So much of successful entrepreneurship is brand building that when you finally go to monetize your business, it’s your brand equity that figures so prominently in the value of any acquisition or merger.
This is why we focus on entrepreneurship. It is through entrepreneurship that many brands are created and built. But who builds the entrepreneurs? Over the past several years we have witnessed new schools and centers for entrepreneurship popping up across the country and around the world.
We just completed our first year of speaking at campuses that offer degrees in Entrepreneurship. We inevitably get two reoccurring questions, each posed differently but each begging the same issue.
From the students we get, “How do you handle the unknown?” This alludes to the risks you face as an entrepreneur and brand builder; the uncertainties we all face when we attempt to do something new; the unexpected and seemingly insurmountable obstacles like barriers to market, undercapitalization, competition, and inexperience. Students want more answers than they are getting in school.
From the seasoned entrepreneurs we get, “Can you really teach entrepreneurship?” This alludes to the daily onslaught of unpredictable challenges that successful entrepreneurs are painfully aware of. They wonder if you can really teach folks what it takes to handle the unknown and be prepared for the kind of decisions that you have to make, sometimes without all the data.
It took us 19 years to monetize our brand, Barefoot Wine, now the nation’s largest wine brand. Sure we learned a lot of lessons not yet taught is school and many the hard way. But these schools did not exist when we got started. We could have had a big head start by learning what is taught today in the class room instead of the expensive and time-consuming lessons we learned on the street and in the boardroom. If we had had that education, it might have only take 10 years instead of nearly 20! So part of our message is, “Stay in school in spite of what you hear about the entrepreneurial rock stars that dropped out and just did it!”
Entrepreneurship can be viewed as a “ship.” Ships have to be functional, seaworthy, and well-navigated to get to their destinations. Entrepreneurial schools today teach the structure, function and operation of the “ship” from how to write a business plan to how read a set of books, from how to get a loan to how to hire and fire legally, from how to write a budget to how to build an organization. These are all essential to the structure and operation of the ship.
But what about navigation? It’s not simply how to operate or steer the ship. It’s not even knowing its destination. It’s navigating through rough waters, high winds and dangerous currents. It’s dodging the icebergs and bringing the cargo safely to port, all the while preventing a mutiny, not running out of fuel, and not running aground! This is where experience comes in. The more progressive schools of entrepreneurship know that their functional and structural education can only go so far. So they bring in speakers and provide case studies of real world challenges and proven solutions so the students can extrapolate the principles behind the decisions that avoided catastrophe and lead to success. Then they can apply them to their own business.
We have been honored to be some of those experienced entrepreneurs who have been asked to share our secrets of success with those students. No, we don’t have all the answers but we do have many of the questions. We offer a compass, a search light, and a set of guiding principles and standards that helped us succeed. We can help them prepare for the worst and plan for the best. The guiding principles we have learned will give “Captains” a much better chance of getting their “ship” to port.
So yes, you can teach entrepreneurship and its corollary brand building, if you include some experienced navigators with real world solutions to real world challenges. Visit us at http://www.barefootwinefounders.com/blog/2014/01/11/usasbe-is-dedicated-to-excellence-in-the-education-of-entrepreneurship/ to learn more about what we share with the students.
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