WEEK 3: The Entrepreneurial Pulse of Fargo Lives in the Prairie Den

Open Road — Week Three
By Team SASA

This post originally appeared on the Michigan Ross website.


Our team arrived in Fargo, North Dakota, on the eve of Saturday, May 14. Our first impressions of Fargo were shared over a plate of authentic Indian food at a bustling family-owned restaurant. From that moment forward, we were continuously impressed by the warm and welcoming nature of North Dakota culture. We were invited to more meetups and meals than we could accept and felt welcomed to our new home instantly!

The Business

The third week of our MBA Open Road trip led us to Fargo to work with a nonprofit organization, Emerging Prairie (EP), which connects and celebrates the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo-Moorhead.

Fargo is a thriving city with a contagious energy you can feel after just one day in the Prairie Den, a co-working space for entrepreneurs. The Prairie Den is home to entrepreneurs carving their way in areas like graphic design, game making, and photography, just to name a few. EP has been active for several years and has both witnessed and served as a catalyst for the reawakening and revitalization of downtown Fargo, which is quickly becoming a rising star in the Midwest tech landscape.

The Challenge

Greg Tehven, co-founder of Emerging Prairie, presented us with this question on Monday: “How can we get people to want to stay in Fargo-Moorhead for one more day?”

Our team was tasked with figuring out how Emerging Prairie might design a Community Activities Office (CAO) to serve the Fargo community and retain lasting quality talent. This concept would mimic the “Campus Groups” and “Activities Office” you would find on a university campus and would be applied to the Fargo-Moorhead community. It would be a space for people from all walks of life (think artisans, foodies, writers, athletes) to convene and stay plugged into their local community, all while attracting new members.

The Approach

Our team led primary research during the week by conducting interviews and attending meetings. We interviewed both young and seasoned entrepreneurs and several working professionals to gain insights on why people chose to settle in Fargo, what has kept them here, how they connect to the community, and what they feel is missing.

We attended several community events including: a “Girl Develop It” meetup, “Co.Starters” class for budding entrepreneurs, and “1 Million Cups” (a weekly entrepreneurial show-and-tell). Each of these events embodies ways in which Fargo continues to engage and promote its personal and professional development. Our experiences and insights at each event strongly guided our final recommendations.

The Recommendations

The CAO concept serves as a resource to remove operational barriers for self-organized groups so that they can focus on their meetups in order to grow, flourish, and be sustainable.

By registering with EP and paying an annual membership fee, groups would gain visibility, reach, and access to EP resources. Inherently, the CAO would be a huge draw for corporations looking to decrease exorbitant costs in recruiting and retaining new talent, while minimizing employee turnover. We dissected the concept of the CAO and outlined it into a business canvas, detailing the operational, marketing, and financial feasibility.

Wrap-up

The Prairie Den is an eclectic mix of bright, local art and striking individuals. The vibrant colors and ideas flowing through the space fortified our energy throughout the week. We were able to deliver our final recommendations to the team and look forward to seeing the concept of the CAO come to life in the near future!


Team SASA consists of Anita Lin, Sarah Haroon, Sanmeet Jasuja, and Alexander Ho, members of the Ross MBA Class of 2017.

They just wrapped up their fourth week with Flipgrid in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Follow #RossOpenRoad to learn more.

Open Road is sponsored by the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Social Impact, and General Motors.