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Alum/student relationship blossoms over love of business, brewing

An MBA student is getting real world experience in the setting of his dreams

If you’ve been in the working world for long, you know what a difference a little touch of luck can make.

MBA student Jess Bibbee realized that this fall.

After graduating with a double major in business management and Spanish in 2013, Bibbee wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

“I was considering the MBA program,” Bibbee said.  “I went to my capstone professor (Dr. Jennifer Sexton) and asked, ‘How do I figure out the next part of my life?’ She encouraged me to think about what I love and how I could turn that into a career.”

About the same time he received this advice, he was reading a book by Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, titled Brewing up a Business. Bibbee had thought about home brewing before – maybe, he thought, it was something he could turn into a business.

That winter, he began brewing his own beer. His first batch, he said, couldn’t have turned out better. Encouraged, he decided to more seriously entertain the idea of opening his own brewery. He set his sights on the MBA program to help him get there, and joined the program in the summer of 2014. 

As luck would have it, an EMBA cohort was in town for a residency. Part of that residency included a case study on the Morgantown Brewing Company (MBC), owned by 2004 EMBA graduate Art Gallagher. Bibbee was encouraged to tag along.

“It was the perfect opportunity,” he said.

First, he watched the EMBAs formulate their case studies around the company. Then, he went on a tour to meet the brew master and managers to get a behind-the-scenes look. And then – a stroke of luck. 

“While we were down there, Art just happened to walk in. I explained that I was not part of the EMBA group, but that I came along specifically to meet him,” Bibbee said. “We ended up talking for about 45 minutes. I did not ask for a job, but at the end of the conversation he said he thought he could use somebody like me. I came back the next day expecting to have an interview. But Art took me in to talk to Brian, the brew master. He said, “Brian, this is Jess. He’s your new assistant brewer.’”

This was a pleasantly shocking surprise to Bibbee, who had lived just down the street from MBC during his years in undergrad and was, quite simply, enthralled with the place.