• Rags-to-riches beach reading: the Barefoot Wine story

    Barefoot Wine founders Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan

    Looking for a good book to get lost in this Memorial Day weekend? The Barefoot Spirit is an entertaining rags-to-riches story of American entrepreneurship. Released this week, the paperback has already climbed to the top of the Amazon bestsellers list.

    It’s the first-hand tale of California rule breakers Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of the country’s top-selling wine brand. The couple conceived Barefoot Cellars in 1986, three years after they met in a Santa Rosa blues bar. They sold the business to E&J Gallo in 2005 for an undisclosed price that they say left them “satisfied.”

    Barefoot is famous for having rejected winemaking snobbery. Their colorful, plain-English labels marketed wine more like beer—a fun, not stuffy, beverage—with the slogan “get Barefoot and have a great time!” And by leaving the vintage and appellation, or grape harvest year and region, off their labels, the producer was free to blend a taste that was consistent year to year.

    Harvey says, “You shouldn’t

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  • Fun beach reading for small business inspiration

    The founders of Barefoot Wine spent 19 years transforming their industry before selling the brand to E&J Gallo in 2005. Today, Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey share their marketing and business savvy with other entrepreneurs and the nonprofit causes they support. (See our main story "Rags-to-riches beach reading: the Barefoot wine story.")

    Their book The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, released this week, is such an entertaining read that you won’t notice you’re digesting practical advice for anyone with a dream of business success.

    Yahoo! Small Business spoke with Houlihan and Harvey by phone from their Sonoma County home about how the “Barefoot spirit” and their experiences translate to other businesses.

    Yahoo! Small Business: What is "the Barefoot spirit?"

    Houlihan: Our book is really about the fundamental guiding principles we subscribed to that enabled us to overcome insurmountable challenges—not just with our business but in the

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  • Small Business: Big Crime

    Small Business Crime InfographicSobering news from Bolt Insurance in this infographic. We already knew that small businesses are far more susceptible to cybercrime than most owners think. But it turns out that plain old physical crime is also a high risk for the average small business. How bad is it? 35 times as bad - or put another way, a small business is 35 times more likely to be a victim of a crime than a large business. That's a shockingly high number. And what kinds of crime? Cybercrime as already mentioned, plus fraud, breaking and entering, shoplifting and a lot more.Even worse, the real numbers may be higher still since it is estimated that fewer than 30% of crimes against small businesses get reported.

    The annual cost to businesses in the US is staggering - almost $657 million dollars in office equipment thefts alone. The worst category of crime? Embezzlement which is estimated to cost small businesses a frightening $90 BILLION a year.

    Of course, the real reason is that small businesses cannot afford costly

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  • Which businesses default on loans most? Surprising data

    When it comes to borrowing money, Vidur Dhanda says small businesses are not as risky as the banks think they are, and he has two terabytes of data to prove it.

    A data-modeling expert and long-time financial industry consultant, Dhanda began three years ago aggregating data points on nearly all U.S. businesses. He licensed several proprietary databases, tapped the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics, and wrote algorithms to chart businesses' defaults on a wide range of debts such as credit cards, vehicle and equipment leases, loans, and lines of credit.

    Today, his company WAIN Street, named for its mission to bring Wall Street-style analysis to Main Street, publishes a monthly index that reports how well 18 million businesses in a variety of sectors and geographic regions are meeting their financial obligations. The WAIN Street Business Default Index is a unique barometer of the U.S. economy. And Dhanda says the data show that small businesses are far more reliable than big ones

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  • The Economic History of the World in One Simple Picture

    The History of Opportunity via fundersandfounders.com

    This infographic from fundersandfounders.com may be a little simplistic – especially because the timeline goes all the way back to pre-history - but it's still a powerful representation of economic history. It should give us all hope for the future – especially since more and more startups are focusing on areas like energy and healthcare and the environment. But is it all true? Where do numbers like these come from?

