Bronconess - An Encapsulation of the Bronco Spirit0
By now you’re probably familiar with how much we love efforts that strengthen the bonds within our community. So it should come as no surprise that we were excited when we heard about a project that involved students developing and selling a brand of wine through local businesses out of the Leadership and Business Strategy Program at Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Haworth College of Business.
Described by WMU student Megan Miller as “A purpose-driven wine brand that was created by students to give back to students,” Bronconess provided undergraduate students with hands-on business experience.
Getting its name from the courage and enthusiasm that WMU students demonstrate, The Bronconess brand includes a red blend, white blend, and cabernet sauvignon from the Tremonte Vineyard in Chile, a vineyard that wanted to try selling in the United States.
When connected with Tremonte, WMU Leadership and Business Strategy professors Dr. Derrick McIver and Dr. Doug Lepisto knew they had an opportunity to try a new learning model they had been working on.
“We have always wanted to do a student learning project through WMU and discover if students can manage a project and an actual brand on a shelf,” said McIver. “Bronconess is the most transformative student experience we wanted to create. Working on bringing the wine from Tremonte to shelves all over Michigan was the perfect opportunity.”
Dr. Lepisto shared in his colleague’s outlook on Bronconess.
“We want students to understand that they can create profitable businesses and have an impact on the community,” he added. “These students now know what it takes to make a successful business.”
The students would agree with this sentiment, as the project required them to step outside of their comfort zones. Students had to not only work on strategy and branding, but also build relationships with organizations like Meijer, Imperial Beverage, and Millennium Restaurant Group, as well as host speaking events for the product.
“It’s all about the experience and the development of leadership skills,” student Jason Olinger said of the project. “These are skills that you can’t master just by reading a book. It’s a whole new way of working on business strategy. We thoroughly examine every element behind each business decision.”
For Miller, part of Bronconess’ value was that it required dedication and the ability to multi-task.
“The complexity of running a business and building relationships while being a full-time student has been an incredible learning experience for me,” she stated.
In addition to rewarding students with valuable knowledge, Bronconess has united Kalamazoo as a community. Both WMU alumni and local business partners are involved with the project, which McIver sees as a victory.
“We want to impact as many people as possible and that includes the retailers, distributors, vineyard, and our students” he explained. “Hopefully, with the student consulting work we do through the Leadership and Business Strategy program, we can keep talent local and become a pipeline for local businesses to recruit from in the future.”
With more than 500 cases of wine sold, the brand has already gained popularity. The wine brand run by students supports students as all of Bronconess' profits go towards scholarships for Leadership and Business Strategy students. Thanks to all the hard work put into the project, McIver and Lepisto predict $25-30 thousand in scholarships have been generated.
It’s exciting to speculate what the future may hold for Bronconess. Lepisto looks forward to seeing how future students will leave their mark on the project.
“Maybe there’s a winery in Michigan that we partner with and we create a new wine every year,” he surmised. “Perhaps there could be a ‘Bronconess version’ of an entirely different product line.”
From where we are standing, the possibilities seem truly endless. Congratulations on your success, everyone! Interested in trying Bronconess for yourself? Find out if it’s available at a local business near you!