Rebecca Undem | Nice Alumni Series

Growing Small Towns | Class of 2003

Hometown: Oakes, ND

Rebecca Undem had her sights set on a “company job” when she grew up. That’s what she told herself she was supposed to do, but it would likely mean leaving Oakes, North Dakota, a small farming community in Dickey County with a population of approximately 1,800.

After high school, she began college in Jamestown, ND with 17 of her 47 high school classmates; it felt like high school, part two. Longing for a more expansive experience, Rebecca transferred to NDSU where she began her studies in Interior Design before pivoting to Business Administration for what she described were, “purely practical reasons.”

But after graduating, Rebecca lacked clarity around what she wanted to do. She scanned the classified ads for something interesting, and eventually landed a job in loan processing with a bank.

For five years she did the ladder-climbing she thought was imperative to her career. But she realized, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life. There is a part of my soul that is not on fire enough to do this every day.”

Learning about yourself is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself when pursuing entrepreneurship.

That’s when she received a call from her mom who excitedly shared an idea to start a pumpkin patch back on the farm where Rebecca grew up. Noticing holes in the business plan, Rebecca knew she could help and moved with her family back to the place she’d always planned to leave: Oakes.

By 2013, Rebecca felt drawn to share with people who were living a life similar to hers. She began public speaking and wrote How Mommy Got Her Groove Back, a memoir about her unconventional career path and how to live a big life in a small town.

Rebecca also walked her talk by serving as Chamber President in Oakes and founding a community and business-building nonprofit called Growing Small Towns. Rather than viewing her return to Oakes as a step backward, Rebecca determined to create the community that she wanted to live in.

“It’s not settling, unless you choose to stagnate or choose to not grow,” she says.

Though it was a winding path, with an assortment of projects and career detours, Rebecca sees how her past roles now support her current work; it was all a part of the process.

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The Nice Center at NDSU created this series to demonstrate that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. As we pursue our mission of making entrepreneurship for all we invite your support through mentorship. Share more about yourself at

Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on November 18th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories