Warwick Winery international trip presentation

Executives from Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 just returned from South Africa for their international trip. Part of their assignment from the trip was to do a presentation about one of the companies the group visited in Johannesburg or Cape Town. The team of Raul Herrera, Harley Wentzel and Jacob Walters produced a video showcasing Warwick Winery. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPrFSpxhk0Q&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

Cohort 8 does some sightseeing before heading home to Orlando

Stetson's Cohort 8 executives visited Cape Point on their last full day in South Africa.

Students in Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 departed a bit after sunrise Friday, June 24, to go to Table Mountain National Park and see Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, the farthest tip of the Cape Peninsula, a protected reserve that horns its way into the ocean.

“The coastal drive was absolutely breathtaking,” said Wendy Lowe, Stetson Executive MBA program coordinator. “It was mountainous, the water had rolling waves, and the area was full of wildlife, including baboons, elands and ostriches.

A rainbow greeted the students as they reached the Cape of Good Hope. The vehicle pulled over at various scenic stops, where students’ cameras flashed nonstop. “We strolled up and down nature trails, leading to cliff views of the ocean or to the lighthouse. It was a picturesque setting in all directions, and baboons were running all around!”

“Seeing the natural beauty of South Africa was awesome and breathtaking,” said Jacob Walters, an executive in Cohort 8.

Penguins covered the beaches at Boulders.

The students’ next stop was Boulders, where penguins scattered the beach and roamed freely. “They weren’t the nicest smelling bird,” said Lowe, “but they were incredibly cute as they waddled to and from the ocean and frolicked in the waves.”

A gift shop owner told Cohort 8 executive Larry Flory that in the summer months, locals swim in the ocean with the penguins. “That I would like to see,” said Flory, “but not today! It’s winter here in South Africa in June.”

Dr. Michelson and the students all got their faces painted at the farewell dinner.

The group’s last cultural activity was the Farewell Dinner at Moyo in the Winery Region at Spier, which means Heart. The buffet was spread around the outskirts of a large tented area. Inside the tent, entertainers danced, played the African drums and painted each student’s face in a local design.

“The dinner and African ambiance was a perfect way to end our week-long international trip,” said Lowe after the dinner was over. “The cohort has memories of a lifetime and can’t wait to share the South African way with others.”

The students left South Africa Saturday afternoon and are scheduled to return to Orlando on Sunday morning. A handful of cohort members have made a pact that they will return to this country with their families because of the hospitality the students received and all of the educational opportunities.

Cohort 8 visits seniors in South Africa for philanthropic experience

Denise Edelmeier, left, visits with a resident named Denise at Oakhaven Home for the Aged in Cape Town.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 wanted to give something to the South African people in return for their adventure in the nation. After careful consideration, the cohort selected a retirement home as the best place to visit and provide support. This decision was made in part because of the age of residents who could share what it was like to live through Apartheid during this evolutionary century of change.

The cohort visited Oakhaven Home for the Aged, coordinated with the assistance of Francis Chamarengah of Cross Cultural Solutions. “Oakhaven is not a place for old people to live before they pass, but it’s a place for the living,” said the local director, Ms. McPherson, “It’s their home. We work tirelessly to provide an environment that allows residents the freedom to go about their day in a manner that feels most comfortable to them.”

At Oakhaven, residents can participate in organized games, exercises and movie viewings. Oakhaven provides total care (health, emotional, spiritual) for its residents, including medication, meals, laundry and hygiene services. Oakhaven houses more than 100 residents, 50 years of age and older.

Victor, age 84, is a retired carpenter who built one of the first skyscrapers in downtown Cape Town. He said he loves living at Oakhaven. He doesn’t have any family in the area, so he relies on his friendships at Oakhaven to provide company and support emotionally.

McPherson said Victor’s situation is not unusual for Oakhaven residents. Few have consistent visitors, and the students’ brief time visiting will not only be incredibly stimulating for the residents, but it will boost their morale for days and weeks to come, especially upon learning about the students and their lives in the United States.

Residents gave members of Cohort 8 a tour of their home at Oakhaven.

Cohort members mingled with the residents for more than an hour. Student Denise Edelmaier was captivated by a resident, also named Denise, who was born and raised in Cape Town and in earlier years was a seamstress making dresses in a factory. Jason Plas and some fellow students spent time with light-hearted residents Christine and Gloria. And resident Sam was a very sweet man who was more than happy to share his smile. He seemed very content to be a father of four, but it was sad for the students to see that he struggled to remember his children’s names.

“I could see that visiting with the seniors meant a lot to them,” said student Eric O’Leary. “The fact that they do not receive visitors is sad, and sharing time with the seniors was very rewarding.”

