Q: How the heck do you pronounce this thing?
A: “Em-BARK.” Not “EM-Bark.” Not “M-B-A Ark.”
Q: Where did the name “MBArk” come from?
A: It’s simply “embark” without the “e.” We know that MBAs are on a journey, from work to business school and back, and as you “embark” we want to help you out.
Q: Who is eligible to participate in the MBArk Core Program?
A: Anyone currently enrolled in a graduate program, with special preference given to those in MBA or joint MBA programs.
Q: What is the difference between the Core Program and the MBArk2Boulder Food Leadership Conference?
A: The Core Program takes place in conjunction with the Natural Foods Expos – trade shows that attract tens of thousands of people and thousands of companies; MBArk2Boulder is a dedicated conference and a much more intimate event. The application process for the Core Programs is competitive (see below), while MBArk2Boulder employs a simple first-come, first-served registration process. Also, the Core Programs are somewhat more focused on networking, while MBArk2Boulder has a greater emphasis on educational sessions.
Q: If I participate in the MBArk2Boulder Food Leadership Conference, does that have any bearing on my eligibility for the Core Program?
A: No. They are independent events. Registration in MBArk2Boulder does not impact your application to the Core Program.
Q: If I have already participated in the Core Program once, can I apply again?
A: Yes, but priority is given to first-timers. However, we do like to have a few alumni/ae who attended MBArk as a first-year and then came back to help out in their second year.
Q: What is the deadline to apply for Expo West?
A: Our 2023 Expo West program will take place March 9-11. The priority application deadline is January 24, 2024 at midnight PST, and the final deadline is February 7, 2024 at midnight PST.
Q: Why two deadlines? Is it really worth applying if I miss the first deadline?
A: We have had to go to two application deadlines because the academic calendars of schools are so different (and because Expo East takes place so early in the fall semester). The later deadline accommodates those schools that begin their semesters later.
It is typically a little easier to be accepted into MBArk if you apply by the first deadline: about 75% of our participants come from that group. Also, those who do not get accepted by the first deadline get added to the pool for the second deadline, so there is more competition for fewer spots. Nevertheless, we DO take people from the second applicant pool, and sometimes there are unexpected openings after someone who has been accepted decides they cannot make it. Bottom line: yes, if you missed the first deadline, definitely apply by the final deadline!
Q: How is it decided who gets into the MBArk Core Program?
A: It has become very competitive, and unfortunately only a fraction of those who apply can get in. The most important factor is the application itself – we are looking for thoughtful, passionate, honest, complete responses to the questions. Above and beyond that, we try to strike a balance to make sure that a lot of different schools are represented (not too many from any one), as well as a lot of different interests and functional expertise. There is also a balance between first years and second years, men and women, and an effort is made to keep the group culturally diverse.
Q: What is the Core Program schedule like?
A: This is typically a fairly free-flowing program that leaves you lots of time to wander the show floor, meet with companies that interest you, take advantage of educational programming, and socialize. In the past, the schedule has typically included:
DAY 1 (Thursday)
- Walk the Floor with CEOs
- dinner orientation meeting
- feature presentation
DAY 2 (Friday)
- CEO Breakfast
- informal small group meetings on the show floor with key companies
- optional immersion meetings on topics like marketing, logistics, financing, and sustainability
- end of day: recap meeting and planning session for day 2
- Networking event such as Women in Naturals or MBArk Alumni Cocktail Hour
- group dinner
DAY 3 (Saturday)
- breakfast + feature presentation or case study
- meetings with MBA alumni
- meeting with New Hope Network
- additional meetings on the show floor with key companies
- recap meeting
Here is our agenda from Expo West 2023.
Q: Should I bring my resume?
A: Yes, but keep it in your back pocket. This is a trade show, and for the most part companies are not expecting to meet with job applicants. However, we will make special arrangements with several companies.
Q: Can I really expect to find a job out of this?
A: Absolutely – several MBArk alumni have, both summer internships and full-time positions. It isn’t easy, because you are still in school and companies of this size typically don’t plan months ahead for their hiring needs. But the natural foods community is one of personal connections and networking above all else, so it is fairly common for conversations at the show to lead to bigger opportunities if you are good at follow-up and follow-through.
Q: How should I dress?
A: Business casual, with the most comfortable shoes you have – you will be doing a lot of walking.
Q: How much do the MBArk programs cost?
A: Participation for those who are accepted in the Core Programs in 2024 is once again $169, and typically includes two dinners and two breakfasts, as well as access to all of the events. The cost of the show pass (up to $1200) has been waived by New Hope, the organizers of the show. You are also responsible for transportation costs to get to and from Anaheim (Expo West). Note that in several cases, the business schools or b-school clubs have provided funding for transportation and lodging. Check with your school about the availability of such funding.
The rates for the 2024 MBArk2Boulder Sustainability & Food Leadership Conference ranges from $279 to $329 depending on when you apply. This includes most meals, access to all sessions, a free gift, and a field trip to food production and retailing facilities.
Q: What about lodging?
A: In the past, MBArk participants were responsible for booking their own hotels for the Core Programs. But rooms can be very hard to come by once you are within two months of the event. We now typically get a block of rooms reserved, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Subsidies may be available, but even if they are, participants are responsible for these charges. We recommend doubling-up with other MBArk participants in order to conserve room space and reduce the costs. The MBArk2Boulder Sustainability & Food Leadership Conference has negotiated rates at local hotels.
Q: Will I need to rent a car for the Core Programs?
A: It depends on where you fly in. For Expo West, the closest airport is Orange County/John Wayne (SNA), and there is free shuttle service available from there to the Convention Center area. If you fly into LAX or ONT, you will certainly need a car. Once you are in the area, you probably won’t need a car. Most of the hotels are within walking distance of the Anaheim Convention Center, as are plenty of restaurants and attractions (like Disneyland). At MBArk2Boulder, there are buses to get from Denver International Airport to Boulder, and we will also coordinate carpooling and volunteer drivers to go to/from the airport; but a car rental is not a bad idea.