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.