Author: Cassie Galante


About Cassie Galante

Cassie, MBA '17, is a student in the full-time MBA program. Before coming to Olin, she lived in Brooklyn, NY, and worked at book publishers Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster in marketing and sales roles. She is the founder and President of Olin Outdoors and the President of Olin Women in Business.

“Systems don’t win, players do.” “Adversity is an opportunity for heroism.” “What it takes to win is simple, it’s not easy.”

If you had asked me which Defining Moments speaker would present his or her leadership philosophy through quotes from former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Lewis, my first guess would not have been Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum. But Sue McCollum brought her true self to the Defining Moments classroom, and Sue’s true self is a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan.

Sue McCollum holds two advanced degrees, an MBA from American University and a JD from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a force in the St. Louis community, sitting on countless boards, including Forest Park Forever, the Contemporary Art Museum, and the Regional Business Council. She is the mother of two accomplished young men.

But what specifically brought Sue to our Defining Moments classroom in February was Sue’s role as Chair and CEO of Missouri-based Major Brands. Sue is the only female CEO of a national wholesale liquor distributor posting more than $500 million in yearly revenue, and her story of how she came to hold that position is humbling and inspirational.

Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum visits Olin's Defining Moments course in Feb. 2017.

Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum presents to Olin’s Defining Moments course.

In 2010, McCollum was living in St. Louis, starting her first year of law school and raising two sons with her husband Todd Epsten, then-CEO of Major Brands, a company that had been in his family for three generations. But when Todd passed away after a short and unexpected illness, McCollum took over as the company’s CEO. Shortly after, several of Major Brands’ biggest customers attempted to break their contracts with the company, the legality of which was questionable.

At this point, McCollum had to make a decision: should she fight and lose the lawsuits, fight and win the lawsuits, or give up? McCollum decided to fight, and stressed the importance of decisiveness in leadership. There was no turning back; she had made a commitment not only to herself, but also to Todd’s legacy, to her employees, and to the community. To flinch or back down would not only guarantee a loss, but also would be a betrayal of the trust and belief that these various stakeholders had in her.

This recognition of the importance of relationships in leadership was a theme McCollum echoed throughout her speech. She pinpointed Major Brands employees as the key to the company’s success, noting that strong communication and common values were essential to keeping spirits high during the court trials.

McCollum also credited clarity of purpose and “embracing your inner badass” for her success, encouraging listeners to push forward toward the things they are afraid of, and reminding the audience to embrace discomfort, because those are the moments that change you. McCollum zeroed in on the power of adversity to help people grow, and mentioned how she challenges herself to not shy away from these types of situations, because there is always some good that comes of them. The idea that the hardest situations we face are also those that most deeply shape our character resonated strongly with me.

As McCollum finished relaying her remarkable story to the class, we were all left promising ourselves that we would face our own defining moments with the same integrity, grace, and courage as McCollum.

Written by Cassie Galante for the Bauer Leadership Center

image_383975_january_welcome_back_ice_skating_party_14103817To celebrate the beginning of the spring semester, Olin Outdoors and GBSA will be co-hosting a Welcome Back Ice Skating Party!

All Olin full-time MBA students, faculty, and staff are invited to a private ice skating party at Clayton’s Shaw Park Ice Rink. For those who want to stay off the ice, there will be a private party room where you can relax and enjoy popcorn, hot chocolate, cider, and other non-alcoholic treats, as well as an outside bonfire with s’mores. We hope this family-friendly event will be the start of a new yearly Olin tradition!

Admission is free, as are skate rentals, but feel free to bring your own gear.

shaw-park-iceWhen: Saturday, January 21st from 6:30 – 11 pm
Where: Shaw Park Ice Rink in Clayton

For more details and to RSVP, please click here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


One of the many incredible opportunities that Olin Business School offers its students is the chance to undertake real-life consulting projects with businesses around the globe. This spring, I was lucky enough to be placed on a project working with the Wine Tasting Network, a Napa-based website that sells wine to consumers across the United States.

My team was composed of two full-time MBA students, myself and Claire Hunt ’16, and two students from Olin’s new Specialized Masters Program in Customer Analytics, Wanting Wu ’16 and Peiyu Zhu ’16. We also had the support of Dr. Rob Poirier, a WashU Med School professor, Olin EMBA ’14, and Clinical Chief of Emergency Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, as our team’s adviser.

Claire Hunt (MBA ’16) examines a rack of wine bottles at the Wine Tasting Network offices

Claire Hunt (MBA ’16) examines a rack of bottles at the Wine Tasting Network offices.

Although not all projects are given the opportunity to visit their clients in person, the staff at the Center for Experiential Learning (or the “CEL”, as we like to call it), are experts at recognizing when a visit to the client can add real value to a project, and so my teammates and I set off to Napa Valley, California over Spring Break to get an insider’s look at the wine industry.

Our first stop was the Wine Tasting Network (WTN) offices, where company President Steve Schepman and the friendly team at this small but vibrant office welcomed us with open arms. After a tour of the grounds, we hit the conference room to talk business, reviewing our project plan with the WTN team and diving into more details on inventory movements and marketing strategies.

After a taco break, we headed to the Wine Foundry, a “custom-crush” facility where grapes are processed and made into wine, both under the Wine Foundry’s own label and for clients like Wine Tasting Network. The full-service facility gave us an idea of what the wine-making process looked like at each stage, from vat to barrel to bottle to glass.

Barrels of wine in storage at the Wine Foundry.

Barrels of wine in storage at the Wine Foundry.

Our hosts at the Wine Tasting Network were also able to arrange a tour at the facilities of their shipping and fulfillment partner, WineDirect. Many wineries and websites work with WineDirect to navigate the complex shipping restrictions that govern the sale of wine directly to consumers, which can be difficult to adhere to since they vary state-to-state. The visit was essential to helping us understand the level of detail and planning that is required to successfully operate a facility of this size for a delicate product like wine.

A visit to Napa wouldn’t be complete without a stop at one of the most famous estates in all of Napa. Our hosts brought us to the iconic Joseph Phelps winery. Learning how to taste wine from one of the expert sommeliers at this exceptionally beautiful estate was a unique privilege that none of us would have had the chance to experience under any other circumstances. It also helped us put ourselves in the shoes of the avid wine consumer, so as to better understand what they consider important when they shop for wine.

Besides a new found taste for Pinot Noir, our visit to Napa brought me a much deeper understanding of the California wine industry, and a strong appreciation for the benefits of conducting meetings in person. Getting to know the WTN team on both a personal and professional level during our trip was an invaluable opportunity that will undoubtedly help us to bring even greater value to the Wine Tasting Network as our project nears completion.

Our friends at WineDirect show us how they pick and pack shipments.

Our friends at WineDirect show us how they pick and pack shipments.

The student team arrives at the Joseph Phelps winery in the heart of Napa Valley.

The student team arrives at the Joseph Phelps winery in the heart of Napa Valley.

Each year four MBA student clubs (Net Impact, Energy Club, Entrepreneurship Club, and Healthcare Club) come together to host the High Impact Career Symposium. This annual event brings together professionals and students in a forum to discuss how careers can be built around impact—whether that be social, economic, environmental, or perhaps another form altogether. This year’s event was also sponsored by the Weston Career Center and the St. Louis Professional Net Impact chapter.

The topic at hand was Shared Value, the latest framework developed by Harvard PhD Michael Porter. Shared value is an emerging language in business sustainability and profitability, a model that aims to bring together public and private partners to create impact.

An impressive panel of professionals was moderated by Jonathan Kaufman (MBA ’11), co-founder and president of Third Plateau Impact Strategies. Olin was proud to welcome:

Jonathan’s extensive experience consulting with non-profit organizations allowed him to lead a discussion that was impressive in its depth and breadth given that it was only an hour long! One point of his I found especially poignant came about when discussing the complexities of the weapons industry: “You can’t ask everyone to start talking about shared value, and then ask their values to align with yours….you can’t dictate what the values are that happen.”

EJ talked about how partnerships are a core tenet of the shared value framework, since many problems are bigger than one company can solve. He notes, “all along the value chain, each piece has something to bring to the table, and you can’t leave anyone out or you won’t get something that works.”

Cambrie spoke about how defining what value is for everyone involved is a critical piece of the process. Using her experience in design thinking, she painted a picture of how one can “start with the end in mind, and design backwards,” so as to keep the wants and needs of the customer or end consumer in mind. Her insights into how aligning individuals and teams in a way that allows them to succeed at their goals brought a new angle to the discussion and reminded the audience of the power of individuals, even within large corporations.

Dane Glueck of StraightUp Solar discusses Shared Value at the 2016 High Impact Career Symposium.

Dane Glueck of StraightUp Solar discusses Shared Value at the 2016 High Impact Career Symposium.

At one point, Burt made a statement that reminded everyone that we must constantly be considering the “business” piece of shared value. He noted, “You have to be crystal-clear about the long-term benefit to the company” to ensure buy-in from shareholders, adding, “Wall Street gets more short-term focused every day.”

As a front-runner in the Shared Value Initiative, Diane spoke to Nestle Purina’s dedication to a variety of community-oriented activities.  From their support to animal rescue organizations with grants and donated products, to their consideration of the environmental impact of their packaging, she highlighted the example of Shared Value in our own backyard.

And although much of the conversation was about companies making an active choice to engage in shared value activities, Dane mentioned that there are ways companies can hold themselves quantifiably accountable for results; his own company  is B Corp certified, showing that it meets rigorous environmental and social standards.

The ideas and thoughts expressed by the panelists truly drew out some of the more ambiguous aspects of shared value, and brought nuanced topics to the surface that the concept raises for companies and individual employees.


Olin MBAs enjoying dinner

The annual auction hosted by Olin Women in Business (OWIB) was a huge success this past January, and proved to be one of the unmissable events of the year. Watching classmates attempt to outbid each other in the live auction is priceless entertainment, and this year was no The beautifully set tableexception.

One item in particular, a dinner for 18 hosted by Greg Hutchings of the Weston Career Center and adjunct professor, led to a heated round of bidding between a second-year MBA still flush from a successful summer internship and a band of first-years pooling their money. The first-years won out, and I was lucky enough to join that group for an evening at Greg’s beautiful condominium in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.

It’s no wonder Greg’s auction dinner has become somewhat legendary, due in no small part to Greg’s impeccable taste. Dinner kicked off with champagne and fresh scallops,OWIB students leave dinner happy and well-fed harvested and sent via airmail by Greg’s friends in Nantucket. An incredible dinner of beef
tenderloin followed, paired with a delicious red wine from Juan Gil winery, which everyone enjoyed so much that it’s become a staple at MBA get-togethers. But nothing could top the dessert of chocolate pie from Sugaree Baking Co. I won’t hesitate to say this was by far the most delicious pie I’ve ever had in my life, and I am no stranger to pie.

We finished off the night with a nightcap at Gamlin Whiskey House down the street, and a toast to Greg for hosting a dinner that far outshone anything we could have expected. The class of 2018 will have stiff competition from me in the bidding for this dinner at next year’s auction.

MBA students lingering after a delicious mealPhotographs courtesy of Rey Li (MBA ’17), Anika Vinze (MBA ’17), and Mary Kate Mahoney (MBA ’17). 

Olin Business School Blog Olin Business School Blog