Mendoza School of Business

Wine and Design: Part Two

Published: October 23, 2019 / Author: Ryan Millbern

Rachelle Ollee ’20 and her classmates in Innovation and Design are using design thinking to help Chappellet Vineyards evolve their brand. For Ollee, who hopes to pursue a career in consulting, the experience has proven invaluable.

*This is the second installment in a three-part series detailing how Professor Wendy Angst and her MBA students in Innovation and Design are using design thinking to help Chappellet Vineyards, a 52-year-old family-run winery in Napa Valley, evolve their brand. Design thinking is the systematic application of ethnographic research, ideation, prototyping and customer co-creation to a business’s existing needs. Part one covered the ethnographic research stage of the project.

“This is why you go back to get an MBA.”

It’s a sprint not a marathon

According to Innovation and Design course participant Rachelle Ollee ’20, the race to innovate on behalf of Chappellet Vineyards, a 52-year-old family-run winery in Napa Valley, has been more sprint than marathon. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ollee is on a team assigned to help Chappellet identify and attract new customers to their wine club. “The opportunity to work with the vineyard on this fast timeline has been right in my wheelhouse,” Ollee notes. “It’s like no course you could ever take. We’ve conducted research, gathered data and presented our recommendations all in a matter of six weeks. It matched exactly what I did over the summer as an intern at PwC.”

Ollee and her team had fifteen minutes to present their research findings and recommendations to a panel comprised of Chappellet’s managing director, David Francke, and Greg Tucker, management consultant and consumer experience specialist. Tucker worked closely with John Afleck-Graves in starting the Notre Dame Family Wines program and his wife, Sara Martinez Tucker, is a member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees.

“We found that the millennial audience Chappellet is targeting wants more of a curated experience with the brand.”

Thinking outside the box by reimagining what goes inside it

Their recommendations were as follows: 1) Expand the wine club box to mirror other increasingly popular subscription boxes like Stitch Fix, making space for recipes and samples of optimal food pairings; 2) Reinvent the Chappellet website by having a wine expert on hand to provide customers with recommendations via chat or to answer questions about wine shipments; 3) Build out a mobile app for the vineyard that would enable users to create their own specific preference sets that could more accurately determine which wines were best for them.

The panel responded positively to Ollee and her team’s presentation, and asked probing questions that will enable the students to hone their recommendations. “Presenting was a great experience overall,” Ollee says. “Any time we’re able to do something similar to what we’ll experience on the job, it’s invaluable. Experiences like this are why you go back and get an MBA.”

Preparing for phase three—and beyond

Ollee and her team are currently refining their ideas based on feedback they received during their presentation. As the capstone experience of the Innovation and Design course, the students will present their final recommendations to a select panel on the grounds of the Chappellet Vineyard in Napa Valley. “I’m looking forward to presenting to a Chappellet management and industry experts,” Ollee says. “Being able to present to that caliber of a panel is something you can’t get anywhere else besides on the job.”

One of Ollee’s biggest takeaways from the Innovation and Design course thus far has been the realization that innovation can take place at any point in the process of working with a business on developing solutions. “You’re constantly thinking about the customer and how you’re going to innovate based on their needs,” Ollee notes. “It’s given me a bigger toolkit in terms of how I approach the different aspects of the work that I do, whether I’m delivering a presentation or building out a product.”

Before arriving at Notre Dame, Ollee had worked in human resources for five years for the Harvey Nash Group and then as an Engineering Leadership Recruiter for Amazon. She hopes to pursue a career in consulting after earning her MBA—and she believes the experiences she’s amassed thus far at Mendoza have helped prepare her for that career pivot.

“Moving to Notre Dame has been the most transformative experience that I’ve ever had the opportunity to take on,” Ollee says. “It has single-handedly changed the trajectory of where I’m going to go with my career, my personal life, even down to where I’m going to live. It’s changed every aspect of my life for the better.”


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