Barefoot Wines founders inspire students

Entrepreneurial opportunities can strike at any moment and accomplishment can come from a little insight. 

The Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosted the Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series featuring the founders of Barefoot Wines Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey April 2 in the  Hayden-Clark Alumni Center Peplow Pavilion.

The husband and wife duo shared their story of starting their business with little money and no wine making experience out of their laundry room in 1985.

“[The speech is about] How we got started, with no money and no knowledge of our industry and how we built this blockbuster brand without any advertising simply by supporting local community causes,” Houlihan said.

Today Barefoot Wines is the number one selling wine brand in the United States. The founders sold the brand in 2005, and now travel the country giving lectures on entrepreneurship and promoting their book, the New York Times bestseller “The Barefoot Spirit.”

Turner School Managing Director Ken Klotz said they invited Houlihan and Harvey to speak to both inform and inspire students.

“[We brought] very accomplished named brand entrepreneurs in to explain to the students their entrepreneurial journey and also to inspire them so that they know they can do it too,” Klotz said. “Everyone we bring in like this has the typical American entrepreneur story where they started with nothing and built something great.”

The Turner School hosts the program once every semester. Past speakers include the founder of Priceline.com and the founder of Redbox.

Throughout the speech Houlihan and Harvey emphasized the need for an understanding of people in business and what people want and look for in a product.

They also stressed the need to listen to people from all stages of the production and distribution of products in order to gain an upper hand in the industry.

“We had to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes and I think the best part is learning to work with people and learning to work with nonprofits and community fundraisers because that is how barefoot got the word out,” Harvey said.

This concept is a part of their strategy known as “Worthy Cause Marketing,” where they partner with worthy causes in order to promote their brand and increase sales.

“We will try to inspire them with our story and empower them with our tools,” Houlihan said. “We want them to take away some of the guiding principles we learned the hard way to help them with their business.”

Students said the information was very useful.

“They offered really good insight on how to start your own business and they were really encouraging which you don’t see all the time,” said junior English major Sarah Marshall.

For more information about Houlihan and Harvey, check out their book “The Barefoot Spirit.”