114: What it Takes to Build America’s Largest Wine Brand, With Barefoot Wine’s Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

 ·  20 Oct  ·  0 Comments
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When you think about wine, you most likely imagine stern-faced sommeliers, or parties where tuxedos and hors d’oeuvres on silver platters are the norm.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey do not fit the stereotype. You probably wouldn’t even expect them to be wine-lovers, let alone the co-founders of Barefoot Wine, the largest wine brand in the world. But according to them, the reason they’re so successful is precisely because they knew nothing about the industry going in.

Houlihan and Harvey never planned on going into the wine business, but when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped on it.

“If we had known then what we know now, there would be no Barefoot Wine. It’s now the largest wine brand in the world, but it would not exist if we had a clue,” Houlihan says.

Not having a clue turned out to be their secret ingredient. Instead of being influenced by years of tradition and trying to fit the mold of the wine industry, they decided to do something different and make wine fun and accessible to the average person.

Despite the backlash and criticism they received, despite the fact that they had no established brand or marketing presence, they found a strategy that led them to become one of the fastest-growing wine brands in the nation. To make it even more impressive, it was all achieved without paid advertising.

“It was by contributing to the community, by supporting the same issues that our shoppers were interested in, that we were able to sell our product. Because we weren’t paying for advertising, this became our form of advertising. It’s what we called ‘Worthy Cause Marketing,’ and that’s what we used throughout the nation when we started to spread the word and grow and expand,” Harvey says.

Barefoot Wine has come a long way since its inception in 1986, when Houlihan and Harvey naively thought they would make a profit within four years. Now they’re a little older and a little wiser, but they still possess that lively spark that led them to create one of the most popular wine brands in the world.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why ignorance and naiveté might be your strongest weapons in disrupting an industry
  • What “Worthy Cause Marketing” is and how you can use it to build your brand
  • The painful lessons in logistics and distribution Houlihan and Harvey had to learn from selling a physical product
  • Where to go to learn the lessons you need to succeed
  • How to stay true to your vision and not let anyone else hold you back
  • & much more!
Nathan Chan
nathan@foundrmag.com

Nathan Chan is the Publisher and Editor of Foundr magazine. He is an avid table tennis player and a lover of everything entrepreneurship.

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