The natural products industry — once just a hippie offshoot of Big Food — has grown into a $150 billion colossus, and one of the bellwethers of the recent shift toward more enlightened business attitudes. It is today a bubbling cauldron of entrepreneurship, sustainability, and triple-bottom-line orientation.
Twice each year, industry leaders gather for trade shows run by New Hope Natural Media: Natural Products Expo West (each March in Anaheim) and Natural Products Expo East (each September in Baltimore). At the most recent Expo West, in March 2017, there were more than 3,100 exhibiting companies and 80,000 attendees.
The MBArk program gives a select group of MBA students from around the country the opportunity to attend these trade shows for free (courtesy of New Hope Network, the show organizers); to meet with CEOs, industry leaders, and MBA alumni already blazing trails in the industry; and to network with dozens of the top natural foods companies in an effort to explore prospective career opportunities. It is a truly unique opportunity for MBA students seeking summer internships or permanent positions to delve inside one of the fastest growing, most successful and most progressive industries on the planet — all during one weekend, and under one roof.
In recent years, MBA students from Arizona State (W.P. Carey), Babson (Olin), Berkeley (Haas), Chicago (Booth), Clark (GSM), Colorado (Leeds), Colorado State (GSSE), Cornell (Johnson), Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), Florida (Hough), Georgetown (McDonough), Harvard (HBS), Johns Hopkins (Carey), Michigan (Ross/Erb Institute), Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), MIT (Sloan), North Carolina State (Jenkins), Northwestern (Kellogg), Penn (Wharton), Presidio, South Florida-St. Petersburg, Stanford (GSM), Texas (McCombs), UC Davis (GSM), UC Irvine (Merage), USC (Marshall), Washington (Foster), and Yale (SOM) have taken part. They have found jobs working with companies as diverse as Annie’s, Dr. Bronner’s, Good Tastes, General Mills, Revolution Foods, White Wave and Zevia; several have launched their own natural products companies.
Among the CEOs and industry leaders who have met with MBArk participants are:
Nikhil Arora and Alejo Velez Ramirez, Co-Founders of Back To The Roots
Tatiana Birgisson, Founder and CEO of MATI Energy
Linda Boardman, President of Branch Brook Holdings (Julie’s Organic Ice Cream, etc.)
Sarah Cline, AVP of Sales of Nature’s Path Organic
Carol Cone, CEO of Carol Cone On Purpose
John Foraker, President of Annies
Betsy Foster, Global VP, Growth & Business Development of Whole Foods Market
Tyler Gage, CEO of Runa
Natalie Gershon, former VP Marketing of Zevia
Seth Goldman, Tea-EO of Honest Tea
John Haugen, General Manager of General Mills’ 301 Emerging Brand Elevator
Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder and Chairman of Stonyfield Farm
Heather Howitt, Founder of Oregon Chai and Meriwether Group
David Ingalls, CEO of Zing Bars
Trish Karter, Founder of Dancing Deer Bakery
Blair Kellison, CEO of Traditional Medicinals
Molly Keveney, VP of Corporate Communications at WhiteWave
Hillary Lewis, Founder and CEO of Lumi Juice
Lucas Mann and Gareth Asten, Partners of Acre Venture Partners
Guy Ozery, President of Ozery Bakery
Russell Parker, former SVP of KeHe/Nature’s Best
Kirsten Quigley, Founder and CEO of LunchSkins
Doug Radi, CEO of Good Karma
Mark Retzloff, Founder and Former CEO of Horizon Organic and Alfalfa’s
Denis Ring, CEO of BODE International and OCHO Candy
Walter Robb, former Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market
Peter Roy, former President of Whole Foods Market
Matthew Sade, former CEO of Kite Hill
Rory Schmick and Kevin Tisdale, former Sustainability Director and VP Marketing of Pacific Foods
Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis, Co-Founders of Exo Protein
Megan Shea, Co-Founder of The Soulfull Project
Jordan Silbert, CEO of Q Drinks
Jared Simon, VP of Marketing at Hain Celestial
Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia
Greg Steltenpohl, Founder and Former CEO of Odwalla, Founder and CEO of Califia Farms
Terry Tierney, CEO of Daiya Foods
Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer of Revolution Foods
Naomi Whittel, CEO of TwinLab
NOTE: Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from the shows, and all meals and incidental costs. Discounted reserved lodging may be available through the program. Admission to Expo, normally $995 for each guest, is waived entirely.
Applications for the 2017 MBArk program at Expo East will be accepted through September 1, 2017, but the earlier you apply, the better your chances of getting in.