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Michael Houlihan is a highly sought-after business strategist, keynote speaker, consultant, and corporate trainer. He is the Founder of the iconic Barefoot Wine brand, which eventually was acquired by E & J Gallo.

After selling the company, Michael and his partner Bonnie Harvey co-authored The New York Times best-selling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. His latest venture is Business Audio Theatre, which performs founder stories in audiobook format to improve employee acquisition, engagement, and tenure.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The hardest part of building Barefoot Wines
  • Michael Houlihan talks about the scarcity of wine in the mid-90s and how he found a creative solution
  • Harnessing the power of the retailer
  • How Barefoot Wines implemented change quickly
  • Michael shares how they came up with the idea of worthy cause marketing in wine and some of the causes they supported
  • How to do worthy cause marketing today
  • Why Michael founded Business Audio Theatre
  • The experiential learning of audio theater — and why it works
  • How entrepreneurs can share their stories on Business Audio Theatre

In this episode…

Inspirational stories, the sheer hustle behind building a household brand, and the heart that keeps going no matter what: today’s guest, Michael Houlihan, shares it all. He takes us back to when Barefoot Wines was an accidental idea, the arduous task of winning shelf space in retail stores, and why worthy cause marketing was not a cool thing to do back in the day — but it paid off.

And just when you think you’ve learned the biggest lesson, Michael drops how to implement change in your company quickly and how it was the lifeline for Barefoot Wines. On top of that, Michael reveals top insights for effective worthy cause marketing in today’s wine business space, why sharing your founder story is an HR hack, and lots more valuable lessons.

Listen to this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz and Drew Hendricks of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. Together they host Michael Houlihan, Co-founder of Barefoot Wines and Business Audio Theatre. They talk about the Barefoot story like you’ve never heard it — from idea to exit, the hard lessons in-between, and how the story became a best-selling book and an award-winning audio play. Stay tuned.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Sponsor for this episode

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.


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Episode Transcript

Jeremy Weisz 0:22

All right, today is a little different. We have two hosts and this episode will go live on InspiredInsider. It will also go live on Legends Behind the Craft. I’m Dr. Jeremy Weisz. I’m the Founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders. I’m here with Drew Hendricks, Drew

Drew Hendricks 0:40

Drew Hendricks here on the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the lighting craft beverage industry.

Jeremy Weisz 0:46

And we will formally introduce today’s guests in a moment, Michael Houlihan who founded Barefoot Wines and it’s an iconic brand I’m sure you’ve seen it in every single store grocery store you’ve been in. We always like to point out Michael a few cool episodes other episodes people should check out i episode with the Founder of Wild Tonic Holly Lyman, who I basically told also, your book, Michael is a must read for her and anyone in general entrepreneur or anyone, especially in the beverage space, especially in the wine space, the Co-founder of Pixar, Alvy Ray Smith, and many more and Drew what are few of yours. It was a check out

Drew Hendricks 1:26

a few of the latest ones that people should really check out as we talk with Joe Wagner from Copper Cane Wines and provisions about his kind of exit from Naomi and into his new ventures up and down the West Coast. And then Paul Mabray who’s just founding a new venture picks wines. And then Joe Fattorini is a must A must see where you got to where he’s the host of the Wine Show.

Jeremy Weisz 1:48

Cool. This episode is brought to you by Rise25 and Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. And we do that by helping you run your podcast, you know, Michael, for me, and also for Drew the number one thing in our lives, our relationships, and we always look at ways to give to our relationships. And I have found no better way over the past 10 years than having my podcast shout from the rooftops what they’re doing in the things that I admire about them and their company. So if you have questions, you can go to and Drew.

Drew Hendricks 2:22

And today’s episode is also sponsored by Barrels Ahead. That Barrels Ahead we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. Core today to learn more

Jeremy Weisz 2:37

Awesome, and a big thank you to Ryan Foland. This wouldn’t happen without Ryan Foland. And Ryan Fullan wrote Ditch the Act and can be found on And I know Michael knows him well and is our pleasure to introduce the Founder of iconic Barefoot Wine brand, eventually was acquired by Gallo, Michael Houlihan. Michael and his partner Bonnie Harvey, co author The New York Times best selling business book, The Barefoot Spirit and it’s how hardship hustle and heart built America’s number one wine brand. And it chronicles our humble beginnings in a laundry room that created and eventually created an international best selling wine brand. And their latest venture is You should check it out. It performs founder stories in audiobook format to improve employee acquisition, engagement and tenure. You also learn more at And Drew and I were talking about how drew what was your thought on the book that you you know, Michael Michaels like say that again, we got to say that again for the audio years.