Emily Rudnick, an eighth grader at Greenwood Village’s Aspen Academy, isn’t your typical 14-year-old. For starters, she’s well on her way to owning her own company.

Rudnick has enjoyed cooking since she was five years old, starting with simple dishes like eggs and mac and cheese, and later, upping the ante with steak and grilled veggies. As she grew older, Rudnick developed a taste for spice; Mexican is her favorite cuisine. But she had trouble finding a seasoning blend to add flavor and heat to her cooking, so she took matters into her own hands.

Her first spice blend experiment, made in her mom’s blender, engulfed the kitchen in fumes; the family had to evacuate and air out the house for the day. Rudnick kept experimenting, though, and eventually customized Rudspice, a blend of several chiles (New Mexico mild red, bhut jolokia (ghost peppers), aji amarillo, adobo, and Aleppo) and other spices that she describes as having “a bold flavor with a slow kick.” For Rudnick, popcorn, spaghetti, and pizza just aren’t the same without it. She initially gave bottles away as gifts to family and friends, and these days, she keeps a bottle in her pocket whenever she dines out.

Last January, as part of Aspen Academy’s leadership class, Rudnick was asked to create a business plan to compete in the school’s version of “Shark Tank.” She knew right away that Rudspice would be her focus. She decided to consult with the experts: Mike and Janet Johnston, the founders of Savory Spice Shop, where Rudnick purchases all of her ingredients. Not only did the Johnstons help Rudnick refine her business plan, they were so impressed with her that they decided to form a partnership.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign, which met its goal of $1,500 in less than a week. The young entrepreneur plans to use the funds to fulfill pre-orders for Kickstarter supporters, stock product to sell on her website, and flesh out her marketing plan. Savory Spice will bottle Rudnick’s product as a part of the partnership.

From April 11–18, Rudnick and fellow Aspen Academy students will present their products and business plans in hopes of becoming the school’s “Shark Tank” winner. In the meantime, Rudnick will continue working on her fledgling business. In mid-March, she held her first Rudspice demonstration at Savory Spice’s Denver and Littleton locations, during which she shared her story and her spice blend, served on popcorn; both locations have since sold out of the spice mix. “My goal is to see it [Rudspice] next to salt and pepper in restaurants,” Rudnick says, “and see chefs feature it in their dishes.”

Editor’s Note: Emily Rudnick took first place in Aspen Academy’s Shark Tank competition. Her reward? A $500 check for Rudspice.