Marcel Petrutiu, a 2010 graduate of the Weinert Center, started his education in Romania. His interest in entrepreneurship was sparked at a young age seeing his parents launch a specialized distribution center shortly after the end of communist rule in the 1990s. Marcel studied business and economics as an undergrad and started working in his parents’ company after graduation. At the same time, he also worked with a boutique consulting company out of Italy that was expanding their business in Romania. Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on business travel to Romania, Marcel and a few friends opened a travel agency and leveraged his relationship with the consulting company.
Seeking adventure, Marcel and his then girlfriend, now wife, applied for Diversity Immigrant Visa so that they could come to the United States. These visas are available to citizen from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Planning to stay for six months, Marcel arrived on a frigid day in Chicago and wanted to turn around. However, they stayed and decided to embrace the outdoors traveling to Wisconsin to ski on free weekends.
After thinking about going back to school for his MBA for a few years, a New Year’s resolution prompted Marcel to study for and take the GMAT. Through his weekend trips to Wisconsin, Marcel learned of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and decided to apply for the Wisconsin School of Business MBA program. Marcel chose the Entrepreneurial Management track, partially due to his past experience and partially because of the general application of the curriculum. While Marcel dreamed of working in venture capital back in Eastern Europe, job prospects were poor due to the financial downturn in 2008. Through his internship with the Wisconsin Venture Capital Network at The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Marcel researched the creation of a Wisconsin fund of funds and how to improve entrepreneurs’ access to risk capital.
The diverse and broad exposure to people and experiences that the Weinert Centered provided while in school were the biggest takeaways according to Marcel. He remembers the board meetings, company visits, case competitions, and speakers fondly. “No matter the questions I have, I could go back to one of the people I met during my MBA,” says Marcel. Participating in events was an important way to foster connections, and Marcel served in leadership roles in student organizations throughout his MBA. He encourages current students and alumni alike to stay involved with the center, participate in events, and keep connected.
Following his MBA, Marcel took a job as a corporate development director for an animal biotech company. His role was ever evolving with the science and technology of animal cloning and embryo production and transfer services. Focusing on joint ventures, international business development, and R&D management, Marcel was able to lead expansion of the business in China and Latin America. In addition, he led the integration project when his company was acquired. Marcel has since transitioned into a corporate business development role with URUS, a new global leader dedicated to serving dairy and beef cattle producers around the globe. He is responsible for corporate social responsibility and representing the company through mergers, joint-ventures, acquisitions, divestitures, technology licensing, and research partnerships. Part of the social mission that Marcel delivers at the URUS group is to support farmers worldwide through education and financial resources. Not only is this program a way to give back, but as these farmers grow they transition to become customers as they prosper.
Challenges like public opposition continue to keep Marcel engaged in his current work. He is motivated to better understand his industry so that he can work to communicate the value. Farming is often mischaracterized for the effect on the environment and resistance to change. Marcel is working to help people understand that farmers are using technology to make more profitable and sustainable business decisions. He sees the importance in changing the conversation around agriculture and technology so that the public understand that “farmers aren’t running a business that milks cows with the help of technology but are running a technology business that happens to milk cows.”
While the venture capital pool is low in agriculture due to slim margins and low profitability, Marcel sees great opportunity as attention in shifting towards alternative food sources and production. As companies focusing on sustainable production grown, the room for entrepreneurial innovation is vast and unique. While farmers tend to be early adopters, they don’t often follow brands or trends but tend to be far more rational consumers purchasing based on necessary features to increase productivity. These market conditions make the agriculture industry an attractive place for young entrepreneurs and business school graduates.