Student winners named in Engler entrepreneurship contests

Competition winners
Competition winners (from left) are: Lauren Mosser, Brenna Backemeyer, Hannah Esch, Dominic Nguyen and Connor Jolley. Not pictured is Shelby Kittle. (Photo courtesy of Emily Frenzen)

December 17, 2018

Lincoln, Neb. — University of Nebraska-Lincoln student entrepreneurs took their proposed businesses a step further through two competitions hosted by the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program this fall.

Thirty students competed in the Engler Open, a Quick Pitch business competition for undergraduate students, to win one of three $1,000 awards toward their college programs. Students gave a three-minute pitch on a business idea and answered two minutes of questions from a three-judge panel of Engler alumni.

The winners were:

  • Shelby Kittle, an agricultural education major from Ord with her Shel-Bee's Honey expansion into specialty comb honey for high-end restaurants;
  • Lauren Mosser, a management major from Lincoln, with her independent living facility for special needs adults called The Covered Rose; and
  • Connor Jolley, from Omaha, a management major in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, with his business YoCity, a rewards app software for increasing downtown engagement.

The second contest, the Engler First Ascent or traction competition, focused on the progress of students starting their own companies. In the contest application process, students were asked to answer questions like, "What actions have you taken to solve this problem?", "What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far in this process?", and "What do you still need to accomplish to launch a business from this idea?"

The competition consisted of a 10-minute conversation with three business/legal professionals about the problem they were solving, customers they had interviewed, products they had created, and funding they had secured, as well as other aspects demonstrating their work toward starting their business. Competition judges were Aaron Rerucha of OxBows Rustic Furniture, Tullen Mabbutt of UBT Catalyst, and Echo Bell of CFO on the Go – Bell Solutions.

Prize money was given to support and encourage students to start or continue to operate their businesses. The two winners selected from the eight entrants were:

  • Hannah Esch, an animal science major from Unadilla, who won the grand prize of $5,000 for her business Oak Barn Beef.
  • Dominic Nguyen, an economics major from Omaha, who won the second prize of $3,000 for his business Yumaroo.

Mabbutt also awarded Brenna Backemeyer, a business, marketing and information technology major from Elmwood, $500 to continue to develop her business called My Pop-Up Shoppe.


Michelle Bassford
Chief Experience Officer
Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
402-472-9274
mbassford7@unl.edu