News at Smith

Raise a Glass to Finding Your Passion – And Not Looking Back

Apr 07, 2021


Russ LorberRuss Lorber, MBA ’02, had always had an entrepreneurial interest, but for many years, he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

In 25 years in finance and business operations, he had traveled the world, learning business cultures, supply chains, and sometimes, visiting winemakers. In 2020, he made the leap, ending a two-decade career with W.R. Grace, and launching a startup. That’s how the Baltimore-based Wide Roots wine-importing company was born.

Wine can be overwhelming. At the start, Lorber would obsessively read every wine label, trying to understand its story.

He pulled from the lessons he learned throughout his career and as a Maryland Smith MBA, searching for warehouse space in Maryland, studying the value chain of the industry. He focused on fundamentals, such as making wine accessible and enjoyable for customers.

He tackled each challenge one by one. Importing wine requires a lot of capital, and the industry itself is highly competitive. Lorber leaned into online marketing to set Wide Roots apart and grow consumer awareness, recruiting Smith students to expand social media engagement.

A few months ago, he hired fellow Smith alum Staci Daniels ’14 as a wine consultant. She brought a love of the industry and years of experience with E&J Gallo Winery.

Together, they’re making sure Wide Roots’ product assortment is top-notch. Looking back on the journey, Lorber says he can’t imagine doing anything else.

“Don’t force it,” he says, “but once you find your passion, go for it—don’t look back.”

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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