Story Of The Barefoot Spirit
Hey guys. I love the title of the podcast. Today’s Growth Growing Business Today because it forces me a couple times a year to look at are we growing businesses today? Or am I using techniques from the 80’s 90’s and even 10 years ago. I caught myself a couple weekends ago telling a story that I have told about 100 times. We have a number of website partners. A lot of them have achieved greatness. One of our partners, Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are one such couple. Were partnered on a branding website and they became very famous. In the 90’s and 2000’s they created the brand Barefoot and Barefoot Wine. They have a book called the Barefoot Spirit. It is one of the greatest business lessons of the last hundred years. I have heard them speak numerous times. They just spoke at the Secret Knock and The McCormick Place in Chicago. They are very sought after speakers and a lot of their talk is based on their life story. Their book which is their autobiography. They have such a profound story because their story is unbelievable. This is a couple that got a phone call around the mid-nineties. I haven’t heard this story in a few years so if I am off by a year or two, please allow me the freedom of the license of the point of this story.
The point of this story is that in the mid 90’s they got an interesting phone call from a friend that says, I am in trouble. He may have mentioned possible bankruptcy. Mike and Bonnie said don’t do that. Let’s see if we can help you. It turns out his frustration was he had a winery. He was not making ends meet. He was currently sitting a tremendous of vats of grapes with no ability either to pay the last years bills or get a new brand or hit the market in time. He had a cash flow challenge. Mike and Bonnie made some sort of a business deal where they put in some money and they were able to save his bacon, if you will, and all of a sudden, with no experience, Mike and Bonnie found themselves in the wine business in the mid 90’s. I want to repeat, they had no experience at this time. Mike and Bonnie’s story of how they got Barefoot. They changed the name of the company. Have you ever seen the footprint on every label? That is Bonnie Harvey’s right foot. Now that I have said this, if you go to any store, a gas station or a high end liquor store, you will see it. The point of this podcast is again, the overarching theme of this series is that the internet often blinds us. Mike and Bonnie’s story has been picked up in at least 100 major magazines. They have been on the news so many times. They coach and counsel so many business owners. Their story is so relevant because they did it completely offline. I don’t know if they have any sales online. But they ended up selling the largest wine brand I believe in the world. The numbers were something like 130,000 cases of wine per year. It was extraordinary. Gallo ended up buying their brand. Barefoot is new a subsidiary of Gallo.
How Did They Build a Brand With Almost No Experience?
The point of this story is that this couple took over grapes. Not even a full functioning winery. With no experience. They were able to become the largest wine brand in the world. It’s amazing. So the question is how they do it with the second presumption or understanding. They had no money for marketing. No knowledge that every state had different laws for shipping, packaging, displaying wine. Their stories were so amazing. I remember reading the book and never forget Michael Houlihan is standing in front of a liquor store in some kind of costume. A Gumby costume holding a sign, directing traffic to pay attention to Barefoot Wine. They did every type of Gorilla type marketing. But none of that did anything. But as the story goes, Mike and Bonnie found their connection by walking the beach every morning or a couple times a week. This was their place to connect, communicate, strategize, plan and love on each other. If you can imagine launching a company with no money after you wrote the check to get the grapes. You are left with nothing. No experience, no guidance. The importance of their story is: How did they go from zero to the largest wine brand?
A couple years in they got a little winery going and they were shipping some wine in a different few states. It is frustrating because they couldn’t break through. They were trying this and trying that. I remember this story they told me at their kitchen table. It came down to this, Ken. We were walking down the beach and Bonnie kept bending down picking up garbage, cigarette butts, she carried a bag. At one point, I said Bonnie if you pick up one more piece of garbage, I am never coming here again. She said that is your tough luck, and she picked up another butt and kept walking. Frustrated, Michael thought for a while. Not sure how he got to the next phase. He got an idea through investigating. The group called Surf Riders are beach cleaners. They were in this part of California on Saturdays. You know what we are going to do. We are going to set up a hut with little glasses of water, white wine that is chilled. We will add refreshments to these people donating their time to clean the beaches. A couple weeks go by and somebody runs up to Mike and Bonnie. He says, you guys have been great. Can you send one of your employees to another beach north of here? They both laughed and said, employees? It’s only us. Then he said, if you can get me another tiki hut I will set up shop at the other beach and you can have 2 huts going up at a time. Before time, there were tiki huts everywhere. Allowing Mike and Bonnie to serve refreshments. She is comfortable with the Surf Riders, She is able to have some quality time with her husband too.