During the cohort’s time with the retirees, many residents requested photos, which the students gladly took and shared. At the conclusion of the visit, Cohort 8 presented Oakhaven Home for the Aged a donation equivalent to $200 (U.S.), a portion of which was raised at Stetson Executive MBA’s Alumni Event.

“You forever made a positive impact on Oakhaven and its residents,” said McPherson to the students upon their departure. The students concurred after leaving that they too had been forever changed by the conversations they had there and the time they spent with the retirees.

SPAR executives teach Cohort 8 how efficiency keeps the company competitive

Cohort 8 students visited wholesaler SPAR in Cape Town on June 23.

Members of Cohort 8 from Stetson University’s Executive MBA program visited wholesaler SPAR Western Cape for their second business tour of the day, June 23. The executives who guided the students through SPAR were Solly Engelbrecht, distribution director; Brenton van Breda, finance director; and John Warren, IT director.

“The entire SPAR company was gracious during our entire visit,” said Wendy Lowe, Executive MBA program coordinator. “We walked the distribution floor. We saw first-hand how inventory is stacked five stories high, and how produce is kept at temperatures to ensure freshness and quality. Brrr … the below-25-degree Celsius cooler was frigid, but it does keep the perishables in the best condition for the stores.” After the tour, the directors treated the students to a light lunch and a bottle of Cape Town red wine.

SPAR’s core business is wholesale and distribution, with the buying power directly at the store level. SPAR has had a successful run in the retail market for more than 45 years. It has 850 stores across South Africa and beyond, servicing more than 60 million customers per month.

SPAR purchases goods in bulk and uses state-of-the-art technology to distribute these items to various store locations based on specific requests. SPAR is driven by relationships; therefore the distribution centers have a vested interest in delivering first class service and products. SPAR store owners remain 85 to 90 percent loyal to SPAR distribution centers for the acquisition of items to sell.

One of SPAR’s competitive advantages is that one truck delivers both frozen and dry goods, rather than various trucks delivering based on product type. Each SPAR store allocates 70 percent of its retail space to product displays and only 30 percent to storage of extra stock.

Student Raul Herrera asked if new items are picked up based on geographic or cultural needs. “Absolutely,” said van Breda. “We track items carefully, and once the thresholds reach a level that sensibly we can buy for multiple stores, we do.”

“Technology is a critical piece,” added Warren. “The stores use the SPAR technology systems to place orders, track progress and communicate with the distribution center actively.”

Students learned about SPAR's efficient product delivery system, which sets it apart from its competitors.

SPAR invests in its stores’ success, including helping finance new stores, assisting with store design, employing and training workers, and collaborating on marketing efforts. SPAR does not set franchise fees; instead, store owners select their pre-approved location and join the SPAR “family” like a one would join a golf club, explained Engelbrecht.

SPAR is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and has six regions in South Africa. The Western Cape distribution center, the site of Cohort 8’s visit, is the company’s third-largest. SPAR offers different types of stores, such as the Super SPAR (Kroger) with aggressive pricing, SPAR (neighborhood-based) with competitive pricing, Kwik SPAR (convenience-based), TOPS (liquor-focused), Build-It (building materials-focused) and Pharmacy at SPAR (in or near SPAR stores).

Although SPAR can start out in a less populated area, SPAR remains competitive even when the area’s density grows, and it is not being pushed out by its larger rivals. In the West Cape region, Checkers/Shop Rite has 34 percent market share, Pick & Pay has 32 percent market share, and SPAR comes in at 29 percent, which is an astounding figure compared to overall corporate size.

Student Denise Edelmaier asked the executives if they were concerned about Wal-Mart coming to South Africa. “We don’t anticipate a major effect,” answered Engelbrecht. “We don’t underestimate Wal-Mart’s overall power; however, we are far ahead logistically in South Africa, and our focus again is being a wholesaler and delivering to the retail market.”

When student Wesley DuBose inquired about SPAR’s efforts in reducing its carbon footprint, Warren said SPAR has quietly participated in many cost-saving and environmentally friendly initiatives, such as starting a school recycling program, which has recycled 500 tons of plastic combined from all SPAR stores in the past year, recycling cartons used in their distribution center, and obtaining oil from all store locations to reuse in trucks for future deliveries.

Stetson students asked about the corporation's relationship with its employees. The executives said the employees love working at SPAR, and SPAR makes it worth their while.

Engelbrecht said his goals for 2011 and the near future are to enhance the skills of SPAR’s employees, increase the use of technology, obtain a closer cooperative with suppliers, reduce lag time across the total supply chain, and build trust in processes and controls that focus on cost-drivers. Student Lofton Barnes asked if these goals support the South African “human-model” of a life-work balance. Engelbrecht commented that SPAR employees have great pride and ownership in the company’s success. “Employees who stay two years retire here,” he said. SPAR provides competitive salaries, training and excellent working conditions for its employees.

