ACES alumni continue family business in honor of Joyce Riskedal

Darren and Kendall Riskedal smile at the camera for a picture

In 1999, Brad and Joyce Riskedal, both University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alums, were busy raising a family and working the family farm in north central Illinois. Looking for an additional source of income, Joyce began Country Lights, a soy-wax candle brand that grew into a prominent fixture in their community. 

When Joyce suddenly passed away in August 2023, her family, still grieving, knew they couldn’t let her business languish. That’s why her son Darren and daughter-in-law Kendall (Herren) Riskedal, both College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) alumni, made the decision to take over Joyce’s business and bring it to their home in southern Wisconsin.

During the transition, Darren, a precision technology specialist for Insight FS, and Kendall, an associate account director at Broadhead, found support from the community around them.

“After my mother passed away last fall, we took over operations to continue the business in her memory. During that process, people were super supportive and helpful during that transition,” Darren said. “Building a relationship with those who my mom and dad had worked with has become a deeper connection for us, and our business puts us in a position where we can help provide for those same people, which makes that friendship even tighter.”

Joyce and Brad Riskedal stand behind candle booth and talk to customers
Joyce and Brad Riskedal sell their signature candles to fundraise

Joyce was always passionate about giving back, so she built that philosophy into her business. She sold her candles primarily through the company’s fundraising program, helping local chapters of FFA, 4-H clubs, and others raise money to carry out their mission. Continuing that tradition, Darren and Kendall are using the business to invest in and support their community.

“With volunteerism being a primary pillar in our families, our decision to take up and continue the family business, which in turn supports so many volunteers and non-profit organizations, was a natural fit to our core belief system,” Kendall said.

Growing up, Darren and Kendall were both involved in their families’ businesses, as well as 4-H and FFA. So, when it was time for college, the College of ACES, along with FarmHouse International Fraternity and 4-H House Cooperative Sorority, were their homes away from home. 

In 2016, Darren graduated with a degree in engineering technology and management for agricultural systems, and Kendall graduated with a degree in agricultural communications. It was here at Illinois where the two met before getting married in 2017. Now, on their journey to honor Joyce’s memory, business, and legacy, the couple is finding support from fellow ACES alumni.

“Our families are mostly ACES alums. We grew up in small towns where you know everybody, and the College of ACES is similar in that way,” Kendall said. “That community includes alumni who have helped direct us down wonderful career paths and opportunities in life. ACES is truly a community that supports one another.”

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