WashU Olin’s first-year MBA students have returned to St. Louis for the first time since leaving on their global immersion July 10—but not before touring a Chilean winery with a markedly contrasting business model than what they encountered in Spain. Plus, they presented operational recommendations for three other businesses.
The 2022 global immersion—conducted as designed for only the second time, and the first since the pandemic—drew to a close as students made their way back to St. Louis on August 22. The program was launched in 2019 and gained immediate positive attention for its novel (and, of course, immersive) approach to instilling global business awareness to first-year MBA students.
The excursion carried the entire cohort from St. Louis to Washington, DC, then to Barcelona and Paris, and finally to Santiago, Chile, where student groups dissected the business operations of three companies and examined a winery and vineyard 90 minutes outside of Santiago in Chile’s lush Casablanca valley.
Weeks earlier, the students had done project work related to two wineries near Barcelona—businesses that market their wines to consumers through their distributor networks. In Chile, Kingston Family Vineyards presented a contrast.
The small family-owned businesses indeed produces its own vintages of five different wines—Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah—but that’s not where it focuses its business. The wines themselves are essentially proof of the quality of the grapes the vineyard produces. And that’s the core of the business: selling grapes to other wine producers.
“We needed to make some wine to show the case, then sell the grapes,” said Jose Ignacio, a tour manager who guided students through the vineyards themselves, then into the wine cellar and production facilities. The business began decades ago when members of the US-based Kingston family came to Chile in search of gold and later pivoted into the dairy industry, which a branch of the family still operates.
After their tour, the students gathered in an airy dining room, where floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the vineyards and the valley beyond. CEO Courtney Kingston was in the states dropping off a child at school and joined by Zoom for a brief presentation and Q&A session with the students.
Students asked about potential synergies between the dairy and the winery sides of the business, how they market their grapes and what techniques they use to make the business environmentally sustainable.
The Kingston Vineyard hosts followed the Q&A session with a four-course meal that included grilled salmon, beef tartar and tres leche with ice cream.
The next day, students dug into their operations presentation for the three companies the students had visited six days earlier—Reborn Electric Motors, a 2-year-old startup that refits diesel buses with electric motors; Market People, a platform for selling curated, second-hand luxury garments; and Ignisterra, a manufacturer of wooden components such as doors with a global customer base.
They presented their work on Friday, August 19, the last day of formal classes during the three-continent global business excursion.
Pictured above: Members of the MBA class of 2024 on the floor of the Kingston Family Vineyards wine production facility during their tour outside of Santiago, Chile.