Shark Tank Winner, Nickey Ramsey's Inspiring Journey from Poverty to Prosperity

At first glance, Purdue University alumna and breakout entrepreneur Nickey Ramsey comes across as a woman who has been thriving her whole life. Confident yet humble, classy and personable, anyone meeting Nickey for the first time would never know the battles she endured and the struggles she overcame in the past.


Nickey’s tale is one of an ambitious woman born into poverty who–through hard work, resourcefulness and faith in God–overcame her circumstances and went on to become a successful inventor and entrepreneur.

Born into Struggle

Nickey was one of three daughters born to an impoverished family in Greenville, Mississippi.


“We grew up in a very low socioeconomic environment,” Nickey explains. “My dad was a drug addict and an alcoholic and worked as a sharecropper. My mom worked at a gas station. We really had it rough. But when you have it rough like that as a kid, you don’t even realize how bad it is because you haven’t experienced enough to know what a ‘normal’ family dynamic is supposed to be like.”


Nickey’s parents divorced while she was young. As she grew older, she began to notice how her circumstances differed from other families.


“There would be times when the gas bill wasn’t paid, so I would be huddled around a little electric space heater in the dead of winter. There were times when we didn’t have basic necessities like toilet paper in the house, so we would have to ask relatives for help. Sometimes we would go over to a relative’s house just to stay warm for the night,” Nickey recalls.


Looking back, Nickey notes that a lack of resources is only half the struggle faced by children growing up in poverty.


“Poverty is something that impacts your mental health,” Nickey explains. “In order to be successful, people who come from situations like mine have to unlearn the self-limiting beliefs that poverty instills.” She would soon discover that she would have to advocate for herself to break out of her family’s cycle of generational poverty.


When it comes to mental fortitude, Nickey’s upbringing did include one advantage: a strong and grounding faith. “I grew up knowing God,” she says. “There was a church bus that came through our neighborhood on Sundays and picked us up. I owe all the foundations of my faith to the people on that church bus. They gave me the bridge.”


Looking back now, Nickey can see the many bridges that people helped her build to get to where she is now. However, before crossing the next bridge on her journey out of poverty, Nickey would face her greatest trial yet.

Homeless in the Hoosier State

When she was a teenager, Nickey, her mother and her sisters moved from rural Mississippi to Evansville, Indiana to live with her aunt and uncle. Although Nickey’s mother had made the move with hopes of better circumstances for the family, their new environment was hardly better than the last.


“In Evansville, I was exposed to all kinds of illegal activity,” Nickey explains. “Some of my cousins were already involved with drugs and crime. Sometimes you’d have a crack-addict knocking on the door at 2 a.m. We were in the middle of the projects–the ghetto.”


After a year in Indiana, Nickey’s mother was ready to return to her home state. Now in high school, Nickey was faced with a choice: move back with her mom and sisters to Mississippi or stay behind at another uncle’s house in Indiana.


Despite the harsh conditions in Evansville, Nickey didn’t want to leave. “I felt like there was no future waiting for me back in Mississippi,” she says. “Back where I grew up, it seemed like every teenage girl was getting pregnant or dropping out of school to work a dead-end job. I chose to stay in Indiana so I could focus on finishing high school, getting into college and making a better life for myself.”


Nickey’s mother accepted the arrangement and let her stay behind. Unfortunately, there are no safe bets in the unstable conditions brought on by poverty. Nickey’s fate soon took a turn for the worse when it came to her plans to finish high school in good standing.


“One morning, my uncle’s girlfriend woke me up in a panic, saying he had threatened to shoot her. I went with her downstairs, where he reached under a pillow cushion and pulled his gun on her. I was so scared, I was ready to run right out the door—I knew he had a history of violence,” Nickey explained he had been convicted of murder and incarcerated in the past.


Luckily, the situation didn’t escalate from there. Nickey did, however, leave feeling traumatized and later vented about the confrontation to her cousin. Word that Nickey had spoken of the encounter soon got back around to her uncle, who kicked her out of the house in retribution. Now homeless and separated from the rest of her family, Nickey was left to fend for herself.

