Vana Koutsomitis ’09 appeared in BBC’s reality television show The Apprentice Wednesday. Koutsomitis, currently the CEO of financial services network The City Street and a hotel school graduate, praised her alma mater in an interview with The Sun, saying that it provided her a global perspective and valuable learning experiences.
Koutsomitis, who viewers will be able to see compete in a variety of tasks during the current season of the show, could potentially earn a business partnership with billionaire Alan Sugar if she is declared the ultimate winner.
A social media entrepreneur who currently lives in Barcelona, Spain, Koutsomitis said she aims to create connections among financial professionals. Her company, The City Street, provides a platform that standardizes the profiles of different business people. Additionally, Koutsomitis also coordinates events such as wine tastings, that allow professionals to meet each other.
“My main focus in business is connecting people,” Koutsomitis said. “In a globalized world, like the one we live in today, it’s important to connect people across borders, and to be able to make those connections in a cross cultural way.”
While Koutsomitis began her studies at Cornell in the College of Human Ecology, she transferred into the School of Hotel Administration after a semester because she said she believed the school would provide students with a practical degree. Additionally, she transferred because she said her parents were architects who had been involved in hospitality projects before.
“I had been exposed to hospitality and I really liked it,” Koutsomitis said.
During her time at Cornell, Koutsomitis discovered that she wanted to work on an international scale. As a result, Koutsomitis studied abroad in Shanghai and, after graduating from college, lived in the United Kingdom. Koutsomitis also said she comes from a multicultural family, as her father is Greek and her mother is Colombian.
“I think it’s really important to explore different cultures and learn about people from different places,” Koutsomitis said.
As a student, Koutsomitis participated in Hotel Ezra Cornell, an event where hotel students manage a weekend-long hotel conference. Koutsomitis said another influential part of her Cornell experience were her classes. Those classes included Introduction to Wines, a course that has helped her in her current pursuits that includes the development of a new wine brand from France, called Vino by Vana.
Koutsomitis said another influential Cornell class was a seminar called Quality Brewing and Fine Beer. According to Koutsomitis, Prof. Giuseppe Pezzotti, hotel administration, presented a global perspective that she appreciated.
“It was important to always look at the global and always look at the international viewpoint as opposed to just seeing the national point of view, ” Koutsomitis said. “I just thought the overall Hotelie experience was very strong, and I really enjoyed the community feel that it had.”