Michael Houlihan

Serial entrepreneur, industry reformer, successful brand builder, Michael helps small and medium sized businesses build their brands and achieve profitability. He was the Founder, President and CEO of Barefoot Cellars. His new book, The Barefoot Spirit, chronicles Barefoot Cellars development from novelty to mega-brand status. In 2005, he successfully sold Barefoot Cellars to E&J Gallo, where he consulted for a year to maintain Barefoot’s entrepreneurial character. He is a keynote speaker, blogger, guest lecturer, and regular contributor to business media. His straight-talk business articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Time and INC Magazine.

Barefoot Wine, now America’s #1 Wine Brand was created by Michael C. Houlihan who started in his home with little wine industry knowledge and even less funds. He built an unknown label into one of the fastest-growing brands in America, and has demonstrated success in sales-oriented team building, product distribution, and building a national brand on a shoestring. Currently, he is sharing the Barefoot Wine experience and business principles to help start-ups and established businesses build winning brands.


Starters for Startups

Essential recommendations to build on a solid foundation, especially for young companies and new entrepreneurs.

  • “The History of Barefoot Wines” (Unlikely events, innovations and determination)
  • “Exit Stage Left’ (Know the value you will add to you acquirer before you start)
  • “The Fastest Way Out of the Box is Straight Up” (Take the 10,000-foot view)
  • “Make Friends in “Low” Places” (Folks on the ground know what’s really going on)
  • “Hire the Old Guy” (Why learn the hard way what he already knows?)
  • “Cash Flow Management (Partnering with vendors & buyers; outsource all you can)
  • “Undercapitalization, the Father of Invention” (The advantages of being small and broke)
  • “Know the Needs vs. Need to Know” (Give all staff the big picture and how they fit in)

Growing your Business

Proven effective attitudes and principles to grow a business, reduce turnover, and be effective.

  • “Culture Beyond Yogurt” (Give permission, acknowledgement & a fun time)
  • “Put a Buck on It” (Performance-based compensation & the 2-division company)
  • “Worthy Cause Marketing” (Give customers social reasons to buy)
  • “Don’t Waste a Perfectly Good Mistake” (Make mistakes right)
  • “Get Smart about Stupid” (Develop idiot-resistant strategies; do the other guy’s job)
  • “The No Game” (Ask the question different ways on different days; there are only 2 answers)
  • “Advice Management” (Ask advisors how to do it, not what to do)
  • “Staying on Course” (Set goals from 5 years to the next 5 minutes)

Brand Development

Essential tools to efficiently grow your brand by developing strategies that develop traction and attract an acquirer.

  • “Brand Integrity” (Consistent, dependable, value in products and message)
  • “Short Grunts” (Why the least number of syllables are more memorable)
  • “The 7 Sales” (Provide comprehensive customer service at every level)
  • “Retail Entertainment” (Give the retailer added value)
  • “Get your Feet Back” (Use every form of communication to improve your product)
  • “Replacements are Better than Placements” (Start small and stay in stock at retail)
  • “Attack Where the Enemy is Not” (Be appreciated in neglected markets)
  • “The Soul of a Brand” (Brands stand for more than the products they represent)



Award-winning journalist and businessman Michael Hodgson is highly regarded by colleagues for his wit, wisdom and insight gained from decades of leadership in retail, media and business.

Now a founding partner of New Normal Consulting LLC, Michael has quickly become sought-after in the outdoor specialty retail sector as a savvy, inspiring leader who quickly improves process and applies his business acumen to retail turnarounds. Also as a partner in HI Endeavors Consulting, Michael helps businesses solve problems at every level of operation, from product development to sales and marketing to branding, strategic positioning or executive development. He’s worked successfully with the likes of Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Katadyn and others.

Himself no stranger to TV, radio and stage, he’s found tremendous success and enjoyment combining his organizational and presentation skills to work with speakers and event organizers for trade shows and industry events. Most recently, he’s consulted with the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous 2012 and 2013, the Outdoor Industry Association Outdoor University programs in 2012 and 2013, and the European Outdoor Summit in 2013. Michael has quickly earning accolades as an compassionate individual who helps speakers present succinctly, organized and on-target with programs that leave audiences wanting more, not walking out early.

Michael has woven his own love of audiences, stage and speaking throughout his business endeavors. He has frequently been asked to appear on national and regional television news shows to talk about products and trends. With his wife, Therese Iknoian, he was the co-creator and co-host of a much-enjoyed and well-respected video program, SNEWS® TV, bringing his brand of unique energy and a wicked sense of humor to programming that helped give exposure and launch new products and brands to the outdoor and fitness industries. Michael’s skillful speaking style often garners invitations to serve as a master of ceremonies and host for fund-raising events and industry celebrations.

Until January 2012, Michael also served as the president of SNEWS®, the leading subscription-only newsletter serving the outdoor and fitness industries, and was a founding partner in GearTrends®, established in 1999 as an information website for new products and trends in the outdoor, snow sport, fitness, paddling and bike markets.

Prior to leading SNEWS, Michael served as the gear editor of Men’s Health magazine and was also the on-air talent covering gear and trends for Outside Radio Network’s nationally syndicated weekly show.
Before becoming a journalist / author, Michael gained retail insights as the general manager of Western Mountaineering — a specialty retail shop and manufacturer of down sleeping bags — and as an assistant store manager and director of the stores’ educational and guiding programs for Adventure 16, a nationally respected specialty outdoor retail chain in Southern California. Committed to serving others, Michael has been a member of the Board of Directors of Big City Mountaineers, also serving as board president for two years. He has also served as a member of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue team.

In addition to publishing 18 books, Michael has also been featured in numerous national magazines.

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