May. 21, 2015
Allison Freedman, MBA 2015 -
At the end of April, I was fortunate to be one of 16 curious MBA students who set off to complete the final leg of our class in Santiago, Chile. Under the inspiring leadership of our professor, Sharon Matusik, we had already worked hard throughout the semester on campus in Boulder to complete the foundational elements of our coursework, through weekly class seminars, case studies, and research focusing on entrepreneurship as a driver for economic growth in a global context. In small groups, we collaborated to investigate a chosen industry with a focus on high and low performers within it. Our groups had previously connected with a group of Chilean students from Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI) to learn about this industry and local companies in Chile to complement the American companies we considered. Our groups chose to explore the ski, wine, outdoor retail, and ecotourism industries.
Although Mother Nature seemingly tried to deter some members of our intrepid group from reaching their destination with the eruption of Calbuco Volcano in southern Chile just before our scheduled departure, the entire group did make it to Santiago with - at most - a relatively brief delay. We were grateful to have the support of a CU PhD student, Carla Bustamante who shared her insight and expertise throughout the trip, in addition to the exceptional planning and guiding by Roberto Berkhoff and The Austral Group.
On the first day, we met and teamed up with students from UAI for icebreakers and “competition” in the form of a City Game to explore Santiago and visit several highlights around the city. Our smaller CU-UAI groups wrapped up together at a bar called The Clinic for a pisco sour or a glass of Carménère.
On the second day of the trip, there was an optional excursion to the mountains for many of the students. Others (including those whose travel was delayed) took advantage of the opportunity to explore parts of Santiago. We all gathered that evening for a CU Alumni reception that allowed us to meet former and incoming CU students, faculty, and supporters and formally kick off the week together.
On Monday morning, we were treated to an overview of Chile’s economic and political climate with an exceptional and thorough presentation by Roberto Matus from AmCham. We reconvened after lunch to visit and learn more about Start-Up Chile and a quick introduction to a very new project called Idea Factory. We wrapped up the day with dinner and entertainment at Bali Hai that gave us a lively and interactive picture of the variety of cultures and history found across Chile through music, dance, and food.
On Tuesday we visited Deloitte Consulting and learned about their local and regional presence in the morning, and we toured the Dole vegetable plant in the afternoon. On Wednesday we were blown away by Claudio Barahona’s presentation of Telefonica's startup accelerator, Wayra, and our tour of their space. In the afternoon, we had a unique opportunity to hear the real stories of four entirely different business ventures and how each one made it work in Chile and beyond. We heard remakable stories directly from the founders of Tasty Beat, Verano Capital, Emprediem.
On Thursday morning, we toured the main UAI campus and reconnected with our student collaborators for a final presentation of the lessons learned about our selected specific industries and both the American & Chilean companies that we researched. We were especially grateful to Brad Bernthal for his support and insightful questions at this event. That afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear from several former CU Leeds students who are working in Santiago at an Alumni Panel at a much smaller UAI campus location.
We wrapped up the trip with a chance to meet with Peter Murphy, founder of La Bicileta Verde, and Priscilla who treated us to an exceptional tour of Valparaiso from Tours 4 Tips. We stayed overnight in Viña del Mar and were treated to a delightful tour, wine tasting, and farewell meal with exquisite views at Viña Veramonte the following day, the final one for the program itself in Chile (though most students stayed longer to travel more in Chile and throughout the region.)
I am grateful for the support provided by the Leeds MBA program, all of those who poured time and energy into producing and implementing the class and trip, and of course the family, friends, and MBA faculty and staff who supported and encouraged my participation in this program. At least for me -- this was an unprecedented opportunity to merge my interest in the valuable frameworks and tools acquired through the MBA program with my experience and passion for business with a global perspective.
(Photos courtesy of Peter Murphy.)