Speaker series presents Barefoot Wine founders

The founders of Barefoot Wine and authors of "The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America's No. 1 Wine Brand" will speak Thursday [March 27] at Mississippi State.

Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan of Sonoma County, Calif., will be featured guests of the university's College of Business and its ongoing Leo W. Seal Jr. Distinguished Speaker Series.

Their 2:30 p.m. presentation in McCool Hall's Taylor Auditorium will be followed in the building's atrium with a reception and book signing of their New York Times bestseller.

All events are free and open to all.

Harvey and Houlihan started the company in 1986 after agreeing "it was time for a wine that didn't take itself too seriously." From an office "so small you had to go outside to change your mind," they built a brand that has become an American icon.

In 2005, E&J Gallo Winery purchased the Barefoot brand and, according the company website, continues "showing the world how to have fun with sole."

The speaker series is among campus memorials honoring the 1949 Mississippi State business graduate and longtime head of the Hancock Banking System. A Bay St. Louis native who died in 2008 at age 84, Seal was among the 135-year-old land-grant institution's major benefactors.

Dean Sharon Oswald said the Barefoot Wine founders' visit is among several activities the business college has planned this spring that focus on entrepreneurship.

"The Barefoot Wine story is an entrepreneurial inspiration because, like many of our country's top businesses, the founders built their brand from the ground up with innovation, creativity and sound business principles," Oswald said.

MSU's business college -- oldest in the state and among the oldest in the South -- has a long history of bringing successful entrepreneurs to campus to share their experiences with students, faculty and all other interested members of the local and area communities.

"It's important because we have so many budding entrepreneurs here at MSU," Oswald observed, adding, "It's part of our culture." She said the Barefoot founders will spend much of the day Thursday meeting with student entrepreneurs listening to their stories and providing advice.

Looking to the future, she said the college and Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer will co-sponsor Investing in Innovation Day. Taking place April 25, the annual event is a showcase of innovation and entrepreneurship at MSU, she said.

Additional information on the College of Business is available at www.business.msstate.edu.

Allison Matthews | Public Affairs

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