WSU Tri-Cities, Pullman teams take top honors at intercollegiate wine business competition

Two students poise for a picture while holding bottles of wine.
Wine business plan award winners - Kyle Brunson and Danae Williams.

Student business teams from Washington State University Tri-Cities and WSU Pullman took home top honors at the Intercollegiate Wine Business Invitational this month that required them to research and create extensive business plans for a fictitious wine grown and created in Washington state.

A WSU Tri-Cities team, comprised of students Kyle Brunson and Danae Williams, earned the grand prize at the competition for the business plan, financial plan and wine label they developed for their proposed “Gladiolus Red Mountain Rosé.”

A team from WSU Pullman, comprised of students Crisol Barajas, Sherlane Yuen, Brittany Jacobs, Becca Jainga, Eunjeong Kim, and Justin Walker earned the top prize for the financial plan for their wine “Ribbon Pink Ladies Rosé.”

Another team from WSU Pullman also earned “honorable mention” in the overall award category for their wine “Colossus Wine,” scoring just 1.5 points below the winning WSU Tri-Cities team. Team members included Ashton Sidebottom, Joy Kam, Annika Roberts, Sam Levora, Ashley Molina, Megan O’Mera.

The competition welcomed student teams from six university campuses, which, in addition to WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Pullman, included Michigan State University, Florida International University, Linfield College and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Insights into business practices for wine

The teams were required to create and submit detailed business and financial plans for their fictitious wine, valued at $25-$40, as well as a wine label. A panel of wine experts, journalists and other industry professionals then evaluated the submissions and presented awards the best business plan, financial plan, wine label and the best overall submission.

The WSU Tri-Cities team designed a rosé blend of Syrah and Merlot, that, for their project, was hypothetically grown and created on Red Mountain in the Tri-Cities, a region known for its great soil.

Williams said she and Brunson did extensive research about the cost of grapes, storage, sales, distribution, and other business and financial components required to successfully run and promote a wine estate. Brunson also sought the help of a friend who works at a local winery to gain information regarding the cost of wine grapes and other production components to get a realistic picture of costs in a working winery.

“The project provided a great introduction into what it really takes to run not only a business, but a wine business, in particular,” Williams said. “It was good to be able to see exactly what all goes into owning a winery. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, but it was incredibly useful for what I will need in the future working for a wine business.”

Career connections

Williams is majoring in wine and beverage business management at WSU Tri-Cities, so the project served as perfect experience and practice for her career trajectory. She is also the recipient of the Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits student scholarship at WSU Tri-Cities.

“My ultimate goal is to own my own winery,” she said. “It was a fun project that provided a lot of great hands-on experience in the wine field.”

For other students pursuing a different area within the business field, the opportunity also provided a great outlet to dive into a real-world project.

Brunson, who is studying business management and administration at WSU Tri-Cities and currently working as an intern out at the Hanford Site in facilities and operations, said the project provided a great opportunity for developing a comprehensive business plan and an ideal introduction for his capstone course he is taking this year.

“It was really rewarding,” he said. “I got to apply all that I have been learning from all my other classes. It provided a great opportunity to really explore what it takes to run a business and the practical aspects of making that business a success.”

For more information on the WSU Tri-Cities wine and beverage business management and hospitality business management programs, visit the Wine & Beverage Business Management and Hospitality Business Management websites.

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