Spotlight Story

Shannon Staglin MBA 08 Pursues Excellence with Passion in the Vineyard

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After Shannon Staglin MBA 08 received her undergraduate degree from UCLA in 2001, she returned to Napa to work in the family business—Staglin Family Vineyard—as a harvest intern. This experience, she says “taught me all about our enology and viticulture practices. It also clarified that my place was in the business rather than the production side of the vineyard.”

After five years working in the winery’s office, Staglin “had taken on as much responsibility as possible without beginning to manage the people who had taught me all about hospitality, customer relationship management and trade relations. Going to business school had always been a part of my plan, and 2006 was the right time for me to temporarily leave the winery to build knowledge that would eventually benefit its future.” 

In 2008, with her newly minted UC Davis MBA in hand, Staglin accepted a position with Wells Fargo Family Wealth—a completely different industry, with a completely different business structure, but a consistent focus on ultra-high-net-worth clientele. It was a challenging time in the financial industry, but she grew from the “amazing opportunities to apply the knowledge learned in business school to shape the segment’s brand, and to work very closely with the executive leadership.” When Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia, Staglin found herself immersed in one of the largest mergers in history, “which was character building and taught me to navigate complex problems and find resolutions.

“After 2.5 years during difficult economic times,” Staglin says, “I was in the fortunate position to have a secure job, and two other opportunities on the table. Another bank was starting a multi-family office, similar to Wells Fargo Family Wealth, and they were recruiting me to help build their new brand. Although this would have been a great fit for my area of expertise, I made the decision to return to Staglin Family Vineyard in January 2011.” In March 2012 she was named president.

“Wine is something I am very passionate about, and working in this business provides me with a sense of fulfillment I did not find in the financial arena,” Staglin says. “I have been very happy with my decision to return to the vineyard!”

What drives you in your work? 

I love the diversity of my role as president and the impact I am able to make at Staglin Family Vineyard. I work closely with our winemaker and our vineyard manager to reach decisions that positively shape the quality of our wines. I travel frequently and share our wines with new friends and business contacts. I wholeheartedly believe in the quality of our wines and get to contribute to every step of the process, from the growing, to the production, to the sales to the end consumer. It is a fascinating industry to work in because it is one of the few remaining that is truly vertically integrated. 

Where is your career headed?

I hope to continue the tradition of producing excellent wines under the Staglin Family Vineyard label and share these with the world. My first priority is about nurturing and improving upon what has been created to date. Producing the best quality wine possible from this historic estate is my primary focus, and expansion in the wine business is something that must be done with great care. Eventually I would like to buy property elsewhere to produce a pinot noir and a more cooler climate chardonnay. I love drinking these styles of wines and am passionate about the possibility of producing my own in the future.

How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?

Fifty percent of family-owned wineries in Washington, Oregon and California that produce fewer than 10,000 cases will transition ownership within the next 10 years. I have seen these family businesses sell to large corporations and private equity firms, oftentimes losing their personality and sense of soul with the sale. It becomes more about the bottom line and less about the land and the people involved. Many of these wineries didn’t really have a choice and had to sell the businesses their parents or grandparents created because of poor business practices, challenging economic times or a lack of estate planning. With an MBA I have the knowledge necessary to maintain a healthy and competitive business amongst much larger corporations.  

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
I recently traveled to South America and visited the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia. It was one of the most amazing days of my life—everything just seemed to align. I was with great friends, the weather was unseasonably perfectly sunny and clear, and the scenery and wildlife were surreal. 

Your favorite GSM memory?

Orientation, on the ropes course. It was a great way to really get to know people’s personalities and strengths. Climbing the ridiculously tall redwood then jumping out on to the swinging bar was an incredible adrenaline rush!

How do you support and participate in the GSM now?

I have participated in the School’s annual wine industry luncheons, which providing the opportunity to meet other alumni in this business and reconnect with old friends. I plan to continue to promote the GSM and the wonderful education it provides throughout my network.

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