An irreverent, eye-opening business memoir.

THE BAREFOOT SPIRIT

HOW HARDSHIP, HUSTLE, AND HEART BUILT AMERICA'S #1 WINE BRAND

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: Footnotes Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

A cocky bad boy of finance recalls, in much detail and scabrous language, his nasty career as a master of his own universe.

At a young age, in an industry with many precocious bandits, Belfort ran a Long Island–based brokerage with the deceptively WASP-y name of Stratton Oakmont. It was a bucket shop habitually engaged in crooked underwritings. Its persuasive boss was a stock manipulator and tax dodger; he details the stock kiting, share parking, money laundering and customer swindles. Many millions poured in, and cash brought with it excess upon excess. Along with compliant women and copious drugs, there were multiple mansions, many servants, aircraft, yachts and, for all the guys on the trading floor, trophy wives. Among his under-the-table and beneath-the-sheets activities, the author’s most imperative seemed to be sex and dope-taking, despite his professed abiding love for his (now ex) wife and kids. Belfort’s portrait of his family is vivid, as is his depiction of the merry cast of supporting players: sweet Aunt Patricia, a Swiss forger, evil garmentos, Mad Max (Stratton’s CFO and his father). The melodrama covers coke snorting, Quaalude eating, kinky sex, violence, car wrecks, even a sick child and a storm at sea. “A cautionary tale,” the author calls it. It is crass, certainly, and vulgar—and a hell of a read. Belfort displays dirty writing skills many basis points above his tricky ilk. His chronicle ends with his arrest for fraud. Now, with 22 months in the slammer behind him, he’s working on his next book.

Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-553-80546-8

Page Count: 522

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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Well-told and admonitory.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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