MBArk2Boulder is the latest event offered by MBArk LLC, an organization that develops programs to connect higher education to the natural foods industry and other triple-bottom-line businesses for impact and fulfillment. MBArk2Boulder is open to current MBA and other graduate school students, undergraduates, recent graduates, and professionals.
Traditionally, we have achieved our mission in two complementary ways that are mirror images of each other:
- By providing networking help, support, and practical experience to students (primarily MBAs) 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.
Today, as the urgency of global warming grows, we are expanding our focus into other industries that are similarly sustainability-driven.
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 13 iterations of that program, MBArk grew and now serves students at more than 50 different business and graduate schools. At least a dozen natural foods companies have been started by MBArk alumni.
Beginning in 2018, MBArk expanded beyond the core program to include executive education programs, consulting engagements, food conferences, and more. It was shut down by the pandemic from March 2020 through September of 2022.
Dobrow is author of the book Natural Prophets (Rodale Books, 2014), a comprehensive history of the natural foods industry. His latest book, about a group of visionary marketing geniuses from the 19th Century, entitled Pioneers of Promotion, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2018.