An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
While our region is experiencing stunning growth, this certainly hasn’t always been the case. In the 1990s and early 2000s, this area was in the midst of a “brain drain,” the term used to describe the trend of students leaving after graduation. Since those times, things have turned around, but why?
The arts and entertainment scenes have seen support and have grown more vibrant. Greater attention has been drawn to the local higher education institutions, partially as a result of national media attention drawn by successful research and athletics. A strong job market has offered work prospects to people who may have had to look elsewhere in previous decades.
Indeed, this area has become an oasis for technological ventures and innovation in what much of the rest of the nation likely considers to be a sparsely populated prairie. Due in part to thinkers and risk-takers who have taken it upon themselves to disperse myths of vacuity that surround our region and North Dakota as a whole, we’re becoming a bigger blip on the map.
Emerging Prairie, an organization devoted to bringing out the full potential of the Fargo-Moorhead community, is one of the groups at the head of this transformation. By giving entrepreneurs at all levels a stage to share and promote their ideas and by facilitating networking events to foster a strong entrepreneurial community, Emerging Prairie is the flag-bearer for the continued development of the local business climate and the outside perspective of it.
“Each time I travel, the perception of Fargo seems to be gaining more and more positive momentum,” says Greg Tehven, executive director and co-founder of Emerging Prairie.
The focus of the minds behind Emerging Prairie runs parallel to that of Cass County Electric Cooperative in many ways. Innovation and commitment to community are two of CCEC’s core values. Supporting organizations like Emerging Prairie and events like 1 Million Cups is one way of touting both values.
CoSchedule, a Bismarck-based startup with a location in Fargo, is the creator of the web’s most popular marketing calendar. Ranked as the best business tool built by a startup on Entrepreneur.com, CoSchedule currently helps more than 9,000 marketing teams stay organized in more than 100 countries around the world. CoSchedule was ranked the fastest growing startup in North Dakota—growth due in part to their unique offerings as an employer.
“While many people—particularly young professionals—opt to move to more urban areas to find jobs, that’s not an appealing option for everyone,” says Garrett Moon, CEO and co-founder of CoSchedule. “So out of frustration and a desire to stay put, we created jobs for ourselves. And in doing so, we gave others a unique opportunity to do what they love and love what they do.”
Myriad Mobile, a Fargo-based mobile application development startup, has found Fargo’s unique and changing business environment to be advantageous.
“The community here is very supportive and helps people out,” says Ryan Raguse, Myriad Mobile co-founder and chairman. “I feel without the camaraderie found here, we wouldn’t have had the same opportunities in a different community. Fargo is unique in the business world because it’s big enough for growth, but small enough where everybody knows everybody.”
Examples like these are what Tehven says should be seen as a source of inspiration for other hopeful entrepreneurs.
“At times, it can be hard for some entrepreneurs and small businesses to dream big,” he says. “We have tremendous resources in our community, yet we have to still believe in ourselves and the potential of our businesses. From my point of view, all of us need to look around and find local examples of organizations that were started near us and have made a massive impact.”