SIUE Alumnae Reuinite for Business Venture

Starting an independent venture? In need of inspiration? Look no further than Hannah Lukowski and Ali Rauch, two alumnae of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville who recently celebrated the grand opening of the restaurant chain, Chicken Salad Chick, in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Lukowski and Rauch’s story does not begin at Chick Salad Chick though, it begins much earlier at Lake Land College. For reasons of affordability and access to jobs in the city, both decided to transfer to SIUE. The two met their freshman year–they were first neighbors, then friends, and later found themselves in classes together, eventually working on a senior project putting all the theory that they learned into practice. Following their graduation in 2008, both with degrees in Speech Communication, they explored very different pathways, but serendipity landed them on the same path once again…at Chicken Salad Chick.

“Hannah owns the restaurant and I lead the brand,” said Rauch. “I received a very good education at SIUE and I did not leave with mounds and mounds of debt when I graduated which provided me with a huge advantage.” Rauch has since taken her skillset to Chicken Salad Chick where she is the Director of Marketing, leading the marketing team on national and regional levels. “I was the first marketing person that they hired, and I had to help the company grow on their own. Every single task and responsibility that you get along the way is an opportunity to grow,” she said.

“The brand is really special and Ali’s entrepreneurial spirit has led us to being here,” Lukowski stated. “I learned so much outside of the traditional curriculum at SIUE because my classes were based on real world experiences which enabled me to end up where I am today,” she continued. After graduating, Lukowski’s first stepping stone was working in the avionics industry for around eight years and not long after meeting her husband, she began researching the possibility of owning a restaurant franchise. “I opened four restaurants in four years. I have a two-year old and I am currently expecting. What I want to women to know is that they can exist in both worlds and still lead a balanced life.”

The Alabama-base restaurant chain has 126 locations in the United States and Lukowski’s location in Edwardsville is the first in the state of Illinois. Rauch has been the Director of Marketing at the chain for seven years now, propelling it into being one of the fastest growing chains in the nation. “My suggestion to people is not to reinvent the wheel, but learn the wheel and make it run smoothly,” stated Rauch.  Lukowski plans to open the next Chicken Salad Chick in O’Fallon in 2020. “Ten locations in ten years is my long-term goal–you just have to jump, you have to believe in the brand,” Lukowski said.

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