Prospect Magazine: Alumni Stories

I'm Still Using What I Learned

Lori Manly-Hart ’03, MBA ’05
Demand Planning Manager, Watlow Richmond

In 1994, I moved my three children from Florida to the family farm in Wisconsin where I grew up. At the time I had been a single mom for quite a while. When my kids talked about what they missed about Florida, it was not our pool or the ocean. It was the black beans. At that time you could not buy black beans in Wisconsin.

So I decided to grow black beans on our farm. People said they wouldn’t grow in Wisconsin, but I won a state grant for $10,000 and was successful.

I formed a company and started packaging the beans to sell to stores. I won the Chicago Fancy Food Competition, and I was the first person to put Louisiana Dirty Rice into a bag. In a few years the product went national, selling at places like Neiman Marcus. I also wrote a cookbook and continued to win food awards.

My company got pretty big, and other companies started copying my recipes. I didn’t have a business background or education, so I sold the company and started looking for a job.

With all my experience, I thought it would be easy to get a job, but it wasn’t. I had two associate’s degrees, but I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. My experience did not match my education, so I decided to go back to college. Elmhurst College awarded me credit for life experience, so I finished my bachelor’s in three years and returned the next fall to enter the MBA program.

I graduated on a Saturday. Two days later I started working for Miller Brewing Company, helping to implement enterprise software and advanced manufacturing processes. Once the project was completed, I moved  to Case New Holland, a large-equipment manufacturer owned by Fiat, where I worked in the construction equipment division, managing orders into five plants, and overseeing forecasting and production requirements.

Today I work for Watlow Richmond, a manufacturer of heaters and controllers. I oversee planning and purchasing for 18 production lines. For my MBA, I focused on supply chain management. I’m still using what I learned.

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