The vision of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (C-E-O) is “to change the world through allowing and supporting college students to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.” With over 240 chapters at colleges in more than 43 states, the C-E-O has become the go-to organization for the next generation of brand builders.
The C-E-O provides a platform for thousands of students interested in entrepreneurship to network and gain valuable resources offered by successful entrepreneurs who share their insights.
The C-E-O was founded in 1997, but its roots go back much further. In the 1970s, a few universities became interested in entrepreneurship and began to offer course work in this field. There was no national network to support the dreams and goals of these students. In 1983, Dr. Gerald Hills, now at Bradley University, recognized the need for such an organization and with the help of sympathetic donors and a few colleagues from the Chicago area, started the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs. In 1993, he co-founded the C-E-O, and it continues to this day.
According to Dr. Hills, “The future of our country will hinge on our young entrepreneurs!”
Every year the C-E-O hosts an annual conference that draws over 1400 of their members to listen to entrepreneurial thought leaders who “got the tee-shirt.” We are honored to be Keynote Speakers at their 2013 National Conference at McCormick Place in Chicago this week.
We are excited to share what we learned, often the hard way, when we built the Barefoot Wine brand. Here are some highlights of what we intend to cover:
1. Excellent brand building requires excellent distribution
2. The distribution system dictates what your packaging must look like
3. Your logo must be readable from various distances and venues
4. Community outreach will build your brand
5. With proper positioning, your brand will stand out from the competition
6. Your brand is owned by your customers
7. Don’t break your brand promise
8. It’s better to be a big hit in a small area than a national also-ran
9. Prepare to harvest your brand equity on day one
10. Your greatest fears (being undercapitalized and lacking industry knowledge) may be your greatest assets
This last point is demonstrated using the history of the Barefoot brand and its success at using resourcefulness and out-of-the-box thinking to reform and revolutionize the wine industry. Our lack of funds forced us to discover and use Worthy Cause Marketing as an effective way to create brand loyalty. Our lack of industry knowledge enabled us to develop a fun, inclusive brand in an industry that was staid and exclusive. We hope our experience with a few colleagues from the Chicago area encourages these young aspiring entrepreneurs to break a few molds and create some new brands that are refreshing, relevant and become household words.
We are happy to donate our time to this truly worthy cause. We are making ourselves available throughout the conference for one-on-one mentoring, and we are also offering our book, The Barefoot Spirit, to the students at a greatly reduced price and giving back 50% of the proceeds to the C-E-O.
These young people are the future of our economy. They will create the businesses and brands that will transform our world. We are excited to give them encouragement and the guiding principles we used to make our brand a success. Thank you Dr. Hills and all the speakers at the 2013 National Conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization who help inspire our students of today to become the brand-builders of the future.
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