This visit provided the cohort a clear understanding that unique business models can be extremely successful and that creativity and openness to provide service and support to a company’s “internal” members and “external” customers can reap rewards both in the short-term and the long-term.

Cohort 8 students arrive in Cape Town

Students boarded a bus to the airport in Johannesburg for their flight to Cape Town.

On Wednesday, June 22, members of Stetson University Executive MBA’s Cohort 8 travelled to Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa. It is regularly heralded as one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Their arrival coincides with that of First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, who landed on the Cape on their South Africa journey from the United States.

The weather has been inhospitable, but the South Africans have not. The people in Cape Town have been charming and welcoming to the students. “We can see why this is the country’s No. 1 tourist destination,” said Wendy Lowe, program coordinator. The students checked into their hotel, located in the heart of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront district.

With a few hours of free time, several members of the cohort went to the Greenmarket Square, a lively flea market surrounded by coffee shops and cafes, a must for local wares. They found the area to be an interesting cultural crossroad, with a lively atmosphere and amazing architecture. Jacob Walters said he enjoyed negotiating with local vendors to get the best price for his souvenirs. Juliana Trujillo found impressive African animal carvings and equally enjoyed the bargaining system, paying less than half the original asking price. “I wish shopping was like this in the U.S.,” said Trujillo.

Torrance Johnson was fortunate enough to spot First Lady Michelle Obama’s motorcade during his spare time. Mrs. Obama visited the District Six Museum while she was in town.

In the evening, the cohort planned to celebrate student Raul Herrera’s birthday at Balthazar, the largest wine bar in the world with more than 600 wine selections. Herrera received this recommendation from one of his wine suppliers where he works, at Disney’s Jiko in Animal Kingdom Lodge. Balthazar boasts the biggest wine-by-the-glass bar in the world as well as fine foods, and the students thought it would be the perfect spot to celebrate this wine connoisseur’s birthday.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Cohort 8 shapes up for South Africa trip

Larry Flory is Cohort 8's "Biggest Loser," and he has $160 to show for it.

What are some of the benefits of the Stetson Executive MBA program? Many of the students would follow the list of academic and networking advantages with some glowing commentary on the catered lunches and the breakroom that’s stocked with every imaginable savory and sweet treat.

As students in Cohort 8 embarked on their Executive MBA journey, they were bound and determined not to gain the “Freshman 15,” and they used the upcoming South Africa international trip as the catalyst to get in shape. The original goal was looking their best in the wetsuit they planned to wear when going on the optional shark dive in Cape Town during the South Africa adventure this month.

In the style of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, the students weighed themselves at the beginning of the program, dieted and exercised over a period of months, and measured their weight loss on a percentage basis. With 11 participants putting in $20 each, the person who came in third place would get his or her $20 back, second place would get $40, and the winner would get $160.

Through seven weigh-ins over the course of four months, the top 3 “losers” lost a combined 35 pounds, or 15.47% of their body weight. Just before the students went on their trip, they had their final weigh-in, and the winner of the competition was Larry Flory.

“My plan worked,” said Flory, who is a vice president at Disney’s Partners Federal Credit Union. “I casually mentioned to my classmates a ‘study’ that suggested that eating a pint of ice cream just before bed would actually speed up one’s metabolism and cause net weight loss. Apparently some believed it and went that route. I just can’t remember where I heard about that ‘study,’” Flory said with a smirk.

Flory was especially diligent in his weight loss efforts and took on the challenge with great competitive spirit. He regularly exercised before work and school, skipped dessert, and even weighed in on the final day in a lightweight running outfit to ensure the best possible results.

Flory lost 13.20 pounds of 6.19%. In second place was Ghaleb Abulola, an Orlando resident from Jeddah, who lost 12 pounds, or 4.74% of his body weight. And Raul Herrera, general manager at Disney’s Jiko restaurant, lost 9.80 pounds, or 4.54% of his body weight.

All 11 participants either lost weight or maintained their original “fighting weight.” It is a common Cohort 8 joke now about who can reach the third floor study group room the fastest by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

In fact, a few of the students have signed up for the new Tinkerbell Half-Marathon at Disney World in winter 2012, committing to a healthier lifestyle long-term. The breakroom still has the sweet and savory snacks, but it now also contains Slim-Fast drinks, Special K bars, and Detour bars, as requested by the executive MBA students. Cohort 8 is determined to be smarter, stronger and healthier.

Congratulations on your weight loss, team, and good luck getting into those shark dive wetsuits!