Written by Rachel Warnock
Vedic Botanicals | Lead Herbalist | Founder & Owner
I’ve been an activist since before I knew what that word was. Even as a young child, I remember being profoundly offended whenever I learned about how humans hurt the earth- deforestation, oil spills, chemical leaks, air pollution- sometimes I would sit and cry over it, and I wasn’t even 10 years old. In Middle school I would pass around petitions for my fellow 12-year-olds to sign, voicing malcontent over topics such as destruction of the Amazon, animal testing, and Native American land and water rights. Eventually my teacher told me I needed to stop- my “civil activism was disruptive to the learning environment.”
Fast forward to 2011, I’d finished my Master’s Degree in Vedic Science, specializing in Ayurvedic Medicine, graduating top of my class. Like many of my peers, the wind had been sucked out of my sails due to the economic crisis of 2008, and there was growing dissent in my generational cohort due to stifled economic recovery- particularly in the Midwest, where I lived- and rulings like Citizens United that were changing the democratic landscape of our nation. We were all working 2-3 jobs to only barely get by. The promised rewards of meritocracy never came. It was a rude and deeply disillusioning entrance into the world of adulthood. Frustration mounted, and I decided that I could no longer simply “be the change I wanted to see in the world.” It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t effecting change fast enough. I couldn't afford to silently pour decades into small, daily acts of protest through diet and purchasing habits hoping to effect significant change in the end. It became clear that I need to “CREATE the change I wanted to see in the world.” And that sentiment became the banner under which I marched forward- my internal rallying cry.
I started to mentally break down my goal. What would I need to effect positive change? What would give me access to those assets? What was the fastest and most efficient path? How could I have the biggest impact? I considered going into politics, but the reality is I dislike fundraising and I’m a terrible liar. Plus, the Koch brothers were pouring unbelievable amounts of money into my state’s politics, and I knew they were a Goliath I couldn’t beat. It didn’t matter what party I tried to run in, my environmental stances would automatically position me against their mountains of super-pac dollars. I would have been like David, only minus the rock and slingshot.
One of my professors in college had once segued from the lesson plan to give us all some advice about choosing our paths in life. He drew a Venn diagram, and filled in each section with the labels: “What you enjoy”, “What you’re skilled in”, and “What the world needs”. He said the intersection of all those things was the best way to find your career in life. I sat down and drew up his Venn diagram, filling in the sections.
It became increasingly clear that building something in the private sector would give me more control and ownership- no one could “adjust” my aims at the 11th hour in a backroom the way bills get “adjusted” before they pass into law. Being a business owner would give me the power and influence I sought- to positively impact my community, my country, and the lives of those I would eventually employ- individuals who would make the success of my goals possible. Slowly, visions of having my own centers for Complimentary Medicine came into focus. They would be built to function at a carbon neutral or carbon negative level, with renewable energy. The technology existed, someone just had to put them all together in one place and show the world it could be done. I would hire at risk youth for the non-skilled labor positions, paying them a fair wage and giving them access to a world they might not have experienced before- one where people were kind, supportive, and encouraging. Details of my vision filled in, and I knew that this was ship I wanted to captain; I would be willing to build it too. I had enough knowledge to put this together, and the right connections to fill in the gaps. My endgame was clear, and I started to fill in the steps of getting there. I needed to become fiscally solvent myself before I could afford the free time necessary for writing grants or investing money into this project. I needed to build myself before I could build others. I was already working in private practice, teaching at a local University, and consulting at one of Milwaukee’s top hospitals, learning exponentially about career strategies, running a business, and the timeline of success.
Some of my clients had complex cases, requiring unique, outside-the-box-solutions. I was mixing up custom formulas for them, and being met with outstanding success. Life was making space and planting the seeds for me to start designing more products. A year later I found myself packing up my world and moving from the outskirts of Milwaukee to the outskirts of Boston, some 1100 miles away. Private practice, teaching, and hospital work all disappeared and were replaced with a mundane office job. I’d never had a job with benefits before; as valued as I was at the University and the hospital, I was only a contractor and my hours were always in flux. The stability and consistency of 1 job instead of 3 gave me the time I needed to reset my entrepreneurial goals. I knew a lot more now than I did when I first started my own business fresh out of college. I continued to sell my products and take clients from time to time, but for the most part, I started turning my custom creations into a product line. I spent the next 3-4 years testing recipes and crafting something I could not only be proud of, but that would provide value and delight the people who would use the products- products that were anything but conventional, and of course- zero waste. Vedic Botanicals was taking shape in the womb of my mind. I was laying the bricks for something real, something that could be the cornerstone of my endgame.
And the rest is history! Vedic Botanicals stepped out into the world, my products gained a following all their own, they began to grace the shelves of stores all over the country. And with every success Vedic scores, it gets me one step closer to creating the vision of centers that serve the community- in terms of wellness, employment, and education- something that creates lasting and impressionable, positive change in the world.
It’s a beautiful and blissful thing to me, and I am profoundly grateful for the support and success I’ve received. I’ll be even more so when I get to pay it forward.
With all humility and sincerity,