Hope on the Horizon

Ever-resourceful, Nickey found ways to hide her homelessness as she continued attending high school.


“I was embarrassed to be homeless,” she admits. “And when you’re a teenager, it’s really hard to reach out for help when you’re embarrassed. So, initially, I didn’t tell anyone.”


Then, one day–as she lay on the cold, unfurnished floor of the abandoned apartment unit she was using for shelter–Nickey turned to her faith for the strength she needed to reach out. “I was just like, ‘Okay, God, I really need you right now–and the Holy Spirit in my heart told me to go to my school counselor and talk to her about it.”


Nickey’s school counselor sprung into action, calling on her connections at every homeless shelter in the district. The counselor put Nickey into contact with a shelter where she’d be able to stay while she finished her last year of high school.


“It’s crazy, because this is how God works,” Nickey explains, shaking her head in disbelief. “The shelter only had one opening, and it was already promised to someone who was about to get out of prison.” Rather than give up and turn angry or resentful, Nickey held onto her trust that God was leading her down the right path. With the last bit of gas that her school counselor had bought her, Nickey drove her dilapidated car to the shelter, hoping for a miracle. “It turned out the other person never showed up for their slot, which meant I was able to stay there for a year and finish high school.”


After graduating, Nickey attended a local community college before transferring to Purdue. As a college student, Nickey finally experienced a taste of life without poverty’s many pressures. Of course, college students face pressures of their own, like the rigors of coursework coupled with the challenge of making friends in a new setting. Here, Nickey found support from Purdue’s Horizons program.


“The Horizons program is for first-generation college students,” Nickey explains. “They provide you with the support you need to be successful in the higher learning environment.” Nickey feels the program was pivotal for her transition into college. “Going into it, I had very poor self-esteem,” Nickey recalls. “Growing up, I never knew if I would even have the chance to go to college, let alone be successful at it, you know? But I always knew it was my ticket to a better life.”


“So, once I was there, I worked really hard. And with the help of my support network at Purdue, I learned the habits you need to get good grades: how to study for tests, how to retain what you read from your textbooks and things like that. Skills that kids who grow up in ‘normal’ households probably take for granted.”


Nickey’s hard work paid off. She excelled in her studies, going on to earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and securing a job as a traveling speech therapist. At last, Nickey’s journey out of generational poverty had come to an end. And yet, her story was only beginning.

Out of the Mouths of Babies

Now married and breastfeeding her second child, Nickey’s travel-heavy job had already given her headaches when it came to managing her milk supply. To make matters worse, her second child had been born with a lip and tongue tie that made it difficult for him to latch while nursing. This meant that Nickey had to pump and store her breastmilk after every feeding–and that meant using copious amounts of breastmilk storage bags.


Nickey found herself going through countless disposable plastic bags, never satisfied with the durability they offered, the waste they created or the potentially toxic compounds that might be lurking inside their materials. That dissatisfaction led to the birth of an ingenious new idea.


One pivotal night, while rocking her newborn to sleep, a thought about breastmilk storage popped into Nickey’s head: What if a reusable, non-plastic breastmilk bag was available to use instead?


But when Nickey searched the marketplace for the reusable silicone milk bag she desired, she was shocked to discover no such option existed. Sensing other mothers were also in need of this innovative milk storage option she’d envisioned, Nickey set out to create the product herself.


“My mindset at the time wasn’t to build a business; it was to help all the breastfeeding mothers who might need this alternative,” Nickey explains. “I thought, if there’s just one other woman out there wishing this existed, it’s worth pursuing this idea.”
Nickey reached out to a friend with a background in engineering to help her bring the idea to life. What began with her sketch on a sheet of notebook paper, promptly turned into a blueprint for a prototype.


Nickey then started to research how to get a prototype manufactured. She tried one company and laughed as she explained how horrible it turned out. But she wasn’t going to give up that easily. Using her savvy social media skills, she started doing research and sending DMs (direct messages) to other companies that also sold products for children, trying to find information on their manufacturers.


Nickey believes that in our current society, there are no longer gate-keepers to these kinds of opportunities. Social media enables anyone willing to learn with endless resources and possibilities of connection, you just have to dive into it.


