An irreverent, eye-opening business memoir.



Novice winemakers upend the industry’s pretensions while taking on the jungle of the retail beverage sector in this rollicking business saga.

Houlihan and Harvey recount their adventures as founders of Barefoot Wine, which began in 1986 as a shoestring venture and swelled to a 600,000–cases-per-year success before being bought by E. & J. Gallo Winery. The book is in part a story of innovative marketing around a new image of fermented grape juice: a tasty, cheap, reliable wine that ditched haughty connoisseurship in favor of a friendly, approachable brand image—“California in a bottle”—aimed at harried supermarket shoppers. In addition to the offbeat brand name, the authors came up with a label with an iconic footprint logo instead of curlicued pseudo-French designs. They also created goofy but effective sales aids, like footprint decals marching across liquor store floors straight to the Barefoot shelf, and pioneered a “Worthy Cause Marketing” strategy of donating wine to charitable events in order to build brand awareness and goodwill. (Priceless free advertising came, they recall, when the elite French vineyard Château Lafite Rothschild threatened to sue over Barefoot’s printing “Chateau La Feet” T-shirts; the ensuing media hoopla sent sales soaring.) But it’s also a revealing look at the demanding slog of the mass market beverage business. The authors spent years making sales calls at mom-and-pop stores and trying to force their way into supermarket aisles that are usually closed to unknown brands. Houlihan and Harvey, assisted by amanuensis Kushman, distill from their experiences perennial business lessons along with tips on everything from negotiations to employee compensation, all wrapped in an entertaining, anecdotal picaresque. (“After Michael read the card carefully, he looked up and gave a slight bow, then presented Mr. Matsumoto with his Barefoot card, the one with the foot and the title, ‘Head Stomper.’ ”) Houlihan and Harvey make the wine trade seem a little less glamorous but a lot more interesting.

An irreverent, eye-opening business memoir.

Pub Date: May 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9995042-0-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Footnote Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A vigorous and highly readable plan for building the finances of a new business.



A program of cash-management techniques for aspiring entrepreneurs, aimed at a minority readership.

At the beginning of this business book, Mariga reflects on the birth of her daughter, Florence, and on the depressing prospect of returning to her corporate job and missing some of her baby’s early moments. She realized that she “wanted to show Florence…that I could, that she could, that anyone could be anything they wanted to be in this world.” To that end, she wanted to start her own business, and she “wanted to help entrepreneurs build successful businesses that provide opportunities for others.” In a sentiment reflected by others she’s interviewed, she says that she wanted to strengthen her family legacy, so she founded her own accounting firm. She paints a vivid picture of the hardscrabble early days of other minority business owners like herself, the child of an African American mother and a Chinese father who also had a family accounting business. She and others were “all hustling to acquire clients and build our businesses…and most of us had absolutely nothing to show for it.” She was inspired by Mike Michalowicz’s Profit First money management system, and the bulk of her book is devoted to an explanation of how to make this system work for minority business enterprises. (Michalowicz provides a foreword to the book.) One of the primary goals of Profit First is to build “a self-sustaining, debt-free company,” so a large part of Mariga’s work deals with the details of managing finances, building and abiding by budgets, and handling the swings of emotion that occur every step of the way. As sharply focused as these insights are, the author’s recollections of her own experiences are more rewarding, as when she tells readers of her brief time as a cut-rate accountant and learning that it was a mistake to try to compete on price. These stories, as well as financing specifics and clear encouragements (“Small changes and adjustments accumulate. Over time, they will lead you to your goal”), will make this book invaluable to entrepreneurs of all kinds.

A vigorous and highly readable plan for building the finances of a new business.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7357759-0-6

Page Count: 230

Publisher: The Avant-Garde Project, LLC

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Well-told and admonitory.



Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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