A Banker and an Aerospace Engineer are perhaps not the most likely candidates to set up a new business in the wine industry but that is exactly what Anzor Mantskava and Danilo Di Salvo did after completing their Full-time MBAs back in 2016. We caught up with the unlikely duo to learn about their decision to embark on an MBA, the conception of their business idea and how their MBAs have supported them in turning it into a reality.
Firstly, can you tell us about your career before embarking on your MBA?
Anzor: I worked in TBC Bank, the largest bank in Georgia, as a head of the Operational Risks department. I originally joined TBC Bank back in 2006 as a head of the Internal Audit department. I then moved into Operations, managing the Customer Experience and Business Process Management department, and also served as Chairman of Audit Committee in two of TBC group's subsidiaries. In addition to my day job, I started four different businesses - all of them failed due to lack of time and proper dedication.
Danilo: I worked at Rolls-Royce developing novel technologies for the aviation sector for almost a decade. I also completed a PhD in Advanced Aerospace Materials and my original degree was in Aerospace Engineering. At Rolls-Royce, I spent time in Research & Development, Flight Testing and Strategy and Future Programmes with roles ranging from Researcher to Project Manager. I’m a Chartered Engineer with the Royal Aeronautical Society and have had a number of papers published in international journals on the fascinating topic of Ceramic Composites!
As you can see we both have ideal backgrounds to enter the wine industry – a Banker and an Aerospace Engineer!
Can you explain what prompted your decision to study an MBA and what you were hoping to achieve by it? Had you always intended to go down the entrepreneurial route?
Anzor: I always wanted to undertake some form of academic study as I had learnt mainly through practice. In 2015 I finally decided to leave everything and embark on a Full-time MBA with WBS. It was a great decision, I have made friends for life and gained excellent academic knowledge. I often revisit my notes, slides and papers when I need to make a decision. I use the frameworks I've learnt, I use the case studies from the different modules and I have a great network of friends who are always open for questions or recommendations. I have achieved everything I hoped to achieve.
About my intentions to take the entrepreneurial route, the answer is yes. As mentioned earlier, I have previously failed four times which is great experience to start anew.
Danilo: I felt that I had achieved all that I could in a hard-core engineering environment and so I wanted to broaden my horizons. So, doing an MBA was the perfect choice. I wanted to learn about the softer side of business as well as meet and learn from people in different industries from around the world. Spending so much of my career in research, I've always wanted to go off on my own and explore life as an entrepreneur but I had not come across the right opportunity - nothing that I believed in. I thought that meeting lots of new people would help cross-pollinate ideas and perhaps something could come out of that.
How did your idea for gvino UK come about?
Anzor: Georgia has 8,000 years of winemaking history and 500 different types of grape. Wine and vineyards are a part of Georgian culture. However, the rest of the world are not aware of this, only wine professionals. And yet our wines are really great! Danilo did not believe me until he tried our wine for himself but now he believes!
For one of our assignments we had to come up with a business idea and plan. Danilo decided to write about setting up a Georgian Wine Bar in London. He did it so well and with such a detailed explanation of my country, the wine culture and everything about Georgia that the lecturer thought it was me as the assignments were submitted anonymously. Her feedback stated that “it was clear that I loved my country", but it was Danilo and that was before he had even visited my country!
Danilo: Anzor is pretty much correct! Since we met on the first day of the MBA, Anzor kept going on about Georgian wine - I thought that he was clearly mad. Out of politeness I accepted an invitation to try his wine. Good move - it was outstanding! And so the brainwashing started! After a couple of bottles of wine, we decided that we should launch a wine business and then set up a wine bar in London, gvino UK was born.
There was an excellent module on Entrepreneurship and New Value Creation and so for the assignment I wrote up the Business plan - and as Anzor said, the Professor thought that this was Anzor's work. The brainwashing was complete! After the MBA, I flew out to stay with Anzor and his family and that's when we got serious and put our money where our mouths were.
How did the CareersPlus team at WBS support you in realising your vision for gvino UK?
Danilo: We did the fantastic LeadershipPlus module as part of the MBA. That has contributed a lot to how we run our business. We follow the principles that we learnt during the module about leadership and having a purpose to what we are trying to do. As Anzor and I were in the same group, we got to know each other professionally as well as personally, and that helps us make the best decisions for us, our customers and our suppliers. We always fall back on our raison d'etre: bringing the UK the Georgian Wine Experience. Furthermore, our Careers Coach at WBS is always on hand to help us during our journey, both as a customer (!) but also as a confidant, someone to reach out to. Having someone who is such a formidable and talented coach is priceless for us.
Can you tell us a bit about your current daytime career and how the MBA and the CareersPlus team have impacted this?
Anzor: I changed my career earlier this year. I’m now a Sales Director at Georgian Wine Holding (GWH). Another step closer to our dream to open a bar in London!
Danilo: I changed sectors and positions, which required a lot of coaching from the CareersPus team. We worked on so many different aspects that helped me get a great job in the consulting sector. Indeed, the CareersPlus team has inspired me to give something back, and so I now support aspiring consultants by helping WBS students with interview practice.
What plans do you have for the future?
Anzor: Our plan is to open a very special Georgian wine bar in London.
Danilo: Anzor's spot on about the wine bar. We also want to grow our online business and establish ourselves as the go-to wine shop for the best Georgian wine. Earlier this year we held the first online Georgian wine tasting, which was a tremendous success.