These days the word “entrepreneur” has been expanded to mean just about anyone who is self- employed. But we would like to see a new definition that distinguishes between solopreneurs, sole proprietors and single service providers on the one hand, and brand equity builders on the other.
What really distinguishes brand builders is that they are creating equity or value in the branded products and services they provide with an eye toward an eventual monetization event. That could be a sale, a merger, a public offering, or a capital partner. Their goal is to capitalize on their brand equity.
This is a very different mind-set from the solopreneur or sole proprietor who focuses on establishing their business for themselves or their family, but not for the purpose of building their brand equity. True entrepreneurs concentrate on building their brand’s value.
What we refer to as “true entrepreneurs” know that their business must be scalable, be capable of running without them, and be represented by a brand name. Their strategy is grow in a way that best protects their brand’s integrity, independence, and positioning so that it can be acquired and continue to grow under a new brand steward.
Here are 7 other distinctions that set true entrepreneurs apart:
- Rather than pocketing profits, they use these funds to invest in growth. They accept the fact that they likely won’t “get paid” until they sell their brand.
- True entrepreneurs already have a pretty good idea of who is capable of acquiring their brand and why. They constantly keep an eye on these prospects and try to get their attention.
- They are aware of the size their brand must be in dollars, units, and growth rate to be attractive to a potential acquirer. Their plans, milestones, goals and budgets are based on achieving those metrics.
- They are careful not to inadvertently become a commodity, house brand, or controlled brand just to make a big sale in the short run. They actually turn down business when they feel it will compromise their brand’s integrity in the long run.
- They realize that slow growth will better enable them to maintain control of their equity, discover what the market requires, and make adjustments to be more relevant and efficient.
- They realize that customer service is more important than their product in its effect on ultimate customer loyalty – and advocacy. They know their brand’s reputation is a huge factor in valuing their brand equity and they continually work to build a loyal clientele.
- True entrepreneurs are not in it for the lifestyle so much as for the payoff. Unlike the solopreneur, they rarely say things like “I always wanted to do this!” or “This is my passion.” But they do understand what the customer wants and they strive to deliver.
We work with “true” entrepreneurs who are trying to build their brands for the express purpose of capitalizing on their brand equity. They understand about delayed gratification, tenacity, and the big picture. Through their sacrifice and vision, they create the jobs and influence the future economy. We think it’s time that these brave souls get the appreciation, encouragement and support they deserve.
Solopreneurs, sole proprietors, and single service providers are valuable to the economy to be sure. But somebody has to actually go out and start something totally new – and leave a legacy for some lucky acquirer and their employees, associates and customers. They provide a constant infusion of new ideas and new takes on old themes, ultimately providing support for solopreneurs and their customers. We all need the brand builders to keep our markets vibrant. We need true entrepreneurs!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders