Connecting Business Education and the Food Business
The natural and organic foods business is the most purpose-centric industry in the world. It has long attracted mission-driven and idealistic business leaders whose passion, innovation, and dedication have begun to restore our agricultural systems, democratize healthful foods, and generate annual sales approaching $300 billion – attracting the considerable attention of investors and Big Food companies alike.
Yet this remarkable and highly appealing industry has largely remained disconnected from the world of business education. Academic institutions are only now beginning to provide instruction in relevant disciplines such as authentic leadership and sustainability. Meanwhile, natural foods companies have seldom recruited MBA students, so many of the best management practices, analytical tools, growth strategies, and latest research on organizational development are simply not present in the ranks of their leadership.
MBArk was created to bridge that gap, bringing the “hearts” of natural foods together with the “smarts” of business education.
The Core Program: Networking Help for MBAs Who Want to Save the World
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the journey of the MBA student was straightforward. You chose a b-school, did some case studies, found an internship, earned your degree, and then went on to a career in investment banking or consulting.
Today things are different. Many students are now motivated not just by money but by mission, and business school skills are increasingly being put to work for social causes. The plain old bottom line has evolved into the triple-bottom-line. There are more career choices than ever for MBAs, but the entrepreneurial, non-profit and save-the-world companies don’t usually know they need MBA students… and their salaries hardly even chip away at those massive student loans.
Today’s MBA students embark on the perilous journey from career to school and back to career, searching for fulfillment in that elusive job that generates value without sacrificing values. And MBArk is here to help.
Through various programming, we connect forward-thinking, triple-bottom-line-focused MBA students with similarly progressive companies and industries, and help them succeed in their new careers by equipping them with real-world knowledge. Our next Core Program will take place at Expo West in Anaheim, March 14-16, 2024.
MBArk2BOULDER: 3 Years of Networking in 3 1/2 Days
This magical mid-winter event returned for its 4th edition January 3-6, 2024 with an expanded focus. The MBArk2Boulder Sustainability & Food Leadership Conference is a high-energy education and networking event designed to give professionals, MBA students, and undergrads unparalleled access to cutting edge sustainable companies and top executives in a variety of industries, including food, clean energy, transportation, education, and outdoor gear. Attendees leave the conference with business cards in their pockets and follow-up appointments on their Outlook calendars. Details for 2024 can be found here. Among the speakers in 2024 were Elizabeth Horvath (North American VP of Marketing for Kerry Foods); Betsy Foster (President and Co-Founder of Love. Life!); Tom Szaky (CEO of TerraCycle and Loop); the irrepressible Stephen Ritz of Green Bronx Machine; natural foods pioneer Mark Retzloff (Horizon Organic); Sara Axelrod of Crusoe Energy; Kathleen Merrigan (former Deputy Secretary of the USDA and current Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems); and many more. M2B features great meals, fascinating field trips, and unlimited opportunities to reignite and re-inspire your work, shifting from careers that are soul-sucking to those that are carbon-sucking. Learn more.
FIELD: Executive Education for the New Generation of Food Leaders
Anyone who has worked in the natural products industry for a while knows that a lot of business growth has been the result of inspired leaders, mission-driven cultures, and lots of “gut” and “hunch” decisions. Technology, market research, accurate product and customer data, sophisticated financing instruments, robust training and benefits policies? They haven’t often been part of the mix.
MBArk’s FIELD program – Food Industry Executive Leadership Development – seeks to remedy that. It is the first executive education program developed by and for the natural products industry. It brings up-and-coming leaders in the industry together for an immersion into some traditional MBA disciplines (personal leadership development, team building and people management, business economics, 21st century marketing, negotiations, etc.) using a unique team-teaching approach that combines instruction from world-class faculty members of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business with inspiration from many of the legendary leaders of the natural products industry. It is like a compressed MBA program, natural foods boot camp and networking event rolled into one. The next FIELD program is not yet scheduled, but we are aiming for summer of 2024. Learn more.