A Community Resource: Emerging Prairie

Guest Blog By: Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Founded in 2013, Emerging Prairie began with the goal to create a community we all want to be part of. We want to do our part to make Fargo a great place to bet on ideas, start companies and improve the human condition through technology-based solutions. In 2016, Emerging Prairie became a non-profit organization and maintains its mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Emerging Prairie, we live out our mission in multiple ways:

– Platforms: we have an online content publication and several events that create opportunities for people to share and spread their ideas. We also utilize platforms like 1 Million Cups (caffeinated by the Kauffman Foundation) and TEDxFargo to help champion these ideas.

– Coworking: we run The Prairie Den, a coworking and event space in downtown Fargo. The Den provides a home for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, an office away from the office for other organizations, and a place for people to meet.

– Connecting: we run multiple programs and groups that are designed for authentic connection for entrepreneurs to connect to other entrepreneurs, as well as build connections between members of the community.

– Convening: we play a role in helping bring entrepreneurs together so our community learns together and can share what we collectively need when folks like the Bank of North Dakota are working on new ways to serve the startup community.

Companies of any stage can connect with us. Some of our programs are geared to companies of different sizes, stages and industries. For example, 1 Million Cups Fargo (which is supported by the Kauffman Foundation) is curated to be primarily tech-based founders or entrepreneurs who have a product or software as a service (SaaS) companies. We work to put founders first, so many of our programs are more geared toward supporting founders versus the size and stage of the company.

The Prairie Den is an inclusive space in the heart of downtown Fargo – it’s truly a place for community to be built. We think of it like a student union for our city. Just like a student union on a college campus is a place for students to study, hold meetings and social events, The Prairie Den provides a similar area to the community. It’s a place for connecting, for working, for moving ideas forward, and for groups to gather. We offer workspace for teams, individuals, and as an office-away-from-the-office for employees of many organizations. We also have conference rooms, a classroom and even an event space that we rent to members and non-members.

The Den is also where Co.Starters is hosted by our friends at Folkways. Co.Starters is a nine-week course to help people with ideas turn them into businesses, or people with young businesses strengthen them.

Emerging Prairie subscribes to the Fargo Thesis, which Co-Founder and Executive Director Greg Tehven first wrote about in Fargo Monthly. The Fargo Thesis is to Connect It, Believe It and Love It. This is how we operate in our community –Connecting people; Believing that Fargo is a place of possibility; and showing love by celebrating and caring for community members.

As an organization, Emerging Prairie is excited about continuing to support our startup community. We believe ideas matter. We know it’s a leap of faith to start something new, so we want to celebrate those who take the leap. And we want to be an organization that helps pave the way for founders to bet on their ideas, to build teams around them and to pursue possibilities to create a community that we all want to be part of.

An Inside Look at the GFMEDC

Guest blog by John Machacek, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation

It’s no secret Fargo-Moorhead appreciates and supports its startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses (think 1 Million Cups, Startup Weekend, CoStarters, Financial Planning Day… we could go on and on.) These people and businesses are helping shape the economic ecosystem, as well providing the area with many new, fun opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment.

The bottom line: startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to our community. In fact, there are organizations in the community that have resources dedicated to helping businesses grow and thrive. One such organization is the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC).

The GFMEDC is a great resource for those who want to live, work and play in the FM area. The Mission and the Vision of the GFMEDC do an excellent job of explaining who we are as an organization and what we aim to do.

Mission: The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation is a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity. Using a comprehensive approach to economic development, the GFMEDC accelerates job and wealth creation in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN.

The Vision includes points such as:

  • Lead the development of a robust economy where people and businesses thrive
  • Strategically pursue job creation and business attraction
  • Work with K-12, higher education and industries to ensure a strong talent pipeline
  • Support a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • Create collaboration between public and private sectors

In other words, the GFMEDC wants to see the area’s economy and ecosystem thrive, and it understands the importance of small businesses in making this dream a reality.

