MBA success stories: Michael Vachon, Alliance Manchester Business School

Michael Vachon is Co-founder of Maverick Drinks and a 2012 MBA graduate of Alliance Manchester Business School

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date?

I am the co-founder of Maverick Drinks, a specialist drinks distribution company, which has helped countless craft drinks brands to scale globally. Maverick Drinks’ disruptive approach to brand building saw the business win multiple awards before being acquired by ZX Ventures (as part of Atom Group) in 2018. As a founder I understand the challenges early-stage businesses face and now also advises other innovative drinks brands on their growth.

And a quick summary of my career would be:

  • Graduated from Alliance Manchester Business School (then just Manchester Business School) in 2012.
  • Sept 2012: launched a business distributing craft spirits at the beginning of the UK’s craft gin boom.
  • April 2013: That business was acquired a year later by Atom Group, to form its distribution arm, Maverick Drinks.
  • April 2018: Maverick Drinks acquired (as part of Atom Group) by ZX Ventures, the disruptive growth division of the world’s largest drinks company, AB InBev.
  • Dec 2020: launched a new venture, Citizens of Soil, to disrupt the highly commoditised olive oil market with a strong brand and sustainability focus. 
  • Feb 2021: began advising on several other early-stage drinks startups across RTDs, non/low alcohol, and more.

Explain your current role. 

In my role as co-founder at Maverick Drinks, my role is to curate the portfolio of brands we represent and provide strategic guidance on brand and route-to-market strategy in the UK. I also advise on a number of early-stage disruptive drinks startups, providing strategic support on branding, route-to-market, fundraising, etc.

Where and when did you achieve your MBA? 

Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) – class of 2012.

Why did you want to study for an MBA in the first instance? And why did you choose to do an MBA at this particular School? 

I chose to do an MBA because I wanted to broaden my understanding of a variety of disciplines that affect business growth and I chose AMBS because they had a greater emphasis on putting theory into practice with live consulting projects for both UK and international businesses than any other school I’d come across. 

What is the most interesting thing you learnt from your MBA? 

That I’m capable of so much more than I thought I was. The MBA pushes you to what you thought were your limits, only to escalate things further with each new project, and by the end, you’re prepared for volumes of work that would have otherwise seemed insurmountable.

Michael Vachon is Co-founder of Maverick Drinks and a 2012 MBA graduate of Alliance Manchester Business School

What were some of the challenges you faced when studying for an MBA?  

I was one of the very few who failed a course and had to re-sit the exams, which is hard to accept in the very competitive world of the MBA, but I was honest about it and asked for help from my fellow students, who were all too happy to lend their time to tutor me through to success.

How has the MBA made a difference to your career path and leadership journey?   

In going down the entrepreneurial career path, the MBA gives you a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of business and the confidence to overcome huge obstacles. 

In what interesting ways have you taken what you have learnt in your MBA into the organisation for which you work?  

Honestly, I think I put into practice something I took away from the MBA almost daily, often leaning in on the areas I’m unfamiliar with, because the MBA prepares you for so many different types of situations. Certainly, the negotiation tactics we learned are put to work every day.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying for an MBA?  

Every MBA programme is different. Choose one that specialises in the areas that you’re most interested in, but be open to the idea that the journey might take you places (and towards careers) you might not have considered.

What are the next steps for you on your career journey?  

After nine years of building brands with Maverick Drinks, I’m now also working with other startup brands earlier in their journeys, providing advice and mentorship as they scale and helping them avoid as many of the mistakes I’ve already made as possible!

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