Case Study of Success: Virginia MBA Students Work With Greek Winemaker to Introduce Product to U.S. Market

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Three American graduate business students visited Greece last year as part of their university’s “Global Challenges” program. They met a Greek winemaker who produces a sparkling wine and together, developed a plan to bring the product to the United States market.

Nikos Kavounis, founder of Oinovation (“innovation” and “oinos,” the Greek word for wine) was challenged on how to introduce and market his saffron-infused Chimera sparkling wine to the vast North American market.

He connected with Kristina Friar, Matt Guise and Jonathan Stoffer— three students at Virginia Commonwealth University’s executive MBA program while they visited a business incubator in Greece during a school-sponsored trip to connect with entrepreneurs and startups.

Nikos Kavounis, second from right, is bringing his Greek sparkling wine to the U.S. with help from VCU MBA students Jonathan Stoffer, left, Matt Guise and Kristina Friar. Photo by Jonathan Spiers, Richmond Bizsense

Nikos Kavounis, second from right, is bringing his Greek sparkling wine to the U.S. with help from VCU MBA students Jonathan Stoffer, left, Matt Guise and Kristina Friar. Photo by Jonathan Spiers, Richmond Bizsense

Fast forward a year of back and forth meetings, Skype calls and shared ideas and projections from both sides of the Atlantic and Chimera is about to enter the U.S. market.

The American trio created a strategy to reach out to importers and distributors, including Richmond-based Athinian Imports Inc., whose CEO Spiros Flemotomos arranged tastings with buyers from large grocery stores in the Virginia Beach area.

Kavounis also met with importer-distributors in Washington DC and California and expects to leave the United States with commitments from multiple grocery stores, restaurants and wine specialty shops, effectively opening his unique Greek product in the U.S. market.

Kavounis praised the partnership and the support from the MBA students.

“They did a magnificent feasibility study giving fantastic insights,” Kavounis told Richmond Bizsense.

“They also communicated (with) and made meetings in person with the distributors, and they passed the contacts. And from my side, step by step, I started to interact with those guys and made the bureaucratic papers to enter the U.S. market.”

The three students combined their expertise in marketing, finance and operations, respectively, to strategize, develop and implement the plan on behalf of Chimera.

The main priority was raising consumer awareness of Greek wine varieties in the country.

As they developed their plan, the students stayed in touch with Kavounis over email initially, then through weekly Skype sessions at 5:00am– the only time they could meet because the three were juggling school, work and family across two continents and seven time zones.

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