Jacksonville University senior Bailey Walker is a marketing major in the Davis College of Business & Technology. She lives on a working farm and vineyard—Tuscan Rose Vineyards—in Callahan, Fla., which sits on a 60-acre, nature-inspired estate. The vineyard boasts an assortment of muscadine grapes—at least nine varieties—with new ones being added each season. It’s also a destination wedding venue, attracting brides from all over the world.
Bailey doesn’t start her day like the typical JU student. She helps deliver and feed cows, drives 45-minutes one way to her classes each day, runs the successful wedding venue of her family’s estate, which features rich rolling pastures and 100-year-old oak trees. She then drives back home and is helping run the family business as its operations supervisor.
“I go to school full time at JU, and, in between classes, I take phone calls with vendors and brides and their parents,” she explained. “I come back to the vineyard around 4 p.m. and meet my bridal clients in the evening. By the time I do that, it’s time to eat dinner, study and do it all over again.”
Bailey does find time for some important “me” time. She loves working on floral arrangements for weddings. It’s something she loves but “it’s also work.” She says weekends are really special because it’s the bride’s big wedding day. “It’s the best part, making the girls’ dreams come true.”
The nearly 21-year-old will be taking over the family vineyard, which has been going strong for five years, when she graduates this spring. Her big sister, Brandi Leigh Walker Andrews is a 2016 JU Davis College alumna. She obtained her dual degree in accounting and finance, and says her degrees have helped “significantly impact” her ability to help the family business.
While a student at JU, she was involved in the university’s Honors Program. “Being a part of a large organization that was dedicated to community service, and later serving as president, has allowed me to continue that community service through our family farm by dedicating resources to local Future Farmer’s of America as well as providing agricultural education and guidance to local [Nassau County] schools and businesses.”
Bailey’s family estate consists of several generations of hardworking farmers. Her mother, Bobbie Walker, recalls “eating the Muscadine grapes off our grandparents’ vines.” She stated that everything they do at the vineyard is based on feeling and how they care for people.
“The vineyard was created because of my grandparents. When I was either 3 or 4 years old, I remember going to the vineyard my grandpa had and tasting the muscadine grape. It’s just a special flavor, kind of like that special recipe your grandma made and takes you back for that split second when you were younger.”
Added to the already successful bridal venue, Bailey’s family is opening a winery at the end of this year. Bobbie shares she has had no doubts about her youngest daughter taking the helm in April, once she walks across the stage with JU diploma in hand.
“There’s a lot of risk in growing a business in the world today. I have watched Bailey grow and struggle through hard classes, while managing events at the same time. It takes a dedicated person to do that,” she said.
Bobbie notes that Bailey has always wanted to run the farm and vineyard for future generations. “It’s more than a job to her. It’s her life and the wonderful life she wants to create for the rest of the family,” she said. “She’ll continue to build our family legacy, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
As they say, it truly takes a village, and Bailey acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is today without her professors and mentors in the Davis College. She’s learned her business marketing acumen from Dr. Irina Toteva, assistant professor of marketing in the Davis College.
“Her classes have really helped me from a marketing perspective by taking sales courses. “Everything has to do with selling, having people come to the venue and having them make a big investment in a special day in their life,” Bailey said. In her classes, we come up with marketing plans for other businesses around Jacksonville, so being able to take that knowledge, to learn from that and create my own marketing plan for the future is priceless.”
“Bailey is in a unique position to learn in class, apply the new concepts and strategies at her work, and see immediate results of her hard work and dedication,” explained Toteva. “For other students who aren’t able to immediately apply the concepts learned in college, it may be difficult to see the tangible impact of their growing knowledge.”
Bailey, who is also in the middle of planning her own wedding, is a prestigious Zimmerman Scholar and has worked closely with Zimmerman Scholar Program Director Jennifer Reid, also a business instructor in the Davis College.
“Being a Zimmerman Scholar has afforded me the opportunity to make great business connections and meet new people. Having those connections and branching out has really been a blessing in disguise for me at JU,” noted Bailey.
Reid has coached Bailey, helping her balance being a businesswoman and a student, with the ability to graduate in just three years. “Without her help and guidance, I honestly wouldn’t have been graduating this spring. She helps guide me in the best way possible, what classes to take, who to meet and how to make my connections.”
"Bailey has been a pleasure to know and to teach,” stated Reid. “She knows how to deal with people, and she knows how to run a business. I see nothing but success in her future."
See more about Bailey and Tuscan Rose Vineyards on First Coast News.