More and more of us are asking the question, “how can I get more protein in my diet?” Well, Pat Crowley, founder of Chapul, has the answer. Over the past few years, his company has worked to create a grassroots movement to introduce insects into the food chain, something that has been done outside the West for thousands of years. He was featured on Shark Tank over a year ago for his innovative protein bars. I caught up with Pat and talked to him about the business.
BRIAN OLESEN: What is your elevator pitch for your venture?
PAT CROWLEY: We’re introducing insects into western cuisine as a healthy and sustainable protein. Insects are eaten in various countries around the world, many Native Americans used to eat them and they are one of the most efficient forms of protein available. Our products are helping to remove the cultural barrier to eating insects while addressing serious resource issues with our planet.
BRIAN OLESEN: What excites you the most about it?
PAT CROWLEY: I like challenging perceptions and breaking down barriers. Being so radical in our product means we don’t have to play by any conventional rules as we challenge antiquated infrastructure. For example, we went to a large tradeshow recently with over 70,000 people in attendance. Unfortunately these shows generate a tremendous amount of waste, specifically all the packaging during the setup process. We were able to use scrap pallets and cardboard discarded from other vendor booths and had a team of artists create our own booth from these materials. We had a great response from attendees who appreciated the innovation.
BRIAN OLESEN: What are you really nailing?
PAT CROWLEY: I think we’re having success spreading an idea at the core mission of Chapul. There’s been a couple of pivotal moments such as Shark Tank that have propelled our success forward. We also won the 2014 NEXTY Editor’s Choice Award for Food and Beverage. This generated a ton of interest at the industry level and validated our idea. Now there are over two dozen products that have come to market with insects in their food. There are now 3 insect farms for human consumption that didn’t exist before we started. I didn’t necessarily have a strong desire to be an entrepreneur, I just saw this as the greatest vehicle for impact to our food supply. There needed to be a consumer product available in order to generate enough pull-through demand for a more sustainable food.
BRIAN OLESEN: What is impeding your success the most?
PAT CROWLEY: There are time and energy limitations both for me and my team and I need to balance both. My mind is constantly racing with opportunities and I need to be aware of the work/life balance of everyone involved while remaining focused.
BRIAN OLESEN: What would you do differently next time?
PAT CROWLEY: We got started with volunteer help and I think I didn’t fully understand the desire of people to get behind a movement like this without feeling that I was asking individual favors of people. I was very careful to limit others’ involvement because I didn’t want to exploit anyone. In the end, they were doing it because of the relationship with the cause and wanted to help out of a desire to make the world a better place.