In addition to learning how to scale his business, Micah Niebauer, WG’19, is benefitting from a bicoastal network, access to faculty, and applied learning.

After spending a decade in the U.S. Army, Micah Niebauer, WG’19, decided to make a career pivot. As a former Green Beret, Micah spent over three years deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq before exiting the service to co-found a brewery with military friends in Southern Pines, NC.

As he worked on the business, Micah realized that an MBA would be “practical” for facing many of his day-to-day business challenges. “I talked to a friend in an EMBA program and saw how everything he was learning – from accounting to operations to finance – could be applied to what I do every day at the brewery.”

Micah quickly narrowed his focus to Wharton. He explained, “If I was going to take time out of my life and business, I wanted to go to the best program. Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives offers the full Wharton MBA with a focus on analytical rigor. I also was excited about the cohort. In the Army, I worked with incredible people, and Wharton provides that same experience with talented and high-caliber students.”

Micah added that the GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program made it financially possible for him to come to Wharton. “Those are very helpful benefits for military students.”

He points to several aspects of the program that are helping him grow and scale his brewery:

Classes

“I’m taking Prof. Peter Fader’s Applied Probability Models in Marketing class and went on his Global Business Week trip to Finland and Sweden where we focused on customer centricity. Those classes are having a profound impact on my business. After learning about Ericsson’s key account summit with its best customers, I went back to NC and invited our top customers from across the state to a similar summit. It was an incredible opportunity to obtain customer feedback. As a result of these courses, I’m shifting my thinking from a product-focused business to a customer-focused business, and I’m incorporating analytics too.”

Access to Faculty

“In a class on mergers and acquisitions, and an independent study, I’ve learned about the different ways to grow a small business. I’m looking at issues like how you source funding and when you should build a capability, form an alliance, or do an acquisition. I want to figure out the full potential of what we’ve built at our brewery because we’re about a year or two away from maximizing our existing space. It’s incredible to be able to discuss my business with professors. It’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities.”

Applied Learning

“In Prof. Fader’s Marketing class we were assigned a project to use data to create a counting model. He helped me approach the problem specifically from the vantage point of my brewery so I could use my data. That makes it a different type of learning experience when you can apply what you learn to your own business and obtain insights and advice from the best faculty in the world.”

Bicoastal Network

“The people are an important part of this program, so I spent a term on the West Coast campus to double my network and experience the ecosystem of San Francisco. Wharton does a great job of creating cohorts of people who want to learn and make connections – I can show up on the West Coast and fit right in.”

Instant Bonding

“On each campus, students are spending every other weekend together for two years in a very challenging program. This leads to instant bonding, which is deepened by the time we spend together outside of class. Students get together for weekend getaways, ski and beach weekends, birthdays, and more. Several classmates even came to my brewery’s fourth-anniversary celebration!”

Micah added, “This program is an incredible opportunity. I don’t know what exciting things lie ahead, but I know it is changing my trajectory in a positive way. It’s going to generationally alter my family’s history.”

— Meghan Laska

Posted: January 24, 2019

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