UNL entrepreneur makes a dog’s life even tastier

Ashley, an Engler Scholar at UNL, is an entrepreneur.

Ashley Nunnenkamp has a fire in her belly.

The UNL agribusiness senior from Sutton, Neb., already has created her own business, Pupkins Bakery, which makes gourmet treats for dogs. She hopes to put those healthy treats in the belly of every dog in the country and contribute to the economic health of her hometown someday.

Ashley is a student in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program was founded in 2010 with a gift from the Paul F. and Virginia J. Engler Foundation. The program provides scholarships, networking opportunities and other support to risk-taking students like Ashley who one day might bring their skills and great ideas back to rural Nebraska.

“Entrepreneurship is a huge player in bringing kids back to Nebraska,” she says. “They can return home with that entrepreneurial drive and start a business and employ people, and that can help the entire area economically.”

Ashley makes the treats out of all-natural pumpkin puree from her family’s pumpkin farm. She uses the puree from damaged or mislabeled cans.

She did her research. She talked to veterinarians. She learned that pumpkin is really good for dogs. She added peanut butter, because she learned dogs love peanut butter. She frosts the treats with dried yogurt and molds them into bones and other fun shapes. She sells them individually and in gift baskets.

In December, Ashley’s business plan for Pupkins Bakery took first place at the 13th annual UNL Venture Plan Competition. (Fellow Engler scholar Chase Holoubek of David City finished second with his plan for Aerial Ag Solutions, a plan to use drone airplanes to take infrared photos of crops to study crop health.)

In March, her business plan finished second out of 24 entries in the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship’s 25th annual Innovation Competition in Lincoln, one of the longest running contests of its type in the world. Some comments from the judges’ scoring sheets:

Great business with great potential.

It’s a business that fits in a niche market which has a great future.

You have the talent and the pumpkin experience to be a success.

Love it. Love the idea.

Two judges even bought the dog treats.

Pupkins Bakery is actually Ashley’s second business. She started a flower production business when she was just 13.

“My fire in my belly came from my family, I guess,” she says. “My dad started a hog production business when he was a young FFA member and he raised hogs for 25 years. My mom started a retail business in Geneva, Neb., and she’s owned that for about 10 years. My oldest brother started a pumpkin production business when he was 13.

“I think it’s a family thing. We like to do our own thing, find our passion and go for it.”

Student support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you’d like to help UNL ag students like Ashley, too, please consider giving online or contact the foundation’s Ann Bruntz at 800-432-3216.

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