Here at BookTrib, I’m asked to review a lot of books. You can find me most evenings, weekends and train commutes deep inside a book bristling with Post-It notes. So it was a refreshing change when I was asked to review the audiobook of The Barefoot Spirit (Footnotes Press) by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of Barefoot Wine. Not just an audiobook, mind you, but a “business audio theatre” book. A what, now?

As soon as I started listening, I understood. This wasn’t just a voiceover artist reading a book out loud for me. Rather, it was an immersive listening experience, including actors playing the parts of various characters, punctuated by sound effects and enhanced with music. In a nonfiction audiobook, no less. I was embarking on a journey of the mind’s eye into an engaging, often funny, informative look into the struggles, ingenuity and humanity behind the founding of America’s top wine brand.


The book version of The Barefoot Spirit was released in 2013 and climbed within weeks to the top ten New York Times business bestseller list. Written by Houlihan and Harvey in collaboration with journalist Rick Kushman, it introduced readers to the indomitable spirit of a scrappy startup that managed to hoist itself, hand over hand, up the mountain of the impossible to become an iconic national brand.

The audiobook — I mean, business audio theatre — version brings the story and its many lessons to vivid life, along with all the colorful characters therein. Hollywood veterans Ed Asner and Gigi Perreau are among the cast of nearly two dozen (including the real founders of Barefoot and their actor stand-ins, Matt Weinglass and Hazel Paraoan). Dramatized dialogue and scenes are intervowen with sprightly narration by Alamada Karatihy, and each chapter is capped off with  “conversations with the real Bonnie and Michael” featuring Kushman interviewing the duo.


If there’s a message The Barefoot Spirit imparts, it’s that entrepreneurship requires more than just hard work. It requires surprisingly little money, experience or knowledge to start but takes an innovative, learning mindset to succeed. This innovation is evident in many of the ways in which Houlihan and Harvey built and ran their business:

  • Learning by asking questions, talking to people on the front lines across the industry, assuming nothing
  • Identifying overlooked niches (or creating ones where there aren’t any)
  • Leveraging stubborn industry challenges into opportunities that take advantage of the status quo or cleverly subvert it
  • Finding ways to combat human error and other companies’ inefficiencies across the supply, delivery and sales chain
  • Believing that a solution to a problem is out there if you can only see it from the right angle or talk to the right person
  • Sharing information across the enterprise so that everyone is involved in problem-solving and value-adding
  • Celebrating mistakes as learning opportunities to take the business to the next level
  • Creating win-win situations that turn vendors, customers and consumers into partners
  • Looking at a “no” as a “not yet” and finding the way to “yes”
  • Promoting the brand in ways that foster brand-building and positive consumer perception without spending heavily on marketing

And this is only my “top ten” list of what I learned through the stories and examples contained in The Barefoot Spirit — lessons made indelibly memorable through the theater of the mind that is audio. Whether you are in the wine industry or not, a business owner, a corporate trainer or an employee looking for ways to add value, The Barefoot Spirit is well worth the listen.

Curious about “business audio theatre”? Check out a sample of the first full chapter of The Barefoot Spirit and “hear” what I’m talking about. Houlihan and Harvey have even started their own imprint, Footnotes Press LLC, to help other business leaders transform their knowledge, experiences and principles into audio stories. I, for one, am looking forward to more of these!

The Barefoot Spirit is now available for purchase. Learn more about Houlihan and Harvey on their BookTrib author page.

About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey:

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey help “start-up, build-up, and build-out” companies mitigate risk and maximize brand equity. The founders of the Barefoot Wine brand (now owned by E&J Gallo) are New York Times bestselling authors of The Barefoot Spirit, How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand and The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People, and regular contributors to business journals across the country. Their work has appeared in major business publications including EntrepreneurInc., CEO Forum and Forbes and they are regular media guests on radio, television and podcasts.