So it really distinguished snobs and the other three And we liked it was because it was, you know the way wine was originally made, you know and way back in Roman times, and it's grapes were crushed with their feet. And when you're barefoot, the other meaning of it is you, you know, you're you're not uptight, you're relaxed, you're on the beach or in the hot tub, you're in front of the fire. And so it's hard to be uptight when you're barefoot.

What happens when you launch a brand and a company and a man from my perspective, and you may have a different experience of this, but it got pretty big and I don't know if it felt fast that felt fast to you. Or maybe it was a very natural evolution progression. But I don't know if you were ready for a company of the size that barefoot came to be.

Well, first of all, you have to remember Josh, if you're pushing on the Queen Mary, it takes Not just all day, but a couple of years before it even moves. But once it starts to move, if you keep on pushing on the Queen Mary, you can actually get it rolling toward the mouth of the harbor. And then it can get under steam. It takes a whole lot more energy and focus, to get it going from dead still, then to bring it up to cruising speed. And it's called overcoming the inertia. And this is the problem that all entrepreneurs face, which is who is your first two customers? And then how do you build it from there and then because you've got these first two customers, you find out what you're doing wrong, because the customers are complaining and you have to get in there and fix things. We like to tell our clients don't sell your product any further away from your house and you can drive and return to your house and apologize in one day.

So eventually did it did it get to a size that you're like, Whoa, this is I mean, do you just continue to keep rising to the occasion and operations get bigger and bigger and you've got more and more staff that are involved in this? What was your? I mean, how did you how did you grow with your company?

Well, one thing is we outsourced for all of our services. So that helped keep our employees down in number. All of the employees that we had were managers. Half of them were out in the market. They were sales people watching the distributors, the retailers and supporting the communities. And the other half were managing the different aspects of what we needed in the office winemaking production ordering all the supplies, marketing, logistics, printing all These things. So that helped keep the number of people we were dealing with down. And it's a real benefit to go to somebody else and have them do the modeling, rather than are trying to gain enough money somehow to either buy a winery or to build one that that wasn't in our plans.

And our contracts were written in such a way that if our outsource bottlers didn't do it exactly right, according to the contract, we didn't have to pay for it. So if you have a winery, for instance, or any kind of production facility making any product, you are under a lot of financial pressure to put the product out, even if it's not up to your liking. So you can put out a mediocre product just because you have to. We never had to we always put out gold medal winning products. The other thing I was going to say about about growth and scaling is that you really You have to get very good at writing contracts. So you have to kind of cop an attitude that says, Fool me once. Shame on you fool me twice. Shame on me. Yeah. So you learn how to make mistakes, right? And we say, that's, that's terrible. You are it right, not just ri ght. So you make the mistake you write down what the mistake was or how the person took advantage of you. And then you write down something, it might be a clause in a contract, assign a sign off sheet. It's something it might be 10 things, but the idea is your company gets better every time you take a hit.

Never waste a perfectly good mistake.

You know, you've shared a lot of lessons just in our brief conversation so far that I'm sure that that listeners can find in the Barefoot spirit. So can you kind of share how the Barefoot Spirit came about?

You know, you've shared a lot of lessons just in our brief conversation so far that I'm sure that that listeners can find in the Barefoot spirit. So can you kind of share how the Barefoot Spirit came about?

And then, about three or four years ago, we you know, because we went on the speaking circuit, and we spoke, we've spoken at 60 schools that teach entrepreneurship and you know, that's our niche is entrepreneurship helping people. And we noticed that they were coming in with earbuds on and this is about four years ago. Can we said, you know, what are you guys listening to is it hip hop? Is it rapidly So no, no, I'm listening to a podcast on how to improve my business, not lady. Oh, no, I'm listening to Warren Piece. I always wanted to read it. But the dang thing was so thick. I didn't have time to sit down that long. And now with mp3, I can put it on my phone and I can be driving and jogging. And we said this is a whole new world. We have to write an audiobook. So we thought about what that audio book should list be like, we got a bunch of audio books and listen to them. And we noticed that what they almost all had in common business audiobooks, is that they were read to you by a narrator, sometimes the narrator was a movie star, but they were still read to you. And we thought, well, that's kind of one dimensional. What if it was performed for you like a 1945 radio show? I love it, like the shadow knows or who did it or what have you. And so we got this group in Hollywood, to work with us. And we developed what we call business audio theater, which is really the first time that we've taken business concepts, converted them into scenes and scripts and little mini stories that you can listen to in short bursts. And you know, they have takeaways, but we don't sit there and beat you up about the takeaway. We just let you listen to the story. And you draw your own conclusions. I think people learn better that way than in a prescriptive text. So try to be entertaining and informational at the same time.

