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Team Columbia 1: Marketing and Operating Strategy with Fargo Brewing Company

2014 Summer Tour, Columbia Team 1 Blog Comments (0)

By Atif Qadir

City: Fargo, ND

Organization: Fargo Brewing Company is a craft brewery proudly based in Fargo and distributing its over 13 varieties to customers in three states.  It is the first craft brewery in Fargo, and one of the biggest in North Dakota.

Challenge: Help Fargo Brewing grow revenue in two ways: by entering a new geographic market and by providing a new, related service.  First, we needed to help the company figure out a marketing and operational strategy to enter the Minneapolis market in 2015, including a) which distributor to choose, b) how it should advertise and to what customer and consumer segments and c) what would its on-the-ground staffing requirements be.  Second, we helped the company analyze whether opening a restaurant on site at the brewery makes sense, and if so, what its retail positioning, design strategy, and pricing should be.

Impact: We were able to deliver clear recommendations that Fargo Brewing could use to adjust its corporate strategy to drive revenue growth in each work stream, while saving enough time to try out all of the awesome beer Fargo Brewing produces!

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We had a long drive from Denver, passing through North Platte, Nebraska to visit Atif’s uncle and his family and through Sioux City, Iowa to catch up on sleep and see 22 Jump Street on its opening night.  The team arrived Sunday evening and met with Jared Hardy and Aaron Hill, two of the four owners of the brewery, over pizza and their own Fargo beers.  During the meal, we got to know the city, the entrepreneurs, their business, and, of course, their beer well.  The warm hospitality of Fargoans was something we experienced over and over again, including during dinners hosted by the founder of the Emerging Prairie, a non-profit group committed to connecting and activating the entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Dakota’s upper great plains,and by a native Dakotan working for the city government with whom we were paired by the group Dinner Ties.  We also got a chance to talk about entrepreneurship with others in the area through the Millions Cups startup pitch event, the Midnight Brunch hosted by Ecce Art Gallery, and the Fargo Fair.

At Fargo Brewing Company, we followed our tried and true method of business analysis that we had honed over the four previous weeks. On Monday, we focused on learning about the product through a brewery tour, interviews with the brewmasters, and discussions with local retailers.  On Tuesday we extended our data collection by calling distributer and wholesalers, and doing market analysis of customers at the on-site taproom as well as at local restaurants.  On Wednesday and Thursday, we focused on analyzing our data and began organizing them into recommendations around a Minneapolis Market Launch Plan and a Restaurant Financial Model.  When we had made the case for both, we turned our efforts to developing details for each that would help Jared and Aaron and their team take our recommendations and run with them when we left.

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At the end of the week, we felt strongly about Fargo Brewing Company’s ability to enter the Minneapolis market and also successfully launch a restaurant in the coming year, and pitched these findings to Jared, Aaron, and the remaining partners of the company.  Afterwards, Aaron noted,

“I kept asking myself (and them) what they really get out of a program like MBAx. Why do it, why put themselves through all of this? They aren’t required to and most of them already have enough experience for their CV’s. The answer I kept hearing was, business school teaches a lot about big business and corporations, but loses sight of small business and entrepreneurism; the types of businesses where one person or multiple people are trying to make a living doing something they are passionate about. We can only hope they learned as much from us as we from them.  Our experience with MBAx was tremendously positive and I hope it continues to find success. As one friend told me, a program like MBAx is what real education looks like. Let us know how we can help move the program forward.”

We were all moved by this heartfelt endorsement of our work at the end of an intense week of working together. We learned a ton in Fargo and were sad to have to hit the road so soon, but were excited about coming back to help the company celebrate the opening night of their restaurant in about a year’s time!

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On August 15, 2014
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