Nickey was surprised when a business owner was willing to share the manufacturer they used to make children’s plates, which she discovered in their boutique in Lafayette, IN. She then reached out to the manufacturer and after a lot of trial and error, they were miraculously able to produce the exact prototype she had envisioned. With all the pieces falling so neatly together, Nickey’s idea quickly turned into obsession.


Nickey gushes about the support network that enabled her to get to this step in the process including her husband, friends and mentors. Even her kids, Journey and Noble, make the list as they inspired the name of her soon to be rapidly growing business: Junobie. “My husband, who’s always so supportive, thought I was crazy,” Nickey laughs. “He said, ‘You just spent all this money on grad school and now you’re gonna go make milk bags?’ He thought I was having some sort of early midlife crisis,” she joked, “but he could tell how important it was to me and has always had my back.”

The Junobie Silicone Milk Box is the perfect solution for safely storing your breast milk.
Easily label bags with Junobie's dry erase markers.

Ready for Prime Time

One thing led to another, and soon Nickey was the head of her very own reusable milk bag startup, Junobie. Utilizing her social media skills once more, Nickey promoted her new silicone milk bags online. Before long, one simple idea had taken off into a full-fledged business. Now, Nickey was faced with the kind of problem businesses want to have: the market’s demand exceeded her supply chain’s bandwidth, and investors were needed to help take the company to the next level.


Nickey had already completed a circuit of investment pitch competitions in Indianapolis–and even secured grant money from Cook Medical that covered her product patent’s attorney fees. Leaning into that experience, Nickey was able to secure a spot on NBC’s Shark Tank. It was her big shot at pitching her products to the star CEOs she knew could make or break her business.

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk

With lots of pacing around her Los Angeles hotel room, it was a sleepless night of nerves and jet lag before Nickey’s big TV pitch.


“I remember rehearsing my pitch into the wee hours of the morning,” Nickey recalls. “I told myself, ‘There’s no way I’m messing this up.’ My pitch had to be flawless.”


On set, Nickey anxiously waited for her turn to meet the sharks. The process of shooting the show can be grueling, with many contestants’ pitches being filmed in one day and discussions between judges on the panel going on much longer than the show’s final cut suggests. All the while, Nickey could hear the other contestants’ muffled pitches through the studio wall.


At last, it was her turn. Now, Nickey’s tension reached new heights as one of the studio’s producers saw Nickey preparing her products for the pitch and very seriously asked, “you’re not going to spill that milk all over my set, are you?”


“I knew right then and there that I was gonna spill the milk,” Nickey laughed. Sure enough, the presentation was a messy affair for Shark Tank’s podium. But otherwise, the pitch went as smoothly as Nickey had intended. The show’s judges were impressed with her product, life story and natural business sense, and British celebrity businesswoman, Emma Grede, offered Nickey the round of funding she was after.

Nickey giving her pitch on NBC's Shark Tank in February 2022.

A New World for Working Mothers

Her victory on Shark Tank marked the beginning of what Nickey calls “a movement entailing a bold paradigm shift for society at large.”


“Right now, we’re trying to make changes on the corporate side of things. We want to help companies design lactation spaces for their workers. We also want to consult with businesses about supporting the parents on their staff with proper milk storage equipment and resources. We’re seeing lots of companies being sued because they don’t understand the rights that breastfeeding mothers have in the workplace, and we want to help them prevent that from happening while also helping working mothers breastfeed and pump more easily.”


Breastfeeding is hard and moms need all the support they can get. Nickey finds that most mothers want to breastfeed but just don’t have the support: working mothers especially. Junobie strives to provide an abundance of innovative and safe breastfeeding products, infant feeding tools and to also be an encouraging and uplifting resource for breastfeeding moms.


With an abundance of knowledge on breastfeeding and the will to make things happen, nobody is better equipped to change the breastfeeding business world for the better than Nickey Ramsey. The Junobie website features not only their innovative products, but a blog with dozens of articles to help mothers on their journey of feeding their babies, which is really what this is all about.

For more information about Nickey Ramsey’s products and articles to help new mothers, visit

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