Cass Business School - Wine Club
Alcohol-themed clubs are looking at ways to educate their members about the business of booze
On the first day of business school, many students are bewildered by the variety of clubs. But there’s at least one staple that will tempt almost everyone: the wine society.
Just imagine meeting once a week with young and attractive high-achievers in order to drink and adding it to your resume. Doesn’t sound bad, does it? So it’s understandable that many suspect wine club events to be a thinly-disguised opportunity to get smashed while swapping business cards and phone numbers.
“We're here to change all that,” says Charles Hamilton, President of Cass Business School’s Wine Club.
Charles Hamilton considers another investment opportunity
“The plague of wine societies across universities is the stigma that they're either elitist drinking clubs or that they aren't educational.”
“Our members are principally here to learn about the world of the wine industry – and so our meetings aren’t about everyday consumption of bottles.”
Hamilton himself has been investing in wine for over five years and claims to have doubled his money on a 2005 Lafite en primeur.
“We've just been on the back of a boom in the Oriental market,” he says. “Many people, particularly in the Orient, are buying up vineyards and developing them.”
And this is what Hamilton sees as the function of his club – to educate future business leaders on the potential of a much-overlooked commodity.
“The financial aspect is something people are less aware of…The experience of buying a case of wine is like that of buying an expensive car. You're aware it's something expensive, that it's going to increase in value.”
This all sounds very serious. But despite Hamilton’s high-minded intentions, aren’t most of the members really just attending the talks in order to chat to each other?
“I wouldn't say its networking unless you're interested in working in wine. I don't think anyone wants to do networking. It's more about gaining experiences.”
Nick Friend of the Columbia Business School Microbrew Society says he’s “a little taken aback” by these claims.
Nick Friend displays a bottle of his own home-brew
"There's a certain type of MBA student who very much wants to fit in and loves the fact that they were a consultant before," Nick says. "And then there's an MBA more concerned about expressing themselves as apart from the preconception of what they're like.”
Friend claims that the latter join drinking societies, and unashamedly labels his own club as social.
“I hadn't even thought of it as a professional club until this year, when some members convinced me to start something called the Business of Beer Speaker Series.”
“We're trying to use our contacts to cast a broad net to catch speakers from different aspects of the beer industry,” he explains. “We've had people on the physical brewing side as well as the pure marketing side, who just come up with the branding side. The most recent was Fire Island, and independent microbrewery.”
But even Friend’s club isn’t really about networking. The real motivation is a ‘do it yourself’ ethos.
“The people that join have a deep interest in beer. There's no one who'll be caught dead drinking Budweiser.
“Many of us brew our own. Pretty much anyone can do this – all you need is a soup kettle and a bucket. If people don't have space for that then I'm worried about their living conditions!”
So should students join a professional club or a social one? The real difference between the two seems to be whether you want to prepare for the future or enjoy the present.
If you side with Hamilton, maybe you can look forward to taking a cut on the sale of a £52,000 bottle of primeur, now regularly taking place in Hong Kong.
But Friend’s final word is that social clubs have a long-term value of their own: “When I look back on the experience, I think it'll be a brighter point in the year than another consulting talk,” he says.
Speaking of MBAs and drinks, watch this space for the BusinessBecause.com MBA Drinks Club, coming soon to a city near you!
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