Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An MBA Without Borders
Lorenz Wild, MBA ’05
Operations Manager,Oliberté

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Lorenz Wild

Lorenz Wild, MBA ’05, brings a
wealth of international
experience to his newest
position as operations manager
in Ethiopia for urban footwear
company Oliberté.

When Lorenz Wild entered the Eller MBA program in 2003, he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with his career. Wild credits Brent Chrite, who was then in his first year as director of MBA programs, with starting him down his current path.

“He brought in programs to connect students with economic development activities in underdeveloped nations,” explains Wild. “I was lucky, because between my first and second years of the program, two other students and I did an internship with Biocentinela Aquaorganics, an organic shrimp company in Ecuador. It opened my eyes to new opportunities and inspired me to gain more experience in the field.”

The building blocks for his international career were already in place: Wild moved to the U.S. from Austria at the age of eleven and now speaks English, German, and Spanish, as well as some bits of French, Russian, and Amharic. “I like traveling, learning about new cultures, meeting and helping people, and learning languages, but until the MBA program, I did not know how I could combine these things in my career,” he says.

After graduation, Wild joined the MBA Enterprise Corps and spent a year working in Kyrgyzstan as a consultant. He returned to The University of Arizona as a Ph.D. student in marketing, but found it wasn’t for him. He helped a friend start a company in Phoenix, but soon found his way back into international development.

“I went to work for Chemonics International, an USAID contractor in Washington, D.C.,” he says. At Chemonics, he tackled a trade and investment reform project in Azerbaijan and a judicial reform project in Kazakhstan. Then he joined MBAs Without Borders and traveled to Colombia to work for a non-governmental agency, Fundacion Futbol con Corazon. It was there that he met Tal Dehtiar, founder of Oliberté, a for-profit urban footwear company which produces its shoes in Ethiopia with Africa-sourced leather and rubber. Wild says, “although international aid can be helpful, in many instances it is actually counterproductive. We have to be much more critical about the actual benefits of aid, and increase other activities such as social entrepreneurship and social responsibility.” 

Oliberte screenshot

Oliberté’s logo and website header display why the company matters — from footwear that is the first to be made from natural rubber in Liberia, to supporting local training and communiites in every country where the company works.

“Oliberté follows this idea,” he says. “Being a small, socially conscious company, it’s just Tal and the designer, who are based in Canada, plus a part-time manager and me here in Ethiopia.”

Wild’s role is in operations management. The company is a start-up, so some of his initial projects included a comprehensive analysis of industry players, selection of tanneries, sample development, and interaction with the Ministry of Trade.

Conducting business in Ethiopia presents other challenges, as well. “Currently Ethiopia is experiences a shortage of electricity, resulting in electricity only every other day,” he explains. “Factories either have to run expensive generators or work every second day.” Wild says that the government is focused on production for export and that companies must formally request exceptions to the electricity policy.

“Oliberté is a for-profit company, but we care about the people who make our shoes and the environment,” says Wild. “When people think of Ethiopia, and Africa in general, they think of food and water shortages, as that is what is mostly portrayed by the media reaching the U.S., but there is so much more to Africa than those things.”

His time with Oliberté marks the first time Wild has worked in Africa. “I am very lucky – I can do what I want to do because I’ve never been one to focus on getting a high salary,” he says. “That gives me a lot of freedom and choice. If you do what you like to do, the money will come. I believe that if you put your energy into the things you love, positive results will emerge seemingly by themselves.”

Learn more about the Full-Time, Online, Evening, and Executive Eller MBA programs.