So, to talk about availability, it's I so I've got one credit right now in audible. I can add it to my cart, and I can start listening as soon as we're done with our conversation.

When we invite your listeners to hear free chapter, Oh, great, and they could go to they can go to www dot barefoot audio book.com. And when they get there, they'll find snippets from the book they can listen to, and they will one of the snippets is 25 minutes long. It's a complete chapter and they will get a real seat of your pants rocket ride adventure into entrepreneur land. And it's, it's we're folks just like you out there. We are not special. People work, you know, we just got, you know, put onto the gun and learn to dance fast as they say,

you know, you've got just to give people an idea. So you've got Ed Asner, his performing GG for a row, you've got a cinematic score that accompanies this program. So I'm so excited. Yeah, it's got amazing reviews and on on Audible, so I can't wait to get into this.

Your work has

its own soundtrack to sound effects. Yes, we are

off now Now that we know how to do this, you know, taking a business principle, putting it into a story and then adding music sound effects of actors in script is quite a juggling act, especially if the purpose of the skit is to get the point across in a humorous and entertaining way. And so we became very good at that we worked over a year and a half developing this And so now we're offering the service to other founders who might be worried about what happens to their company, you know, after they sell it, what happens to their company when it gets so big that it as you say, you know, there's all these divisions and whatnot. And, you know, they've got their walls and they're, they're, they're fighting turf wars. And, you know, people aren't talking to each other, like they should you know, what happened to the spirit of the founders. That's why we call it the Barefoot spirit. Because every founder has their own spirit. You know, I mean, it takes a lot of guts and tenacity to do anything.

Wow. So now we're able to help these founders put their own stories into a format that they can use for training their employees so they can keep their own legacy alive.

You know, I was going to mention that so if I'm on the the Barefoot spirit.com right now, and I do see that you have not just the the audio drama book that you've created. The book, of course, the paperback book, but you also have other courses and trainings that you do for folks.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

We love educating people.

Actually, you know, our day job is we are advisors to startups, we help startups become more resourceful and refine their strategy and we try to debunk the commonly held misconceptions you know, like oh my ideas so great. Everybody thinks it's cool, you know, they're just going to knock down windows and kick down doors to get to me to buy it

now haha. That that was a that laugh right there was completely 100% authentic.

Yeah, you know, we've all

we've all experienced that thought for yourself just a little bit.

We're just as guilty as everybody else. We thought well, heck 599 gold medal. Winner, you know, a cute foot on the label. What's not to like? You know, it took us five years to gain traction.

Yeah, yeah. Well, that's terrific. Well, again, I want to thank you. So Michael Houlihan, Bonnie Harvey are the founders of Barefoot Wines. And you really want to pull up their website right now and that's TheBarefootspirit.com. And then from there, you can go to in its barefootaudiobook.com, where you can get free audio book samples so you can hear exactly what they've created. If you've spent a year and a half, creating this, more than just an audio book. This is a drama that you can get engrossed into the sounds again, you have a score that goes along with the foley artist. You got every Young Hollywood actors

producing a cliffhanger to Josh guaranteed cliffhanger.

That's great. That's great. Well, again, Michael, Bonnie, I want to thank you so much for sharing your story congratulations for your your decades of success and, and, and leaving a legacy. And thank you so much for all of your work that you're doing to help the next generation of startups as well. You know, in all of your advising work, you know, it's like we you know, we all rise when you know when we when we serve and help one another. So, thank you so much for Thank you

so much, Josh. Thank you.

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