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Meet 2022 Forward Award Recipient Katie Lorenz ’12

Lorenz started her fair-trade apparel company, Campo Alpaca, following a 2017 visit to Cusco, Peru. The company’s cardinal-and-white apparel is just one of the many ways Lorenz shows her deep Badger pride.

August 02, 2022
Forward Award
Katie Lorenz ’12

Photo by Myles Storey

Chicago, Illinois
Founder,
Campo Alpaca
UW Majors:
Marketing; Management and Human Resources

Wearing her heart and Badger pride on her sustainable sleeves, Katie Lorenz ’12 has found startup success.

Lorenz started her fair-trade apparel company, Campo Alpaca, following a 2017 visit to Cusco, Peru, where she was inspired by the kindness of people and their alpaca-fiber craftsmanship.

“I learned that they earned so little from creating beautiful pieces of work and selling it to tourists,” she says. “To me, this was heartbreaking.”

Campo’s name comes from cambio positivo — Spanish for “positive change” — and Lorenz says the company is her personal version of the Wisconsin Idea. Using her expertise in retailing and marketing, she designed the business as a social-impact venture, ensuring artisans receive fair wages and good working conditions.

Campo sources high-quality alpaca goods from six different women-run and family-operated artisan collectives in Peru. As the knitters and weavers create the company’s classic-design sweaters, blankets, cold-weather accessories, and fluffy toys, most of these vendors are also able to work from home and care for their families.

The company’s top sellers are warm, cozy garments — many in red-and-white and green-and-gold — so naturally, Lorenz says, most sales have been seasonal.      

“The artisans just keep asking for more orders,” she says. “As you get into the hotter months, sales obviously simmer down. It’s an exercise in keeping motivation and energy and work going through that point.”

Poverty is pervasive throughout these Peruvian communities, Lorenz says, and she’s struck by how opportunities for women and girls are particularly limited.

That’s why she’s active with Chaska, a local scholarship and after-school program that seeks to lift the lives of girls by providing support for education, finances, mental health, and wellness. As treasurer for Chaska’s U.S.–based board, Lorenz has helped raise more than $50,000 for Chaska, including select proceeds from Campo sales.

The company’s cardinal-and-white apparel is just one of the many ways Lorenz shows her deep Badger pride. Since 2018, she’s hired more than 30 UW students as interns, and so far, UW–Madison has earned nearly $12,000 in royalties from licensed Campo products.

Back home in Chicago, Lorenz is also a consultant for Accenture, where she uses her retail and marketing expertise to support small- and medium-sized businesses. She’s beginning her service as president of the WAA: Chicago Chapter, and she’s active in Accenture’s efforts to recruit talented Wisconsin graduates.

Lorenz is a guest teacher for courses and symposiums in leadership, entrepreneurship, and management for the School of Human Ecology and the Wisconsin School of Business, where she’s not just on the alumni board — she’s also a client.

This past spring, UW students in a marketing course took on Campo’s account, gaining real-world experience as they provided the business with insights from focus groups, surveys, and data analysis.

“It’s helpful work for us, and we try to make it as realistic as possible,” Lorenz says. “I had such a great experience at the School of Business. It’s an easy way to stay connected and know where there are opportunities to get involved and give back.”

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