Mary Rocca, '12
President, Owner, Rocca Family Vineyards and the Palace Market
"It was challenging to step back and let others take charge, as I had always been the leader. Watching others take charge was not only interesting, but by being a part of a team, I learned a lot about other styles of leadership."
More than a Business Owner
Until 1999, I was a dentist. I sold my practice in 2000 after purchasing a producing vineyard and starting a boutique winery: Rocca Family Vineyards. At the same time, I purchased The Palace Market, a small, independent supermarket that has been around since the 1880s. It had been owned by my family since 1973, and was one of the first stores in the country with an emphasis on organic and natural products. To continue growing both of my companies I realized I needed a stronger business foundation, so I decided to pursue an MBA.
My philosophy has always been to hire the best and brightest people to lead my teams. I have experts in charge of each key area of my businesses, such as a wine maker, vineyard manager and sales manager. My goal is to handle the marketing needs of both of my companies in-house, and for me to lead that process. As the owner, I provide the vision and overall leadership for both of my companies, and having an MBA has helped me do this at a much higher level.
A Successful Switch
My husband Eric Grigsby and I started an executive MBA program at another top school and only completed a term and a half. It was a balancing act keeping up with our businesses while also working hard on our coursework, so when my husband's partner moved out of state we decided to take a deferral. Once we decided we were ready to commit again to the hard work that an MBA program entails, we realized that our first program wasn't ideal for us. We started looking at options across the U.S. Fuqua's reputation and global focus was more in-line with what we were seeking, and the format was also more convenient for us. Even though we had to start over, in the end, we were more than happy that we made the switch, and that we experienced the Global Executive MBA together.
Taking a Step Back
I learned so much from my classmates at Fuqua, especially from my teammates. As someone who has always been self-employed, it was a different experience to let others lead. It was challenging to step back and let others take charge, as I had always been the leader. Watching others take charge was not only interesting, but by being a part of a team, I learned a lot about other styles of leadership. Additionally, not enough can be said about how much you can learn from listening to the experiences of your classmates, who come from all over the world, and work in diverse industries. They were an amazing group, and having connections with these people is something I treasure.
Learning on Location
The global nature of the program was eye opening. I had traveled a lot internationally, but this was different—as a student, it was interesting to explore our residency locations from a business perspective. I learned what questions to ask about a country or region, in order to gain some understanding of how a different culture would shape business relationships and interactions. The week that we spent in China with the Global Executive MBA program offered valuable cultural and contextual insight that I have been able to apply to my winery business as I work with our distributors in China.