    Back in 1998, J. Bradford DeLong of the Department of Economics at U.C. Berkeley wrote a paper on estimating World GDP from one million BC to the present. It’s a fascinating economic read that looks at the growth in human populations and the connection between human population and economic growth. Most interesting are the points where economic output and production jump and stop being linearly connected to population. Basically these changes occur approximately in 1500 with the growth in trade and the Renaissance and in about 1820 with a steady increase in industrialization

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  • Startup offers DIY way to build a website in minutes

    Surveys show that more than half of small businesses still don't have websites. That number represents a huge opportunity to help busy people on budgets establish themselves online inexpensively and quickly. Among those competing for that prize is RebelMouse.

    CEO Paul Berry, who served as CTO at the Huffington Post for 5 years, founded RebelMouse a year ago because creating a good website should be as simple as “point, click, boom,” he says. “You shouldn’t need any developers or designers. Too many people are struggling too hard with their websites.”

    Meanwhile, Berry says many small businesses are starting to see a return on social media investments, but their posts are scattered all over the place, and quickly get buried in various platforms' chronological streams. The several million dollars in venture capital his idea has reeled in indicates Berry is not the only one who thinks this is a problem.

    The RebelMouse concept: Pull all of your Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and

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  • Sales Tax

    Privately held retailers are operating with relatively thin profit margins nearly four years after the end of the recession, according to recent data from Sageworks, a financial information company.

    And some analysts say costs could go up and pinch margins even more if Congress approves the latest effort to get more retailers to collect taxes on their online sales.

    Under the “Marketplace Fairness Act” approved by the Senate, states can require sellers generating more than $1 million in “remote” sales, including those via the Internet, to collect and remit to various states and local governments the jurisdictions’ taxes on those sales. Under current law, businesses must collect applicable state and local sales tax from customers only in states where the firm has a physical presence, such as a store, office or warehouse.

    While the House must pass its own version of the bill and both sides would need to work out any differences, much of the debate surrounding the move has focused on the

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  • Why you should give neurotic colleagues a chance

    Personality types at work

    Workplace mangers and team leaders tend to have higher expectations of extraverts. People with more outgoing personalities are more likely to be stronger contributors on the job, employers assume. But when it comes to teamwork, UCLA business school professor and researcher Corinne Bendersky says that’s not necessarily the way things pan out.

    In a recent study, Bendersky and Neha Parekh Shah found that people with neurotic traits exceeded their colleagues’ expectations, while extraverts more often disappointed them.

    “A lot of staffing practice over-weights extraversion as a positive performance signal and sees neurotic cues as a negative performance signal,” Bendersky says. Her research shows that “those signals are not very accurate and the behaviors might not actually persist.”

    Bendersky notes: neither “extravert” nor “neurotic” is used as a derogatory label here, but as an academic terms. They’re just two of the “big 5” personality dimensions that scholars rely on to describe people.

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  • Summer's coming for everyone. For some of us it is basically already here. School's going to be out soon. And it's just over a week to Memorial Day. The challenge for the business owner is that for some businesses this heralds a slow time when sales dip and it becomes a struggle to keep the doors open. While for others. this is the busy time - the precious few months to make most of the money for the year. Either way, the challenge is that you need to maximize your sales and find more customers. We've tried to include a good set of articles below to help you out. For those of you that haven't yet taken the jump into starting your own business, you can get started with our series on starting a business - the links to the three articles that make up part four (all about naming your business) are below and you can find the links to parts 1 through 3 in them.

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  • Despite the fact that the cost of providing healthcare benefits is rising at a slower pace, organizations continue to look for ways to control healthcare costs. Anyone who administers an employer-sponsored health plan understands that the cost of healthcare coverage is more expensive for organizations that employ unhealthy people. This understanding led companies to embrace wellness programs.

    Corporate wellness programs can consist of multiple approaches. Many businesses concentrate on weight loss programs for employees after they have a medical exam. Others stock vending machines with healthy snacks only. A corporation can even encourage employees to walk during break and lunch times. Other long-term strategies include newsletters that keep everyone up to date on health issues and guest speakers.

    Improving employee health is vital to a successful business and its bottom line. Businesses can gain a handle on healthcare costs if their employees are healthier and make fewer trips to

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