Innovation and new businesses contribute to a stronger economy and job creation in the area, and the GFMEDC serves as a resource to support this emerging ecosystem.

On a high level, one role of the GFMEDC is to encourage the idea of being an entrepreneur and the importance of them on our economy. The FM area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, so it isn’t realistic to rely on the attraction of new businesses into the community. That’s where the entrepreneurs and startups come in.

By increasing the awareness and support of entrepreneurial development, the GFMEDC helps connect startups, builds confidence and portrays the community as a great place to build a business (and it truly is). This message is conveyed through a combination of messaging and events, which come from traditional organizations like GFMEDC, as well as help from non-traditional organizations like Emerging Prairie and Folkways which help us reach a wide variety of audiences.

On a more personal level, another purpose of the GFMEDC is getting to know the entrepreneurs on an individual basis and to be there for them throughout the various stages and needs of their business. The GFMEDC aims to engage with startups to listen to their story, learn what they need and be all ears about how they can help down the road. By building these strong, trusting relationships, the GFMEDC helps make entrepreneurial connections and strengthens the network of all those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Although the GFMEDC wants to see all types of businesses succeed, there is a special interest for those in the primary sector. These businesses are those who are adding value to a product/service and a significant portion of their customer base is outside of the region. Think of software and application developers, manufacturers, value-added ag services, etc. These companies could be located in nearly any part of the country and it wouldn’t change their customer base much – yet they’ve chosen to make the FM area the home for their business because they know the benefits of doing business here. These companies bring new wealth to the communities, which then gets passed on to employees who have spending needs which grow other industries in the area. The support of the GFMEDC helps fuel the economy by creating an ecosystem where businesses and industries all benefit from each other.

The GFMEDC also likes to stay on top of what and how these businesses are doing so we can better help them with any needs that may arise. For the more established businesses, routine visits are scheduled with them to check how things are going, but also to stress the importance of remaining in contact, especially if the business is planning an expansion in employment, facilities or financing needs. For startups, the GFMEDC aims to be in contact with them right from the start to better understand their growth stages and to be a better guide for them.

The positive approach from the entrepreneurial ecosystem (GFMEDC, Emerging Prairie, SBDCs, universities, fellow startups, etc.) has increased entrepreneurial confidence, community pride and the innovative image of the metro area around the country. Startups and small businesses are better aware of programs available to them to help them progress faster.

The Fargo-Moorhead community is friendly and caring, and entrepreneurs should know they’re not in this alone. At the GFMEDC, we pride ourselves on knowing people and programs, and we simply cannot expect businesses to know all this on their own. The GFMEDC is here as a resource to listen and learn about the current stage and future plans of each business, and to help them take advantage of what is available in the community in order to help them grow and thrive.

Fargo Business Women’s Circles: Meet the facilitators

Back in April, we filled you in on something exciting and new coming to the Fargo Moorhead community: The Business Women’s Circle. As a refresher, the BWC is made up of two circles: the Executive Circle, and the Owners Circle. Within each circle, 12 women at most come together once a month to share ideas, gain insight from each other, and form lasting friendships, to name a few.

Well now we’re super excited to tell you more about our Fargo facilitators: Jodi Heilman and Tamara Anderson.

jodiJodi Heilman serves as the facilitator for the Executive Circle. Jodi earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences at Fergus Falls Community College. Next she earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Minnesota State University Moorhead. From there, the rest is history. Jodi started out in broadcast journalism, holding a handful of positions with news companies in the FM area. She ended up writing commercials and realized it made sense for her to switch to marketing and advertising. Jodi followed this path to Sundog in Fargo, where she worked for 12 years as EVP of Creative. She then moved to a career as the SVP of marketing for Bell State Bank and Trust in Fargo. Fast forward a couple years, and Jodi has her own business, Coach My Brand. Clients come to Coach My Brand for bold ideas, strategic brand and marketing plans, and unique tactics that sell and compel today’s socially-connected audiences to become their advocates. Jodi is also the creative mastermind behind some of the region’s most successful marketing campaigns, including BOB 95 FM, UCodeGirl and Discovery Benefits, to name a few.