They Found A Worthy Cause
One of the five love language per a prior podcast is quality time. A little bit of time goes by and they have been supporting the Surf Riders for some time. I remember vividly Michael telling me this story and he was looking at a sales report. I noticed in upper California, Oregon, and Texas that sales weren’t too good. They were going to have to keep reselling stores to keep up. But there was this one pocket in California that was going through the roof. I remember looking at Bonnie saying that we have to investigate. They went to the store. Apparently, you are not allowed to be in the aisle in the alcohol business. You can’t motivate a sale physically, like in person. So, the only thing they could do is wait outside the store and ask somebody who came out with Barefoot in their shopping cart. They would ask them questions. This couple is awesome. Picture these two business owners that eventually become the largest brand in the world, standing outside of stores and looking inside people’s carts. As soon as they spot their wine, they ask them a quick question. Why did you buy that? Over and over the response was something like, I went in for a Robert Mondavi, but I saw the logo and I realized that these are the people that are helping us when we are cleaning the beaches. They support our Surf Rider Foundation. I wanted to support them back. Over and over Mike and Bonnie were getting these stories that in these pockets, where they were donating their time and their product to the Surf Riders, it turns out the Surf Riders, the law of reciprocity, found themselves having an urge to give back. So Mike and Bonnie started thinking, wait a minute, these sales that we can’t keep enough product on the shelves, in these stores, but some other stores we can’t sell anything. They noticed the direct correlation to the stores where they were selling their products to the areas they were helping the Surf Riders.
I think we know where this story goes next. They said how do we get a tiki hut next to everybody that is cleaning beaches? That is exactly what they did. They realized that the Surf Riders are an incredible organization doing well but they are only on the coasts of the west coast and east coast. Mike and Bonnie said their sales are through the roof over here, but the inner part of the country its not there for us. They thought about other organizations, maybe similar, to where we can come side by side and support them. They found a company that cleans ponds and lakes inside. Inside the country. They partnered up and did the same thing. They supported those organizations. They donated their time and resources to their charitable organizations, etc. They began what is now known as Worthy Cause Marketing. I don’t know ow how many times on podcasts. You guys have heard me talk about Tom Shoes. Tom Shoes if this is your first podcast, is the fastest growing shoe company. Tom Shoes often, when you open the website, you see the owner sitting on a mountain, telling you that if you buy a pair of shoes on this website, you buy a pair of shoes for a child who does not have any.
Worthy Cause Marketing, the crux of it. The centerpiece has changed my company. We now have 6 (six) organizations that we tie 5% of gross revenue. I have made a conscience effort to focus time and energy on giving back on worthy causes. We don’t do any digital conference without a couple large organizations have 20 minutes on our stage. I say to my audience, anybody who gives money per month of ongoing contribution to these organizations, I will give you this weekend’s full videos that we normally charge $1000 to $2000 for free in exchange for your contribution. Worthy Cause Marketing is critical on so many levels because where the internet blinds us with all of the data and access points of quick access, leads, quick this and that. We kind of lose sight sometimes that relationships sell. Deep relationships sell deeply. There is no deeper relationship than worthy cause marketing.
Do The Right Thing And Your Business Will Flourish
I was watching the Bulls last night. My wife used to be a cheerleader. I am hooked on it because of that. I was watching during the halftime that some of the Bulls and the founders were doing a Ronald McDonald House charitable contribution event. I am getting choked up right now because, they don’t do it for the business, and they do it because it is the right thing to do. When you do the right thing, you get more business. It is the law of reciprocity.
The point of this podcast is please go get the book called the Barefoot Spirit. It is one of the greatest business lessons of all time. It is tremendous. It is a great story. It is super funny, tragic, and awesome and of course it has a happy ending. But you have got to take the lesson in the book and I am going to do a podcast called two tracks. Keep the track you are on and if you are doing paper click, sales reps, direct mail, whatever it is that you use to generate revenue, that is your track. I am going to do a podcast called Two Tracks. Meaning, keep your track going, but maybe after my podcast you can add a second track. Something very deep, emotional, sincere. What are some options out there? What can you do in a way that you are doing it already? You can start opening doors to completely different audiences. You do it because not to sell products, but because it is the right thing to do. Mike and Bonnie Houlihan began with Surf Riders because it was the right thing to do. They did it when they couldn’t even afford to give away their wine. They did it because it was right.