Growing up in the booming city of Long Island, New York, Rachel Wilkens has a very unique journey that led her to Iowa State University. After high school, she went to a community college in New York where she graduated with her Associate’s degree. She stayed in New York afterwards and worked, but on her 25th birthday she had what she calls a “quarter life crisis” and realized she had a business idea she wanted to bring to life.
With two brothers that served in the military, Rachel saw how difficult it is for veterans to transition back into daily life and the hardships families experience by having someone close serve. Through her experiences, she realized that her passion in life was to help veterans and their families during this transitionary period.
This is when Rachel decided she wanted to go back to school to pursue her business idea. Lucky for us, Iowa State University made the long list of colleges she was looking at and finally became her home away from home. On her first visit to ISU, Rachel was able to learn about the programs on campus that foster entrepreneurship and knew this was the right place for her to be. She came back to campus in fall 2016 and spent her first year focusing on her coursework in the agricultural business program. After learning about the opportunities AgEI has to offer, she joined the Student Incubator program to further develop her business idea of starting a retreat for veterans in uptown New York.
Although Rachel’s business idea is still in the beginning stages, she has a strong vision of the final outcome. Knowing the importance of agriculture, she wants to include agricultural education in her program and have a farm-to-table restaurant on the campus that is solely employed by veterans. She foresees a housing program, and families being highly involved in the process of helping the veterans at the retreat.
When asked how the AgEI Incubator program has helped her develop her business idea, she responded, “The Incubator program has been great. My whole vision has switched in a positive direction without having to spend money. I have had great resources and when I talk to people about my business people want to get involved which is very beneficial.” We cannot wait to see Rachel’s business continue to grow and develop!