46 minutes | Sep 2, 2020

Episode 67: Growing the World’s Largest Wine Brand — Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

This week on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, Wes interviews Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey — co-founders at Barefoot Cellars. Michael is also the former President and CEO of the company. Over the course of its 34 year history, Barefoot has grown into one of the fastest growing and award-winning brands in the global wine industry. It’s offerings have expanded from two simple red and white blends to a large variety of wines, champagnes, spritzers, and, most recently, hard seltzers.  If you’ve walked into any corner store, liquor store, or supermarket, you’ve come in contact with Barefoot products, yet the brand had a slow rise to global prominence. Michael and Bonnie were two young, ambitious business consultants who stumbled into an opportunity, sought to fill a market gap, and were too far in to turn back when things got really hard. The Barefoot story is an inspiring tale for anyone — entrepreneur or not — and this week, it is told in full.   The EnTRUEpreneurship Takeaway: “Never waste a perfectly good mistake.” “Integrity and partnership — those are soft-skills, which are really lost skills in this high-tech world we live in. People have forgotten. Yes, you’ve got to borrow $3 million for your application, but that’s because nobody likes you.” [On the choice of whether or not to give up] “When you swim halfway across the English Channel, do you think about giving up and going back?” “Don’t go into sales pitches and beat people up with features and benefits and pricing. They don’t buy your products; they buy you.” “The backbone of entrepreneurial culture is a sales-oriented mindset where you’re constantly providing increased value and customer service for whatever customer you have, so that you get a reputation of being a hot mover and people stand behind your products.” “Outsource everything that you possibly can, with the exception of sales, quality control, and accounting. Those are three things you must do in-house.” “When you’re broke, you don’t have any choices except to scratch your head and look for the resources that are around you.” “Because we were outsiders, we looked at things in a different way. And I think that kind of unharnessed us.”   Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed: 3:08: Michael and Bonnie share the story of how they stumbled into the wine industry and how their initial ignorance of the industry worked to their advantage. 8:49: The two discuss why they ultimately decided to first start a wine business and share a best practice that greatly benefitted them in the earliest days. 14:26: The two describe their “first big move” in getting their wine sold and how a failed deal taught them valuable lessons and ultimately worked to their advantage. 22:11: Michael and Bonnie explain how they managed to produce a consistently good product, while dedicating the majority of their time to sales. 24:30: Michael and Bonnie explain why it was important for them to reinvest any “extra” money they had into business expansion. 27:25: The two discuss why it took seven full years for them to feel like the business had “legs” and how partnering with Trader Joe’s in the retailer’s earliest days was a positive and a negative. 29:02: Michael and Bonnie explain the unique dynamic they fostered with their production and distribution partners and why this type of relationship is a forgotten art. 36:31: The two discuss the top 3 characteristics that they believe made their brand successful and explain why outsourcing is important for businesses of all sizes. 38:14: Bonnie and Michael share about their latest venture in helping entrepreneurs preserve their founding stories. 40:03: The two distill their incredible story into a few pieces of sage advice.   Bulleted List of Resources — Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey -     LinkedIn (Michael) -     LinkedIn (Bonnie)   Barefoot Wine -      Company Website -      Facebook -      Twitter -      Instagram   The Barefoot Spirit -      Company Website -      Facebook -      Twitter -      YouTube -     The Barefoot Spirit on Amazon   Business Audio Theatre -      Company Website -      LinkedIn
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