Aaron Burda ‘07
A Catalyst for Global Economic Development

After growing up in Silicon Valley, Aaron Burda ’07 followed an eclectic path to UC Davis. As a church volunteer in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the mid-1990s, he counseled youths in “troubled” areas of the city while British forces and paramilitary groups battled.

The UC Davis MBA experience radically changed the course of my life. Two years ago, I never thought I’d be setting up a multimillion dollar international factory.

After a stint as an IT analyst for IBM back in San Jose, Calif., Burda earned a political science degree from UC Irvine, where he became interested in international development. His next stop: the war-ravaged Balkans.

There Burda partnered to establish the Balkan Development Fund in 2002, assisting larger international humanitarian organizations with socially beneficial projects in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Serbia.

“That piqued my interest in microfinance and generating opportunities for the region’s unemployed and under-employed,” says Burda. He realized an MBA was essential. He left Prague and came to UC Davis.

At the Graduate School of Management, Burda found an ideal setting to incubate his ideas—such as his Web design start-up, which taps talent in Central Europe. He also discovered new opportunities.

Through the School’s MBA Consulting Center, Burda teamed with three fellow students on a project for Wunder-Bar, which provides 90 percent of the world’s restaurants, bars, taverns and stadiums with food and drink dispensers.

Drawing on his business skills and international experience, Burda helped analyze four U.S. and global locations for Wunder-Bar to set up a new manufacturing facility. They compared labor markets and measured the relative costs and impacts of supply chain management, transportation, taxes and tariffs, risks and intangibles.

Won over, Wunder-Bar hired Burda as international operations director to put the plan into action. Days after graduating, Burda touched down in the new location, where he’s managing myriad details—from scouting construction sites to import-export logistics to operations and labor contracts—and reporting directly to the company’s CEO.