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MBAs Across America help local brewery with business strategy

From left, Guillaume Cazalaa, Elizabeth Pfeiffer, Atif Qadir and Jasmine Ainetchian work in a back office of Fargo Brewing Co. The Columbia Business School students have spent a week working with the local brewery and presented their recommendations for marketing strategies. This is their fifth of six stops. Sherri Richards / The Forum

FARGO – Four Columbia Business School students worked on laptops in the back office of Fargo Brewing Co., doing market research and developing a marketing plan.

They were in Fargo Monday through Friday, when they made their final presentation to Fargo Brewing Co. owners about how the local craft brewery could bring its product into the Minneapolis market, as well as considerations for possibly opening a restaurant on site.

It was their fifth week on the road, driving Chevy Volts and sleeping at Holiday Inns across the country, helping entrepreneurs take the next critical step for their business.

Jasmine Ainetchian, Guillaume Cazalaa, Elizabeth Pfeiffer and Atif Qadir are part of MBAs Across America, a national program that aims to get MBAs away from the coasts and into small businesses.

This summer, eight teams of four MBAs each are working with 48 entrepreneurs in 26 cities.

The Columbia Business School team so far has traveled to New Orleans, Rogers, Ark., Corvallis, N.M., and Denver. Their final week takes them to Detroit.

Pfeiffer lived in Minot, N.D., for three years, and was eager to work with a North Dakota business.

She said they help the business owners shape their ideas, using their knowledge and expertise as MBAs.

Jared Hardy, a partner in Fargo Brewing Co., said the experience provided them with an outsider’s perspective to their business and goals.

“They’re asking the questions to make us think bigger of what we’re trying to do,” Hardy said.

The team developed a strategy for Fargo Brewing Co. to enter the Twin Cities market in the near future.

“How do you do that on a budget that’s challenging and a market that’s competitive, some say saturated?” Hardy said.

They also explored options for the brewery opening a restaurant, something Hardy said is only a possibility at this point.

Hardy also sees the benefits for the MBA students, as they’re able to practice their consulting skills in an environment much different than corporate America.

It was also an opportunity for Fargo to share its story with a wider network, he said.

Another team, out of Babson College, will also be working in Fargo with Emerging Prairie, a digital media company that promotes local entrepreneurship.

Sherri Richards

Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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