tamaraTamara Anderson is the facilitator for the Owners Circle. Tamara attended The University of North Dakota and earned a degree in marketing & retail management. After college, she found herself working for Lakeshirts, where she ran some of the stores. Through this job, she had an opportunity to attend a Dale Carnegie session. She soon realized she had a passion for Dale Carnegie and their mission. She applied for and was hired as a sales person at Dale Carnegie. Fast forward a few years, and Tamara is now a Dale Carnegie franchise owner here in Fargo. In her position, she works on client relationships, business development and consulting, to name a few.



Eide Bailly: How did you get involved in the BWC?

Jodi: The BWC found me through a common connection through Bell State Bank and Trust in the Twin Cities. I liked the mission of bringing skill and leadership together and combining it with life and home. I also liked the idea of a collaborative environment for women to come together.

Tamara: Jenni Huotari connected me to Lani Basa, the CEO of BWC. I then talked with Lani and got signed up. I was particularly excited to get involved because of the work we could do with small businesses.


EB: What role(s) do you play in the BWC?

JH: We get together once a month and during this time, I help the women set goals, hold them accountable, coach them on how to reach goals and make sure everyone is heard. We all get to learn from each other, make suggestions and share experiences.

TA: I facilitate the business owners circle. At our monthly meetings, I help build traction, develop skill building strategies, and make sure discussions stay focused. I am very excited about goals the women set, and enjoy seeing the women reach these goals I make sure they have a venue where they can talk about business and personal life with other women who understand what they are experiencing.


EB: What part of the BWC excites you most?

JH: First and foremost, I am most excited that women have the ability to access extra training to be successful. I am excited that women have a confidential yet open place to go to discuss challenging issues. It is great that women can feel safe sharing things they usually wouldn’t share with other people. It offers a place to discuss topics you don’t want to bring home at night and gives them someone to talk to that may be going through the same thing.

TA: I am excited to get to know the women and learn about their businesses and why they do what they do. I am excited to help build groundwork for the businesses and to help layout the road map and how to achieve the success they desire.


EB: Do you think that having a small number of participants allowed is beneficial? (Note: 12 is the maximum number of participants per circle.)

JH: I think it is a good number. It allows for enough attention and time. There is more time to focus on achieving goals and getting advice on a one on one basis. Everyone has a chance to speak out and be heard.

TA: There is a large enough amount to provide good dynamic, but it is also small enough to nurture intimacy. It provides women with peers who may understand what each other is going through, but may see it from a different angle and offer unique perspectives. It also allows for the women to form friendships and find cheerleaders and support they be missing.


EB: What is your biggest piece of advice to women in business?

JH: Don’t take things too personally. Step back and take a look at the bigger picture when things seem overwhelming and have perspective. If the problem won’t affect you down the road, let it go and give yourself a break. Tomorrow is always a new day; start new.

TA: Don’t be afraid to take a risk. You can’t plan for everything up front, and you won’t be able to think of everything – but don’t let that deter you. The risk can pay off.


EB: What do you hope attendees take away from this program?

JH: I hope the women are able to take away lifelong confidence and connections.

TA: I hope attendees become more strategic in thinking about growing their business. I hope they find a leadership style that works for them. Lastly, I hope they find a work/life balance and learn how to surround themselves with people who complement their skills.


EB: Why did you want to be involved in BWC?

JH: I would have loved to have an opportunity like this in my own personal career. I’m excited that there will be 3 hours focused on personal growth, mentorship and friends. The bond of women helping women is very appealing to me and I believe it’s very important for women to help other women succeed. I want to help women become successful — whether that’s in the role of president, CEO, etc.

TA: I love the strategy and working on the business. I am excited to see the leadership and individual growth of the women, as well as the different passions each possesses. I want to see women succeed and become business owners. I want to help women see that it’s okay to take a risk.


