Three alumnae bring values from university to local company

It’s often said that MSUM ignites a strong sense of community in the students, faculty and staff; and that doesn’t extinguish after graduation. Sarah West and her employees at Light Consulting & Coaching know that firsthand.

Light Consulting & Coaching is a financial consulting company made up of a team of four, three of who are MSUM alumnae. West, CEO of Light Consulting & Coaching, graduated in 2007 from MSUM with her bachelors in accounting and finance. The two other Dragons are Kari Stenger ’14 (accounting and finance), and Drew Sannes ’16 and ’18 (business administration).

Since the business opened in June 2019, Light Consulting & Coaching has brought a unique service to the small businesses of Fargo-Moorhead, and they have expanded their services to add curriculum courses to the list of things they offer.

“The bulk of our business is financial consulting for small businesses,” West said. “We also want to bring what we do for people in making business light, into other aspects too.”

Whether it’s offering executive coaching opportunities or MBA-like courses where people can learn the tools to make better business decisions, Light Consulting & Coaching uses its core values to help its client the business owner look at the whole business, decide what they want to do, and help them execute it however that may look.

“The way that the business is, it's centered around [our] core values, and the way MSUM works, is that they are also focused on not just teaching you the curriculum, it’s about so much more than that,” Sannes explained.

With three alumnae working at Light Consulting & Coaching, it’s expected that there would be overlap in the values the three learned and cultivated at MSUM and in the way they work.

“Something that sets us apart is that we care about our clients, we truly care about making them more successful than they were, and that was a huge part at MSUM too,” Sannes said. “Our professors and the college cared about making us into fully rounded individuals and not just getting us through there with a degree.”

The three noted that working with their professors in the Paseka School of Business helped them prepare and advance toward their goals during and after school.

“I really grew as an individual during my time at MSUM,” Stenger said. “Professors and advisors filled me with so much knowledge and helped me with the fundamentals so I was prepared to go out into the workforce right away.”

West specifically grew close with Marsha Weber, former interim vice president for academic affairs at the university. 

“There are two things that stick out to me about Marsha. One was she never wore the same outfit twice,” West noted.

Other than teaching her how to dress for a career, West also felt that Weber cared about her as an individual more than just a grade in her classes, that she cared about her “success as a human being.”

There were many professors each alumna named and said they were able to grow close with and felt genuinely cared for, another example of the kind of relationships that flourish in the school of business and at MSUM.

“MSUM in general is very intentional about building those relationships with the professors, and keeping the class sizes down so they can do that, and foster the relationships with each individual. It's such a good community in the college of business at MSUM, I was very appreciative of that,” Sannes said.

Outside of her classes, Stenger was able to grow her relationships even more through the organization Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF). As a part of STLF, she was able to travel and gain experience that would eventually inspire her to pursue a minor in leadership studies and be beneficial in her future careers.

“STLF truly helped me develop and build relationships and leadership skills. That is truly what makes Light Consulting & Coaching unique. We aren’t just accountants behind our spreadsheets working away with no people skills. We are out in the field alongside our clients creating trusting relationships,” Stenger explained.

She said the best part of her job is interacting with clients on their path, again, reflecting the ability to build relationships that Stenger and many others have done at MSUM.

Even now, West has many connections to the university as an alumna and as a business owner. She sits on the advisory board for the College of Business, Analytics & Communication, and has served as a mentor multiple times in the executive mentorship program in the Paseka School of Business. 

“To have them be open to and wanting and desiring to produce people who I want to hire is important, and they do that,” she said.

She visits with past professors and connections, sometimes to catch up or even to ask for advice, always feeling like she can reach out even if the interaction isn’t beneficial to them. Sannes feels that same sense of community that many other Dragons have felt.

“They see how many people, how many students a day, but they’re willing to set time aside for alumni that they can help. I think that’s huge to have those relationships,” Sannes said.

At Light Consulting & Coaching, the trio of Dragons has used their education from MSUM in many ways. They use their skill and knowledge in their profession and their personable and acute ability to build connections, all to serve their clients. These are things they have polished throughout the years, starting right at MSUM.

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