Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Hollyhan and Bonnie Harvey, the founders of the world’s most popular wine brand, Barefoot Wine.
The most humiliating thing is that Michael and Bonnie had absolutely no idea what they were doing first.
From the beginning, with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, innovative ideas had to be employed to overcome their obstacles, create new markets and strategic alliances.
Learning the hard way, Michael and Bonnie moved on to success.
The lessons they taught me were … priceless.
1. Stop thinking about following your passion, and start thinking about following opportunities with passion.
Michael and Bonnie had no experience in the wine business. They were both business instructors who had a lot of clients in the wine business. One of their clients was a grape grower, and no specific client paid for this grape grower for three years. Michael went straight to the criminal company to raise funds for his client, only to find out that the company had gone bankrupt. Understand why they could not pay!
Now, here’s what sets an entrepreneur apart from everyone else. The company had no money, but it had a ton of extra wine. Michael notices this and makes a deal, taking মূল 300,000 worth of wine from his client instead of cash.
Hidden Opportunity # 2: After returning to his client, Michael faced further resistance: the grape grower said he could probably not run another business, and so he could not sell the wine Michael claimed.
And that’s exactly how Michael and Bonnie started their wine business – because of a completely unexpected opportunity that manifested itself through perseverance and subtlety.
2. Pay attention to the little, annoying details.
Early in their venture, Michael and Bonnie won a gold medal at a wine testing event. In the middle of the celebration, a moderator approached them and asked: “Do you have the correct license for this?”
It appears they did not, and were fined $ 10,000 for their negligence. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way… but it doesn’t have to be that expensive! That’s why – as annoying as it may be – you have to pay attention to the smallest detail to get to the top.
3. Do “Eligible Reason Marketing”
With no money for advertising, Michael and Bonnie did not know what to do to get their product in front of consumers. They could not enter the big supermarket because no one knew the brand. And, to make matters worse, their brand logo was a foot. Who puts his foot on a bottle of wine? And who buys a bottle of wine with his feet on it?
They could not even enter any of the local community shops.
Then, one day, they got a call from a guy who was running a local charity and was looking for a grant. Again, here’s what sets an entrepreneur apart from everyone else. They said they had no money, but they had plenty of wine. He took the wine to auction at the event. And, after that event, the sale of barefoot wine skyrocketed in the surrounding area. They tried the same thing in a few more cities – and got the same results.
Marketing through qualified leads is a great way to advertise because you don’t have to spend any money. Doing so, and only this, is how Barefoot has become one of the fastest growing wine brands in the country.
4. You only need a few lawyers to love your product – not thousands.
Who are you most likely to hear, your friend or an ad on Facebook? This is a common fact, but one that seems to be easily forgotten among startup founders.
By focusing on worthy causes and small communities, Michael and Bonnie fall in love with their customers’ brands. Those roots spread the word like fire and the rest is history.
5. Be generous but do not be free.
When you can create a “win-win” you don’t just have to “win” someone else. If you’re offering someone your product or service for free, ask them to stay in the newsletter, or ask them to write a blog post about you, or give you some kind of promotion. How smart you are to give. This is how Michael and Bonnie spread their brand awareness in communities where they had no foothold or connection. Strategically, they have created awareness by getting a great product and a valuable offer, and the supporters have jumped together.
6. Spend 80% of your time selling.
Why? Because it is very difficult to achieve steady cash flow in a new business. And when Michael and Bonnie say “sell”, they don’t mean just a few sales here and there. They mean opportunities where you can sell hundreds, or thousands. You have to spend time there.
7. Ask people how you can help them, not what you can get from them.
People need to trust you before they can work with you and buy from you. You may be the most trusted person in the world – but they don’t know it. Show them by asking what you can do for them and then do it better than anyone else. Even better: Do your research and find out what that person or company needs and then offer to help them. Successful entrepreneurs take initiative.
8. Your first goal should be to know everything about your business, not to expand it.
Everyone, when starting a business first, wants to expand, wants to expand. According to Michael and Bonnie it won’t work, because when you first start, you probably don’t understand every aspect of your business. There are some things you don’t know that you don’t know. Know your business, know everything about your business… then you will be ready to expand.
9. Mistakes are beautiful.
“We were not born with the ability to start or grow a successful business.” Bonnie said. We make mistakes and then learn from them. There is absolutely no excuse for wasting a whole good mistake, because every mistake is beautiful! They are beautiful because you have the opportunity to make the same mistake again! This is how you grow a profitable business, without making the same mistake twice.
If you do it right, after making a lot of mistakes, you start making many right decisions over and over again – and that compound!
10. Taking a break from your day is essential for success.
There is no power around it: you need to take the time to recharge that biological computer in your ear. If you are a self-determined “workholic”, this should be more important to you than most people, because taking breaks allows you to be sharper and more productive and make better decisions. And isn’t that much more important than working one minute every day?