Crickets in Cookies? Montana Entrepreneurs Bring New Ideas to the Table in Missoula Competition
Next week, 29 entrepreneurs will gather in Missoula to compete for over $50,000 in prizes at the annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge. One of the challengers this year is Cowboy Cricket Farm LLC, a small business out of Belgrade, Montana. Owner Kathy Rolin will be pitching the business, which grows crickets and sells them for human consumption in the form of cookies and a ground powder.
"If I put a whole cricket in front of somebody they are not going to be inclined to eat it, but if it is ground into that powder people don't see it, even though they are told, they don't see it and they don't get that ick factor the majority of time," said Rolin. "The chocolate chip cookies and the powder has been our main focus. We do plan on in the future doing whole roasted crickets with fun flavors targeted to kids."
Rolin says business is booming, since they began in January and that their cookie inventory gets eaten up quickly. There are difficulties in the cricket farming world though, like finding a place to rent.
"We started in January with 20,000 as our initial population and we are up over 250,000 crickets right now," Rolin said. "It was a bit of a tough sell to try to get somebody to lease us knowing that we purposely wanted to grow insects in the building. We had to see a lot of buildings and it took us a year of research."
There’s a Griz/Cat rivalry behind the business competition this year. Kathy and her husband are MSU students, who recently came in second at the Small Business Development Center's Shark Tank completion. They were edged out by a University of Montana team that presented a software called TOMIS, designed to help tour operators. Kathy says now “It’s our turn to win.”