In the years that followed their graduation from the Carlson School, alums Miguel Danielson and Greg Tehven were grooming careers in big cities – Danielson in Boston, Tehven in Minneapolis. But after connecting at a conference in 2011, the Fargo natives formed a partnership and returned home with a plan to elevate the entrepreneurial community in their beloved hometown. And if the initial success of their recent efforts is any indication, Fargo is well on its way to achieving the national acclaim it deserves.
As the fourth fastest-growing metro area and second best small place for business and careers in the United States, Fargo has enjoyed an influx of creative talent in recent years. To propel this growth, Danielson and Tehven helped to found Emerging Prairie: an organization that creates platforms for entrepreneurs to grow and share.
“We’re trying to encourage people in our community to take risks,” says Tehven. “We want to show everyone that you don’t have to live on the coasts to be creative. You don’t have to live in a big city to be an entrepreneur; you can be creative right here at home.”
Building platforms for entrepreneurs
In addition to hosting events and maintaining communication channels among the entrepreneurial community, Emerging Prairie is developing new ways to help Fargo residents grow their ideas.
This July, Danielson and Emerging Prairie launched the Fargo Startup House: a state-of-the-art living space that will house six world-classentrepreneurs. Seasoned mentors will coach the first group of residents through developing technology-based ideas into highly disruptive ventures. The entrepreneurs will live and work in the space round the clock, for free.
Later this year, CoCo will open a collaborative working space for entrepreneurs to build new businesses, in partnership with Emerging Prairie. CoCo offers flexible workspaces and meeting rooms for independent groups to gather and work. Centered in the heart of downtown Fargo, the new location will be the first CoCo space to emerge outside Minneapolis and St. Paul. According to CoCo co-founder Kyle Coolbroth, the move results from the “extraordinary level of enthusiasm and commitment in this city.”
Finally, alongside fellow founders of Emerging Prairie, Danielson and Tehven are developing an angel fund to provide seed capital for local entrepreneurs in need of financial support.
Carlson School alums join the cause
Tehven believes the work of each and every entrepreneur brings the town he loves closer to the community he envisions.
“Fargo is benefiting from a bunch of amazing young people who choose to go to the University of Minnesota, and then they’re returning to Fargo to do amazing things,” he says.
Among the entrepreneurs developing big ideas in Fargo are three recent graduates from the Carlson School.
Jon Melgaard, ’14 BSB, is organizing TEDxYouth Fargo, a conference that invites young people to take part in a day of talks and workshops to share what inspires them. The speakers include an Olympic diver, a former finalist on American Idol, and a video game addiction expert.
“We have a great line-up of speakers and it should be a really enthusiastic and positive thing for Fargo,” says Melgaard.
By combining community and art, two alumni are brightening the streets of Fargo. Simone Wai, ‘13 BSB, and Jenn Lambert, ‘12 BSB, have created Alley Fair: a series of community events that bring music, festivities, and art to local alleyways.
“The event and organization has a greater goal: to design an environment that encourages guests to rethink urban landscapes,” says Wai. “With each event, we try to further push the boundaries of what our visitors believe is possible with space and design.”
Alley Fair will host its next event on Sept. 20, to include street performers, an artist market, food trucks, and concerts.
The Fargo of the future
Emerging Prairie will continue its mission to put Fargo on the entrepreneurial map: the organization plans to create a mobile university, continue mobilizing the community, and more.
“We have momentum and things are getting off the ground really quickly,” says Tehven. “We’re in the early days of something I think is very special.”