Georgian Viticulture: An 5000-Year-Old Tradition

Since roughly 5000 B.C., the people inhabiting the country of Georgia have practiced fermenting the many grape varieties native to South Caucasus. Noted for their extensive array of forms and cultivation, Georgian wines have long been considered some of the most exquisite in Asia, if not the world. As a result of the Cold War, as well as French and American wine production, Georgian wine has faced many obstacles to reaching Western consumer markets. However, these challenges have not hampered the impressive sophistication and taste that imbibers experience when tasting a glass of Tvishi or Mukuzani.

From its humble origins in clay pots buried under the earth of the scenic Caucus Mountains, Georgian viticulture has grown tremendously over the past few decades.

Today, Georgian wine is poised to emerge onto the international market. The Georgian economy has become increasingly integrated with the European Union and other neighboring nations. With Georgia’s rising role in the world economy, it is expected that the wine produced within its borders is finding a wider audience with international consumers.

To oenophiles in the US, Georgian wine can be hard to find.  If you know of a good store where they are offered, let us know and we will pass the word around.  We at Agile Precis Ventures are excited to take a part in this expansion of a signature Georgian product.

Through developing SME’s, Agile Precis Ventures will fuel innovation and job growth in Georgia and throughout the developing world.

For more information on Georgian wine please visit: Georgian Wine

Information on our activities check: Agile Precis Ventures  

Business Owners Need to Get Out of Their Own Way

If you are an entrepreneur or the owner of a small or medium sized business, there are times when you get a little paranoid or have periods of uncertainty which cause you to Google the Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail" right?

In over 30 years of working with small and medium sized businesses I have had experience with many facing major trouble, including my own. Overwhelmingly, owners tend to blame the lack of availability of capital or economic conditions.. What I have found is that this is usually delusional. Statistics from the Small Business Administration indicate that the economy has little impact on small business survival, nor does the industry in which the small business is involved. 

Restaurants do not have a failure rate greater than retail or construction firms, for that matter. Regarding capital, most successful small businesses I have been associated with were self-financed, in other words profitability was the source of their capital. Only about 6% of capital for young firms comes from Angels or VCs (venture capitals). 

Interestingly, recently VCs and Angels have taken to investing only in young companies who are passed the seed stage usually about 2-5 years old. Add to that the realization that the first thing VCs usually do when they invest is move to replace the founder as CEO.

My analysis has concluded, that the number one reason small businesses fail is  because the owners get in their own way. Its a management issue, primarily. Usually, we can find the issue buried is the sales trends of the business and upon investigation we will find a change in the marketplace, usually customer attitudes. Being always on the pulse, always on the lookout for changing trends is crucial. Ever heard the term: the world just passed them by? Dont let this happen to you!

By correcting the market strategy, providing skilled staffing and proven sales methodologies, we can most likely turn a lemon into a lemonade for less than you can do it yourself. More importantly, always pay attention to what to customers are requesting, how their tastes are changing from time to time. After all, marketing is the beating heart of a business and sales in the lifeblood, why leave those important functions to chance?

Applying Social Entrepreneurship Theory to the Real World

APRIL 13, 2016

Applying Social Entrepreneurship Theory to the Real World

This spring, Professor Bala Mulloth launched Developing a New Social Venture, a capstone course offered to fourth-years in Batten’s undergraduate program. Part of the suite of SE@UVA social entrepreneurship classes, the three-credit course, originally taught by Professor Mulloth to MBA students at Central European University Business School in Budapest, takes students “out of the classroom and into the marketplace.” Throughout the semester, students have the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship by building a business from the ground up. Student self-organize in teams and work with Professor Mulloth and local entrepreneurs to take their ideas from concept to launch, culminating in a final assessment of the venture’s viability.     

The 13 students currently enrolled in the course are building on theories and concepts learned in Mulloth’s social entrepreneurship class, “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship.” In the introductory class, these students had the opportunity to pitch initial concepts. Now, they have the chance to build out the idea and launch their venture.

The class is a unique offering for undergraduates. It is loosely structured into five phases rather than typical bi-weekly or weekly class sessions. The five phases are Scoping and Viability, Team Creation and Business Plan Development, Building the Organization, Resource Building and Running the Venture, and Final Assessment. Instead of traditional lectures, Professor Mulloth encourages students to use class time for data collection. He also invites local entrepreneurs, business advisors and venture capitalists to speak to students each week. These guest speakers share personal lessons learned from past experiences, including key takeaways from their successes and failures. Students then have the opportunity to pitch their business to the visitors, who provide feedback and advice for the student venture.