EB: Why do you think there is value in the BWC coming to Fargo?

JH: It will provide advanced training to maintain or gain momentum in their careers and build confidence and connections to move to the next level. It also provides a new option for training opportunities. Fargo has a lot of advancement opportunities, but women may not feel confident enough to apply. BWC can help build that executive presence and confidence.

TA: It provides a venue for women who own businesses and are in senior positions to continue to grow. Fargo is a vibrant business community, but women’s startups are not known of as much in Fargo.


EB: What kind of impact do you think it will have on the community?

JH: I am hopeful that it will allow more circles to be formed. I hope to see many friendships formed, and more careers propelled forward. I also think it will raise awareness of women helping women achieve dreams and goals.

TA: I think it will bring about faster ramp up and growth. I think word of mouth will continue to grow the program and encourage other women and help them to know they have a support system of other women behind them to support and guide. It would be great if Fargo could be known as a place for women to go to start a business.

To learn more, join us on August 25 at Eide Bailly.


Meet the Team: Ryan Renner

RyanWhat is my role?

My role in the Possibilities Center keeps me busy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I use my wide range of skills to offer clients a large variety of services that help them improve and be successful in their businesses. These services range from general bookkeeping assistance to in-depth clean-up work to all types of special projects. If a client needs help outside of our normal Eide Bailly compliance offerings such as tax and audit, you can bet I’m the guy for the job!

Why are numbers important for business?

I believe numbers are so important for businesses to understand because they act as the heart of the business. Numbers keep the business beating, just like the pulse of a heartbeat. If a business has reliable financial information that they can access in a timely manner, they are able to make knowledgeable decisions that can help the business out immensely.

Why do I want to see you succeed?

I enjoy seeing businesses succeed. It is great to see the owners’ hard work and dedication pay off, and to know that they have produced a successful business. I also enjoy seeing businesses succeed because I am excited to see what new opportunities they will benefit from, as there are many opportunities for businesses available.


I like that Fargo has a small town feel, while also providing a wide range of variety to live and work in. Fargo provides many activities and venues for its residents to take advantage of, and offers many options for community and business involvement. Fargo has an excellent business community as well, and offers many events that help people gain insight and knowledge into ways to make their business successful!

Meet the Team: Jenni Huotari (@huotarijenni)

JenniWhat’s my role?

I’ve been given the awesome opportunity and responsibility of leading the Possibilities Center. I’ve been with EB for nearly 14 years, and spent almost all of that time as an auditor (don’t be afraid, I’m really nice).

So, why the transition? While verifying numbers is fun (no seriously, it can be), I have a strong desire to spread the love of numbers a little broader. Plus, I have a crazy curiosity about business, which causes me to want to know as much as possible about our clients, and keeps my mind churning with ideas of how we can positively impact your business.

Why are numbers so important?

When numbers nerds get out and about (not too often, as we’re mostly introverts) and tell others what we do all day, the usual response is “I don’t know how you do that for a living.” We find that people are either intimidated by accounting or in no way interested (usually our artistic, creative friends).

Here’s the honest truth: I could look at financial statements all day. To me, they read like a book and tell the story of a company. They clearly show the increase in revenue you’ve worked so hard for, how volatile your cost of goods sold can be, how you’ve managed to keep those operating costs in check (even with revenue growth) and so much more.

Each one plays in to the total and affects the ending of the story. Understanding what they’re are trying to tell you, and how they impact each other is essential for a business to be as healthy as possible.

Why do I want you to succeed?

Let’s face it, there’s plenty of outside factors beyond your control that impact your business. Having quality financial information, and knowing how to understand it, is not one of them. In fact, it’s completely attainable.

The Possibilities Center team and I have a strong desire to make business owners and other decision makers comfortable with your company’s financial statements. You shouldn’t have to rely on your accountant/bookkeeper to prepare all of the financial information and interpret it for you. We want you to know what the numbers mean, where different things are presented and how business decisions can/will impact your financials. We want you to have strong financials and I guarantee we even have a few ideas to help you get there!


