When MBA student Bonny Fetterman signed up for Enterprise Solutions, the MBA capstone in which Daniels students engage in consulting projects for organizations around the world, she anticipated an interesting project working with Executive Advisory Services, a consulting firm that services the beer distribution industry. But just a few weeks into the course, the experience had already exceeded her expectations.

“This was much more than a typical graduate school project,” says Fetterman, who will graduate in 2013. “Our team was highly engaged because our work was going to help hundreds of beer distributors make critical decisions for their organizations. That real-world experience was much more valuable to all of us than another type of assignment.” Fetterman was joined by Jenn Stuecker, Madeline Smith, Jantzen Roth and Lauren Barnwell, all of whom graduated in June 2012 after the project was delivered to the client.

Based in Denver, Executive Advisory Services (EAS) consists of father-son team Joe and Wes (BSBA 2010) Verno. The company’s clients are privately-owned beer wholesale distributors such as West Side Beer in Michigan, Superior Beverage Group in Ohio and Indiana Beverage and others around the world.

Joe engaged a team of Daniels MBA students once before—his daughter, Sarah (Professional MBA 2011; BS 2008) was on the student team—but it was Wes who took the lead in spring 2012 as the liaison between the Daniels group and EAS. “Our goal was to get an understanding of the role that social media plays in the beer distribution realm and determine whether engaging in social media would be valuable for distributors,” says Wes. “Beer retailers and breweries have moved toward social media, but the wholesale distribution leg of the three-tiered system is really the unknown piece.” Such a project, however, was too big for EAS to tackle on its own, so Joe and Wes turned to Daniels.

Under the direction of their professor Dr. Carol Johnson, the Daniels MBA team conducted 190 beer wholesaler surveys, 40 wholesaler interviews, 10 craft brewer interviews and more than 50 interviews of craft beer consumers—developing what EAS described as the most comprehensive study of social media and beer wholesaling to date.

In September 2012, the project was published in Verno’s Beer Brief, EAS’s popular industry publication that goes out to hundreds of wholesalers and brewer executives around the country—and the reception was astounding. The National Beer Wholesalers Association, a Washington D.C.-based trade association, also received the brief and decided to use the students’ research as the basis for a seminar at its 75th annual convention in October (“Digital Media in a Modern Distributorship”).

“The Daniels group approached our project as if they were a part of our company,” says Wes. “They took complete ownership of the project and it truly felt like they were an extension of our team—thinking and acting with our best interests in mind. The entire team was highly motivated to do the best job possible, and the end product was a valuable piece of research. We couldn’t have done it without them.”