What do you do with a laundry room when you can’t afford a washer or a dryer? In Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey’s case, you start America’s #1 wine brand. What is now the Barefoot Wine Brand, started in Michael and Bonnie’s laundry room in the mid 1980s.
The business was started after a client of Bonnie’s wasn’t getting paid for his grapes, and the couple found a way to accumulate both grapes and bottling services. All they had to do was sell it. Selling wine couldn’t be that hard, right? As Bonnie said during our interview, “No matter how grand your idea is for a product or a service…no one’s going to buy it unless you can get it to market.”
Getting past the gatekeeper was one large hurdle that Michael and Bonnie had to overcome if they were going to get Barefoot into the hands of consumers. They approached the buyer for the top supermarket chain in California to ask exactly what he wanted. The buyer said that no one ever asked what he wanted, they simply told him what they had to sell. After telling Michael and Bonnie what he wanted, they figured out how to deliver it to him. There was still hesitation on the part of the buyer, but they were able to get their product on the shelves.
Q: What made you both believe that you could turn a laundry room win operation into a successful business?
A: “We didn’t know any better. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.”
Both Michael and Bonnie worked as consultants in California, but were destined for something greater. Michael said, “I was waiting for my boss to die to get a raise.” The pair decided to focus on building the brand instead of continuing on with their previous positions. “When I quit my job – I didn’t quit my job, I quit the idea of having a job. I became an entrepreneur on that day.”
2013 CEO National Conference
Michael and Bonnie will be speaking at the 2013 Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization National Conference in Chicago, which will be held October 31 – November 2. Approximately 1,400 college students and entrepreneurs will attend the three-day event that will include the National Elevator Pitch Competition, chapter awards, young entrepreneur of the year awards, networking events, 70 speakers, and much more.
The Barefoot Wine Founders will be speaking about the challenges that a young entrepreneur will face through their experience along with how to hire and keep the best people, reduce their need for capital, reduce turnover, and many other applicable pieces of advice and information.
The founders have shared their story through the New York Times Bestseller The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. Michael describes the book as a “Seat of your pants adventure story where you wonder if Michael and Bonnie are going to make it from day-to-day.”
Listen to the full interview with Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey.
– How America’s #1 Wine Brand started in a laundry room.
– How they were able to get their wine brand on the shelves.
– How Michael and Bonnie used worthy cause marketing to help others while building the company.
– Information about their book – The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.
– Michael and Bonnie’s best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs.