Winery internship gives student a spirited summer

A summer internship at the local Vines & Rushes Winery is allowing Ripon College student Kamelle Van Der Leest ’15 to see firsthand how a young, small business operates. Van Der Leest is majoring in business management and sports management, with a minor in socially responsible leadership. Her internship was made by the Career Ready Internship Initiative grant program developed by Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. She says she is grateful for this learning opportunity.

At the winery, she helps the owners throughout the process of wine-making. This includes the bottling process, as every step from bottling to capsuling, corking and labeling is done in-house. In the tasting room, she helps serve wine to customers.

Additionally, Van Der Leest helps maintain the four acres of vines, which are located on the Prellwitz farm.

Ryan Prellwitz and his wife, Megan, are the owners of Vines & Rushes Winery, which has been in operation for two years. He also serves as president of the Wisconsin Grape Growers Association.

Van Der Leest appreciates the family’s attitude and feels at home at the business, despite the heavy workload. “This family works day in and day out,” she says. “Business runs in the family, and this family is happy to welcome anyone in their doors and will treat every single person like one of their own.”

Prellwitz sees internships as a “two-way street. There is work that needs to be done, but Kamelle’s work also stems from her interests,” he says. “So we can cater to these individual needs and what needs to be worked on. I ask, ‘Why not work in that area?’”

Van Der Leest has developed skills in communication with customers, Prellwitz says. “This is a learned skillset, and Kamelle will be finishing the summer with that knowledge gained from balancing business and communication, especially in the tasting room. It’s hard work.”

As a small business, Prellwitz is willing to get his hands dirty — literally and figuratively. “As a small business, I still have to mop the floors,” says Prellwitz. Hence, Van Der Leest’s exposure to small business has been truly immersive.

One of Van Der Leest’s long-term professional goals is to work for a small business. “Working here is the epitome of what a small business is really like,” she says. “This is real-world experience at its best.”

Prellwitz adds, “Every time we bring a new employee, the person sees things with a different, fresh set of eyes; as a small business, we might make changes based off of those perceptions.”

Internships are important for students to connect to life and work outside of the collegiate setting, Prellwitz says. “You may be self-involved at college, but that time will eventually come to an end, and an internship can expose students to something different. Any time you gain a different perspective, you’re better off as a person and professional.”

Kaylie Longley ’15
St. Francis, Wisconsin

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