EMBA Students Study Wine Industry in South Africa

Executive MBA students traveled to South Africa in March to study the region’s booming wine industry. They visited Cape Town, Johannesburg and Gaborone to gather findings to support their international business opportunity projects.

In Cape Town, students enjoyed a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain and a ferry boat across the harbor to tour the Robben Island prison where former South African President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. As part of their final projects, students visited a number of wineries including DonValley, VinPro, KWV, Kanonkop, Fairview and Vergenoegd. Their visit concluded with briefings by industry, economic and academic leaders.

In Johannesburg, the class was briefed by the U.S. Consulate General’s Office. During a tour of the township of Soweto, students befriended local merchants and offered pro bono business advice. They visited an NGO called Izanokhanyo, a community-based project helping children in need, and presented ideas on how to make the organization more profitable. A highlight of the trip was a safari in Pilanesberg National Park, where students got up close and personal with elephants, rhinoceroses, gnus, hippos, lions, buffalos and other exotic animals.

EMBA safari - EMBA Students Study Wine Industry in South AfricaStudents traveled to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, for the last leg of the journey where they attended a reception by the U.S. Embassy with Ambassador Earl R. Miller. Students from MIT, government representatives, entrepreneurs and local business leaders also attended the reception. Business meetings included a briefing by diamond company DeBeers, and a visit to a Botswana innovation hub.

After returning to Los Angeles, student teams incorporated their findings into business plans, and briefed a panel of wine industry experts in a mock investment pitch.

“This was probably our best international trip yet,” said EMBA Director Richard Stafford. “We were treated to some very good presentations by government, business and local organizations. And our students ended up by turning in some very impressive business plans for their wine industry projects.”