We’re very fortunate to work in such a great place. This area is filled with unbelievable talent, including colleges and universities with eager graduates ready to get out and make a difference.

We are blessed by strong business allies. I personally know several people at numerous community organizations (the SBDC, SBA, EDC, Emerging Prairie, etc.) who come to work every day with the goal of helping businesses be successful, including those just starting out.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s an uprising of peer support. As nice Midwesterners, I think we’ve always rooted for each other, but we’re continually finding ways to be more impactful. Collaboration is the key to success here, and we’re proving there’s more than enough success to go around.


Meet the Team: Dan Macintosh (@dsmacintosh)

DanWhat is my role?

My role in the Possibilities Center is to lead our Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services. These services are designed to help you in all aspects of your business. We handle the back office accounting, Controller or CFO on call, tax consultation and preparation, even HR or IT. With a team of professionals with experience in all of these areas, we are able to fill the roles of many of these people, freeing up your time and financial resources to focus on your goals.

Why are good numbers important for business?

The biggest issue I see facing small and growing businesses is the ability to get timely and accurate financial information. The ability to get this information is vital to the decision making process, and can be the difference between accomplishing your goals and getting stuck. With a little work and our professionals, we can help you get the information you need to make sound business decisions.

Why do I want you to succeed?

I want you to succeed because it’s why you went into business in the first place. Not everyone loves accounting as much as our numbers nerds do. That’s why we’re devoting our time and talent to taking away a lot of the headaches, allowing you to focus on what you do best.


As the newest member of the Possibilities Center (I’ve only been in Fargo for a month!), I’m still in the honeymoon phase! However, I can tell you that my wife and I were ecstatic to move back to North Dakota after several years away. One of the biggest things I heard of Fargo while we were exploring a new landing spot was how vibrant the business environment was here. From drone technology to manufacturing to the entrepreneurial startup community to the rapidly growing more established business, Fargo has done a wonderful job of creating a true business ecosystem!



Meet the Team: Ashley Cossette (@ashleymcossette)

AshleyWhat’s my role?

My role in the Possibilities Center is two-fold.

Accounting Coach 1.0

I lead our Accounting Coach 1.0 services. This means I provide education and training for on-staff accounting professionals.

Fun Fact: I started my college career in elementary education however transitioned into accounting.

As an accounting coach, I get to combine two of my passions: teaching and accounting. I am an on-call accounting resource, helping our clients with anything from the basics of accounting to more complex accounting transactions and issues.

In addition to being an on-call accounting resource, I help create and facilitate learning opportunities such as lunch n’ learns, panels, customized training sessions and manuals. My goal as a coach is to increase financial literacy at all levels within a business from the bookkeeper to the owner.


In this role, I get to focus on my creative side (yes, numbers nerds have them too) with a goal of improving our current offerings through process improvement or technology advancement and finding new offerings to provide value to our clients (or potential clients).

Why are numbers important?

The numbers are essential to decision making in a business.

The numbers are used to obtain financing or investment dollars (sometimes this is all a business needs to stay above the water or take their vision to the next level), to report to regulatory agencies such as the IRS (and they aren’t fans when the information you provide is incorrect), to incentivize employee performance, or to go after a new market or product line or service offering … the list goes on.

Time and time again, I have seen the negative impact of inaccurate financial data on a business. Understanding the numbers (and having good numbers) can mean the success of a business.

Why do I want you to succeed?

Happiness. It brings me great joy to help others learn and achieve their goals. In addition, I value the relationships that are built in the business of helping others.


Fargo embodies the meaning of community. Fargoans truly care about the well-being of others, that doesn’t exist everywhere. From a business standpoint, I am continually amazed by the entrepreneurial community. It is a community of individuals and businesses working together to make great ideas happen but also give back to the community as a whole. Fargo is a great place to be a part of something bigger.