Whitley Frieden is a senior in Agricultural Studies and member of this year’s AgEI Student Incubator. She grew up on her family’s farm just outside the small town of Joy, Illinois with her parents and older brother, Jordan. On top of their row crop operation, her family also raises and shows Belgian draft horses around the country.
Growing up, Whitley loved helping out on the farm and knew she wanted to return someday to farm with her family. She decided to attend Muscatine Community College for two years where she got her AAS in Agribusiness Management, before transferring to Iowa State.
With an ultimate goal to return home to the farm, Whitley was looking for an opportunity to diversify the farm and help generate income. This is where she came up with the business idea of building an event barn on their farm to host weddings, graduation parties, community events, etc. This idea came about when her family was attending a wedding reception at their local VFW, a common place for people to get married in their area. Whitley and her brother began discussing the fact that they did not want to have their weddings at the same place as everyone else in town, but that there weren’t many other options close to home. She determined the need for such a space and the ideas have continued forming since.
Whitley’s business is still in the beginning stages of customer discovery. She is hoping to begin building her barn within five years of graduation. She hopes to include her draft horses as part of the business, offering carriage rides and other opportunities for customers to interact with the horses on their big day.
When asked about the AgEI Student Incubator, Whitley responded, “The program has been a great learning experience for me and has forced me to get out and talk to people and find out things that I would not have had the initiative to do otherwise. Everyone I have worked with has been so helpful and encouraging, and I look forward to continuing to work with them throughout this process.”