“The course mirrors the process social entrepreneurs go through. The students develop the professional skills they need to create socially-minded ventures that are attractive to customers as well as investors. They also explore public-private partnerships and policies that might affect the venture,” says Professor Mulloth.

A team of five Batten students are working on developing their own venture, C’Full, an after-school program that educates area youth about nutrition. The idea originated in the Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship class. Students have successfully negotiated a partnership with Whole Foods to secure less expensive food for the program. They have also signed an agreement with Zion Union Baptist Church as the first venue for their after-school program. Their goal is to become sustainable through grants and donations and pass on the project to interested Batten students in the fall.

Emma Clark, one of the founders of C’Full, says, “[This course] has allowed me to take what I have learned about the growing problem of childhood obesity and create a real company that aims to increase nutrition education and bring healthy options to children in Charlottesville. The class has provided me with real experience creating a business and I learned more about what it takes to create a social venture from creating partnerships and relationships to scaling and creating a business plan.”

While some students are working on their own social venture ideas, others are working with local entrepreneurs to amplify existing business development efforts. Two Charlottesville companies, Agile Precis Ventures and 2 Gen Cville, have partnered with Professor Mulloth to provide students with opportunities to take part in the venture creation process.

Agile Precis Ventures’s key project is Pearl Island Foods, a venture that serves to bring awareness of Haitian cuisine and culture to the Charlottesville market and hopes to develop a strategy for accessing the local customer base. Students have tested the product and have started to form partnerships with local grocers such as Rebecca’s Natural Food. 2 Gen Cville provides single mothers in Charlottesville with access to higher education and supports children with early childhood education programming. Students have helped to grow the nonprofit and develop its niche in Charlottesville’s crowded nonprofit industry.

The local entrepreneurs are happy with the students’ success and contributions to their companies. The model is a win-win for Batten students and Charlottesville business-owners: Students love being able to work on real-world problems and entrepreneurs are happy to have the help and even serve as mentors. Professor Mulloth hopes that these unique partnerships may lead to long-term opportunities for those students interested in the ventures.

“We are very pleased and impressed with the enthusiasm, dedication, responsibility, and thought process the students have brought to the table,” says Dillon Franks, CMO of Agile Precis. Although the students do not have in depth business training, “they are all clear and practical thinkers who only need to be mentored.” Thus far, Franks has been happy to step into the role of mentor for the capstone students.

At the end of the semester, students will not be graded solely on the success of the business or viability of the concept. Rather, Professor Mulloth hopes students learn valuable lessons throughout the semester. A student’s ability to demonstrate personal growth because of his or her experience as an entrepreneur is success in itself.


Assistant Professor of Public Policy
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Go Get ‘em Sparky!

During over 30 years of working with small and medium sized businesses (SMB) we have discovered a universal truth; the most expensive mistake SMBs make is hiring a VP of Sales too soon.  Research from the firm Leadership IQ shows that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months.  Think about the consequences, hiring and training a new employee can be very expensive, undermining profitability.  Calculations will easily reach 200% of the employees’ annual compensation figure for managerial and sales positions. Show me a CEO of a start-up or any other SMB who wants to throw money out the window like that!

When building a successful sales machine it is not all about hiring the right people either.  It is also about providing those people with the appropriate training, tools and guidance to do the job.  Giving them a feature-benefit dump sales pitch, pushing them out the door and saying; “Go get’em Sparky” is not a formula for success.  A successful sales strategy starts with a structured methodology for designing and reviewing a customer acquisition process that is appropriate for your value proposition and business model.  It starts with the idea that the only right way to build a sales and marketing process is to design it around your customers.   Most of the time we have found SMBs are using a company-centric processes which is not working as well as hoped or is significantly underperforming because they failed to take into consideration the customer’s concerns and motivations, leading to VP Sales turnover and CEO discontent.

The SMB sales machine must be customer centric, scalable, and repeatable.  It must also contain these elements:

  1. Ensure that Sparky is aligned with Marketing.
  2. Automate Sparky so he/she can access and act on real data both structured and unstructured generated by your company.
  3. Give Sparky the tools (CRM) to communicate and engage both prospects and customers and you the ability to track Sparky’s activity and results.
  4. Train Sparky in the appropriate sales methodology that has the best chance for success within your business model.