Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Pairing the Adult Learner and Boutique Wineries

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Pairing the Adult Learner and Boutique Wineries

Article excerpt


This study explored connections between adult learners and their experiences in the context of small boutique wineries operating in the start-up phase of the organizational life cycle. The research objective was to gain insight regarding the pairing of adult learners with the entering of a specialty industry. Fourteen individuals from four wineries were interviewed in the workplace. Six themes emerged from the adult learning in the specific context the boutique wine industry: (1) Developing an Entrepreneurial Sense, (2) Relationships, (3) Challenges, (4) Learning, (5) Joy or Enjoyment, and (6) Reflection.


Entrepreneurial owners and managers enter a market often with little, if any, appropriate education or practical experience. They are looking to grasp a unique opportunity but are frequently caught unprepared for realities of meeting challenges facing small businesses. This study explored connections experienced by owners and managers of small, local boutique wineries operating in the start-up phase of the organizational life cycle. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into the pairing of adult learners with the entering of the boutique wine industry. Small business and entrepreneurial contexts provide a unique lens for exploring adult learning. Wineries in the study were operating in a young, emerging industry in a geographic region. This study offers insights into how adults' learning can be easily paired with entrepreneurship.

Acknowledged as one of the fastest growing segments of the economy in the United States, small businesses have become particularly appealing to individuals who have become displaced or unemployed during an economic downturn (Lans, Biemans, Verstegen, & Mulder, 2008). Small businesses are recognized as "engines of economic development" (p. 598) because of their rising influence in the world today. A changing economy and appeal of the wine industry has led individuals to open small boutique-style wineries.

During early years of small business formation, also known as a start-up phase, operations can be intense and difficult (Greiner, 1998). Even during ideal times with appropriate resources over half of new organizations fail within four years (Kaplan & Warren, 2007; Scarborough, Wilson, & Zimmerer, 2009). Small business environments have emerged as a critical context where individuals are drawn to an opportunity to experience adult learning. Boutique wineries offered as a ripe context for an in-depth view of learning in a specific context.

This phenomenological, qualitative study explored learning experiences of adults who represented the owners and managers of several small, local winery businesses. While extensive literature is available about adult learning, descriptive research about personal learning experiences of entrepreneurial individuals in a small business context is lacking (Choy, 2009; Cope, 2005). Exploring adult learners in an environment they constructed and give meaning to contribute to the andragogical literature by providing modem day examples to theories of learning in adulthood. Researchers have advocated for more study in a wider variety of contexts to develop a deeper understanding of the role environment plays in learning (Casey, 2005; Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005; Phelps, Adams, & Bessant, 2007). Discussion has also surfaced among scholars about developing greater insights into practical applications addressing needs of specific industries (Beverland & Lockshin, 2001; Masurel & van Montfort, 2006). Further exploration of these relationships in small business contexts can provide insights into identifying factors, which create an atmosphere where individuals are given more opportunities to leam and therefore positively impact performance of a business.

Related Adult Learning Literature

The field of adult learning or andragogy represents a "set of core adult learning principles that apply to all adult learning situations" (Knowles et al, 2005, p. …

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