MBArk on a Journey

The natural products industry — once just a hippie offshoot of Big Food — has grown into a $300 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.



Every March, industry leaders gather for Natural Products Expo West, the massive trade show produced by New Hope Network.  Expo West  attracts up to 3,500 exhibiting companies and 80,000 attendees.

The MBArk program gives a select group of MBA students from around the country the opportunity to attend Expo; 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 non-traditional 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 American (Kogod), Arizona State (W.P. Carey), Babson (Olin), Berkeley (Haas), Boston University (Questrom), Carnegie-Mellon (Tepper), Chicago (Booth), Clark (GSM), Colorado (Leeds), Colorado State (GSSE), Columbia (GSB), Cornell (Johnson), Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), Emory (Goizueta), Florida (Hough), Georgetown (McDonough), Harvard (HBS), Indiana (Kelley), Johns Hopkins (Carey), Michigan (Ross/Erb Institute), Minnesota (Carlson), Missouri-Kansas City (Bloch), MIT (Sloan), NYU (Stern), North Carolina State (Jenkins), Northwestern (Kellogg), NYU (Stern), Oregon (Lundquist), Penn (Wharton), Penn State (Smeal), Pittsburgh (Katz), Presidio, South Florida-St. Petersburg, Stanford (GSM), Texas (McCombs), Texas A&M (Mays), UC Davis (GSM), UC Irvine (Merage), UCLA (Anderson), USC (Marshall), Vanderbilt (Owen), Virginia (Darden), Washington (Foster), Wisconsin and Yale (SOM), among others, have taken part.  They have found jobs working with companies as diverse as Annie’s, Dr. Bronner’s, Good Tastes, General Mills, OCHO, Revolution Foods, Danone/WhiteWave 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
Sarah Bird (Dartmouth Tuck alum), former interim CEO of Quinn Snacks and former CEO of Bhakti Chai
Jennifer Berliner (Yale SOM alum), Head of Sales and Marketing for Patagonia Provisions
Tatiana Birgisson, Founder and former CEO of MATI Energy
Linda Boardman, CEO of Bragg and former President of Branch Brook Holdings (Julie’s Organic Ice Cream)
Sarah Cline (Yale SOM alum), CCO at Encore Marketing, former VP of Sales at PlantPlus Foods and Nature’s Path Organic
Carol Cone, CEO of Carol Cone On Purpose
John Foraker (Berkeley Haas alum), CEO of Once Upon a Farm and former CEO and President of Annie’s
Betsy Foster, President of Love Life! and former Global VP of Whole Foods Market
Tyler Gage, President and CFO of Flying Embers and founder and former CEO of Runa
Natalie Gershon, former VP Marketing of Zevia
Seth Goldman (Yale SOM alum), Tea-EO Emeritus of Honest Tea and founder/CEO of Eat the Change
John Haugen (UCLA Anderson alum), Founder and GM of SEMCAP and former GM of General Mills’ 301 Emerging Brand Elevator
Gary Hirshberg, Co-Founder and Chief Organic Optimist of Stonyfield Farm
Heather Howitt, President of Thaiwala and Founder of Oregon Chai and Meriwether Group
David Ingalls, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Zing Bars
Trish Karter (Yale SOM alum), CEO in Residence at Katahdin Group and Founder of Dancing Deer Bakery
Blair Kellison, former CEO of Traditional Medicinals
Molly Keveney, VP of Consumer Engagement of Champion Petfoods and former VP of Corporate Communications and Digital at Clif Bar
Hillary Lewis (Virginia Darden alum), Founder and former CEO of Lumi Juice
Lucas Mann and Gareth Asten, Partners of Acre Venture Partners
Jane Miller (SMU Cox alum), CEO of Rudi’s and former CEO of Lily’s
Guy Ozery, President of Ozery Bakery
Russell Parker, President of Edward & Sons and former SVP of KeHE/Nature’s Best
Sheryl O’Loughlin, former CEO of REBBL
Ricardo Peridgao, COO/CFO of Sambazon
Kirsten Quigley, Founder and CEO of LunchSkins
Doug Radi (Wake Forest MBA alum), President of Sweet Loren’s and former CEO of Good Karma and Rudi’s
Mark Retzloff, Founder and Former CEO of Horizon Organic and Alfalfa’s
Denis Ring (Yale SOM alum), 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, Operations Partner at Astanor Ventures and former CEO of Kite Hill
Miyoko Schinner, Founder and former CEO of Miyoko’s
Rory Schmick, former Sustainability Director of Pacific Foods
Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis, Co-Founders of Magic Spoon and Exo Protein
Megan Shea, Co-Founder of The Soulfull Project
Jordan Silbert (Yale SOM alum), CEO of Q Drinks
Jared Simon (Harvard Business School alum), President of Manitoba Harvest and former VP of Marketing at Hain Celestial
Paddy Spence (Harvard Business School alum), former CEO of SPINS and Zevia
Greg Steltenpohl, late Founder and former CEO of Odwalla, Founder and CEO of Califia Farms
Terry Tierney, former CEO of Daiya Foods
Kevin Tisdale, VP of Marketing at Pacific Foods
Kirsten Saenz Tobey (Berkeley Haas alum), Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer of Revolution Foods
Luke Vernon (CU Boulder Leeds alum), Managing Partner of Ridgeline Ventures
Danielle Vogel, Founder of Glen’s Garden Market
Naomi Whittel, former CEO of TwinLab

The next event is the MBArk core program at Expo West in Anaheim, March 14-16, 2024. The final application deadline was on February 7, 2024.

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 $1300+ for each guest, is waived entirely.