A Journey to the North of Normal
Open Road — Week Two by Team OKRA
I grew up thinking that small-business ownership was an individual journey, and self-reliance was crucial. Success was shouted from the rooftops; failures were dirty little secrets. This impression was turned upside down when Team OKRA traveled to Fargo, North Dakota for their second week on the open road.
The week began unexpectedly, when we learned our entrepreneurs, Katie and Matt Chaussee, the founders of Be More Colorful (BMC), virtual reality content agency specializing in 360° virtual tours, had a family emergency. Matt’s mother unexpectedly passed away the night before our arrival and they would not be available for the bulk of our visit, which left us questioning how we would proceed. We had planned to spend all-day with Matt and Katie, meet a few key stakeholders and capture a glimpse of Fargo’s entrepreneur ecosystem.
In less than 24 hours those ‘few key stakeholders’ became our primary surrogates for Matt and Katie. Additionally, we set out to gather knowledge about BMC’s entire business so we could provide meaningful, actionable feedback on their business plan, with minimal interaction with the owners of said business.
Be More Colorful thrives within an ecosystem of entrepreneurs who share a working space, Prairie Den, in the heart of downtown Fargo. Prairie Den is run by a non-profit, Emerging Prairie, which connects and celebrates the vibrant startup community in Fargo-Moorhead. This group of people not only welcomed us, but became our mentors for the week. Conversations with them shaped our understanding of how BMC fits into the Fargo-Moorhead startup landscape.
Business Operations: Anthony Molzahn — co-founder of the Phoenix Project, and a resident of Prairie Den — helped OKRA document the business process of BMC’s operations.
Customer Survey: Two of BMC’s pro-bono clients, Matt Eidem from Hjemkomst Center, and Nicole Holden from Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Bureau spoke with us after hours, regarding their experience working with Matt and Katie
Staffing Partnerships: James Whirlwind Soldier and Margie Gray (above) from Mind Shift, an organization that recruits and trains highly skilled and motivated people on the autism spectrum, explained how the two organizations could effectively partner for success
Fargo-Moorhead Startup Community: Greg Tehven, co-founder of Emerging Prairie introduced Team OKRA at 1 Million Cups, Fargo, automatically opening doors for us to meet entrepreneurs working in AgTech, DroneTech, FinTech and several other industries.
Finally, Team OKRA would not have been successful, if it had not been for two individuals, who took several hours out of their busy schedules to guide us throughout the week: BMC’s Sales and Marketing consultant, Jake Hancock (a huge U of M fan) and the Director of North Dakota’s Small Business Center for Fargo, Paul Smith, stepped up immediately to fill the void left by Matt and Katie’s sudden unavailability. Jake met us daily to share his knowledge of BMC’s sales strategy, answer questions, and provide us with feedback. Paul not only educated us about Fargo-Moorhead’s small-business landscape, but he also brainstormed ideas with us for BMC’s business plan.
“Our time in Fargo-Moorhead demonstrated that just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to grow a business”
Our week concluded with a final presentation to Jake and Paul summarizing our findings from the Business Plan, providing them additional market research and a promise to follow-up with Katie and Matt. Our time in Fargo-Moorhead demonstrated that just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to grow a business; entrepreneurship should never be a solo journey. We also discovered that the community of Fargo-Moorhead embodies similar leadership principles of Ross School of Business and that is why we felt so connected in such a brief time.