MBArk is an organization that develops programs to promote and accelerate synergy between the new generation of progressive MBA students and business schools, and triple-bottom-line businesses within the natural foods industry.
We achieve our mission in two complementary ways that are mirror images of each other:
- By providing networking help, support, and practical experience to MBA students who are seeking careers in natural foods or are starting their own natural foods companies. They recognize that food is a cornerstone of global sustainability, a beacon for entrepreneurship, and an industry that is ripe for disruption – but they usually lack access to natural foods companies and leaders, who typically do not recruit on campuses.
- By providing MBA-level skills training to current food industry employees, as well as MBA-driven consulting help to their companies.
MBArk began in 2011 as the logical compilation of several initiatives by marketing executive and MBA instructor Joe Dobrow, and was formalized and branded in 2015.
A 1992 graduate of the Yale School of Management, Dobrow always felt there was not enough “real-world” knowledge conveyed in business school classes, and set out to do something about it. “Most MBAs can run an R-squared analysis, but can’t write their way out of a brown paper bag,” he said. So he created a module to teach presentation skills and business writing.
Later, after going through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and managing the inevitable layoffs associated with them, he developed a simulation exercise called The Layoff Game to help teach MBA students how to handle these situations.
Later still, after a long career in the natural foods industry, including stints as the head of marketing for both Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market, he began to host MBA students at the industry’s big trade show, Natural Products Expo West, in an effort to usher them into an industry that is perhaps better suited than any other to supply their needs for mission-driven entrepreneurial and management jobs. Through nine iterations of that program, MBArk has grown and now serves students at 35 different business schools. Eight natural foods companies have been started by MBArk alumni.
Today, MBArk is expanding beyond the core program to include the Natural Talent Career Fair, executive education programs, consulting engagements, MBA food conferences, fundraising support for early stage companies, and more.
Dobrow is author of the book Natural Prophets (Rodale Books, 2014), a comprehensive history of the natural foods industry. His new book, about a group of visionary marketing geniuses from the 19th Century entitled Pioneers of Promotion, will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press in Spring, 2018.