At age 21, full-time UAA student Chelsey Homan is already an entrepreneur and sole owner of a successful business, Doggy Decadents, baking gourmet dog treats.
Excited to graduate this December with a double major in business management and marketing, Chelsey can’t believe how much she’s accomplished in such a short amount of time. In the summer of 2006, Chelsey was awarded a scholarship from the ATHENA Society to attend Camp Start-Up, a business opportunity for young women teaching them entrepreneurial skills. This scholarship is a program of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.
“I was inspired to open my own business after attending Camp Start-Up. I always had the desire to own my own business. Maybe it’s because both my parents are business owners too. You could say running businesses runs in the family,” Chelsey says.
Aside from her business endeavors, Chelsey belongs to multiple community organizations including the Sleeping Lady Lions Club, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the ATHENA Society Camp Start-Up Committee, among others. She credits Camp Start-Up, for giving her the tools and confidence needed to start her own business.
Chelsey got the idea for baked dog treats after working at a local pet store where she sold standard dog treats. Soon she brainstormed ways to start her own small doggie treat business. With the help and support of her family, Chelsey developed and managed her business while still attending school. She experimented with different dog treat recipes in her parent’s kitchen to create her own product line.
She used her own dogs as official tasters and fine-tuned her recipes. To keep her treats fresh on the store shelves, she dehydrates them before packaging. In 2007, Doggy Decadents opened for business offering a unique product for Alaska’s dog lovers.
“Over the years, I developed a good client base while keeping up with school,” Chelsey said.
Though her business was thriving, she pursued her education. “If something happens to my business, I will at least have my degree to fall back on,” she said.
Born and raised in Alaska, Chelsey said choosing UAA was an easy decision. “I knew UAA caters to students with busy schedules. UAA allows me to operate my business and go to class, making it easier to be successful in both,” she said. “Still, successfully balancing both is a lot of work.”
Studying business management and marketing was also an easy choice for Chelsey. She quickly realized the real-world application of her studies. “My marketing class taught by Jeri Rubin prepared me how to pitch a sale. We would write mock scripts and practice with other classmates. Now when I go on sales calls I use the techniques I learned and practiced in class,” she said.
In 2008, the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Journal of Commerce announced the 2009 “Top Forty Under 40.” This program recognizes the state’s top professionals younger than age 40. Recipients are recognized for demonstrated professional excellence and a commitment to their community.
In fall 2009, Chelsey and her teammate placed first in a worldwide business simulation competition. She and her teammate competed against more than 500 colleges and universities to see who could run the most profitable and productive business. To earn the top position in the Cumulative Profit and Stock Prices categories, Chelsey’s team beat 788 other teams in the U.S. and from across the globe.
If that isn’t enough, in spring 2009, Chelsey participated in UAA’s Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.
Chelsey is currently finishing her last class before she graduates, and said it is her favorite class yet. “My entrepreneurship class requires us to develop and create a final business plan. I work with four others students. Funny enough, our business plan is for developing the future goals of Doggy Decadents,” Chelsey said.
Although she is looking to keep her business relatively small, Chelsey has already started brainstorming future ideas. “Eventually I would like to operate a central manufacturing location capable of producing enough products to distribute nationally to specialty pet store and gift shops all over,” she said.
Though Chelsey is the only employee of Doggie Decadents, she acknowledges all the help she’s received. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for support I get from friends and family and without the understanding and encouragement from my business professors. I know that it would’ve been difficult to manage both a developing business and all my classes without the strong support system I have.”
Chelsey’s determination to self-start her own business makes it obvious why this young entrepreneur has been so successful in the UAA community and Alaska.