“Courage and enthusiasm in a challenging situation, especially when sustained.” That is the slogan that leadership and business strategy students from the Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business came up with for their purpose-driven wine brand, Bronconess, in fall 2019.
What the students didn’t know when creating the brand is how true that statement would ring in these unprecedented times. The term Bronconess was originally coined to capture the essence of how Broncos sustain their efforts when others might stop, and pursue ideas with courage and enthusiasm in the face of challenges. Those values represent not only the wine brand itself but the broader concept of how Broncos put passion and purpose into their work.
“In these uncertain times, the Bronconess values mean everything to me,” says leadership and business strategy student Tyler Earnst, current brand manager for the wine. “It is one thing to say you can endure hard times and another to actually do it. Ever since WMU went fully virtual, I have seen countless examples of Broncos stepping up to display the Bronconess values. One example is how leadership and business strategy students created 50 videos to support local businesses and organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. If that isn’t Bronconess values on display, then I don’t know what is.”
Much has happened since the wine’s launch in October. Yet, students continue to put their all into the brand. “It has been an incredible experience as a student to be along for the ride,” Earnst says. Some of the highlights for the wine include the following:
- Students arranged to have Bronconess sold in all Trader Joe’s stores throughout Michigan, in addition to many other retailers.
- Bronconess was featured at its first wine event, Kalamazoo’s Wine Not?, in February. This allowed students to share the brand’s story with wine lovers and industry professionals from across Southwest Michigan.
- The Bronconess team is currently working with Michigan and California wineries to explore brand extension initiatives.
- Bronconess was the featured wine at WMU’s 2019 Homecoming, which has helped increase alumni engagement with the brand.
To date, the wine has generated approximately $25,000 that will go toward WMU leadership and business strategy scholarships. Earnst looks forward to continuing the brand’s growth and expanding its footprint in stores throughout Michigan. “I am very grateful to be working on the Bronconess project, as it has opened doors for me as a professional and allows me to help grow the scholarship fund for future students,” he says. “It is truly an opportunity to learn by doing. I am excited about the initiatives that Bronconess has coming in the future!”
Bronconess offers three varieties of wine that can be purchased at a number of retailers. For more information about WMU’s leadership and business strategy program, visit the Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy.