Alumnus Finds Success as a Businessman and a Winemaker
John Musto ’13MBA always had a head for business and grapes. He combined his love of those two things while studying for his Master of Business Administration degree in International Business at St. John’s University’s Rome, Italy, campus. Today, Mr. Musto is co-owner of Drive Wines, a boutique winery located in Sonoma County, CA, that focuses on quality, small-batch winemaking.
A native of Guilford, CT, Mr. Musto was interested in attending St. John’s since high school. “When I began my search for graduate schools in 2011, I wanted a school with a strong international M.B.A. program, and St. John’s was immediately at the top of the list.”
Mr. Musto devoted himself to full-time study, which allowed him to relocate to Italy and study at the Rome campus.
“I was impressed with the caliber of the professors throughout my entire educational experience,” Mr. Musto recalled. “So many professors went out of their way to help me academically, professionally, and personally during my studies,” he stressed.
He was greatly influenced by his time in Rome and considers it life-changing. “I learned both a new culture and a new way of life. I developed some incredible friendships, and an appreciation for the Italian lifestyle, which still influences me today. By slowing things down, appreciating small moments, and focusing on our passions, we can add more meaning to our lives and careers. That is something I try to carry with me to this day.”
Whether walking through the streets of Rome, enjoying a glass of wine in a piazza, sharing a great meal, or enjoying a late-night philosophical discussion, Mr. Musto explained that his St. John’s experience expanded his worldview.
“I am happy to report those connections live on as we all strive to maintain the balanced lifestyle we enjoyed in Rome. A small group of my classmates and I always look to help each other personally and professionally. I consider myself incredibly fortunate for the lasting connections I built at St. John’s.”
While studying in Rome, Mr. Musto completed two internships: one focused on sales and marketing for a medium-sized, international wine company. The second was a harvest internship for a small winery in Tuscany that focused on production. “These two very different real-world experiences helped me develop a well-rounded skill set and understanding of the international wine industry,” he said.
“I found my calling and developed a plan to pursue my passion, and learned that career, lifestyle, and aspirations are not mutually exclusive,” Mr. Musto added.
After completing his M.B.A., Mr. Musto relocated to California, where he accepted a position as a financial analyst at a Sonoma County winery. “I gained industry experience, professional networks, and began taking enology courses in the evenings to sharpen my skills as a winemaker,” he observed.
In 2015, Mr. Musto met Tom Young at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Wine Studies program. The two became friends and made their first bottle of zinfandel in Mr. Young’s garage. The pair launched Drive Wines in 2017, a nod to the garage where their winemaking journey began.
At Drive Wines, Mr. Musto is involved in nearly every aspect of the business: sales, marketing, logistics, management, and whatever else is needed. He also works full-time in direct-to-consumer sales, marketing, advertising, and e-commerce for a medium-sized winery in Healdsburg, CA.
Mr. Musto remains grateful for his St. John’s education. “The University develops well-educated students who are also well-rounded people. The experience and focus of a St. John’s education bolster a set of skills revolving around empathy, understanding, and everyday life, in addition to the hard academic and professional skills that set their alumni and students apart from other universities.”
He added, “My experience at St. John’s was everything that I could have asked for, and I cannot imagine it happening anywhere else. They continue to build on their core strengths. There is no better time to be a Johnny.”