Founder's Story: Why I Started a Cricket Protein Company | Crik Nutrition

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Founder's Story: Why I Started A Cricket Protein Company

Founder's Story: Why I Started A Cricket Protein Company

Customer Question:

What was it that drove you to start Crik? Why cricket protein?

Short Answer:

After reading about all the benefits of crickets as food, it seemed like a no-brainer. I thought a protein powder would be the best option so I could start eating them. To my surprise no one was making it, so I did. 

 

This short video (3m 39s) goes a little deeper into why I started Crik, and why crickets.

 

For more of an in-depth explanation give the post a read or just listen to the audio.


Background

Life Was Better Than I Could Have Ever Dreamed.

New house with a movie room, walk-in closet, stainless steel appliances.
A Garage filled with all the toys and tools I dreamed about as a kid.

 

... Why then, did I still feel miserable?

At first I thought it was because I needed to slow down and enjoy life a little.

I had started working 43hrs/week in grade 10, on top of football practice, while still going to school.

Then after graduation there was a very short stint of University, followed by 6 months on the oil rigs, before landing a job as a sort of electrical technician on the railway.

Working on the Railway near McBride, B.C. '06

This really was a great job. Very technical work mixed with a good amount of physical labor, mostly outdoors, and the pay was fantastic.

Pretty much a dream job that paid me to travel all over Western Canada and work up to 100 hrs or more in a week, and I took full advantage.

 

This job allowed me to achieve the only goal I had in life at the time.

Buying a house.

My First House: Stony Mountain, MB '06/'07

... after picking up my dream bike of course.

R1 at a Track Day 

Ever since I was little I had this dream of buying houses and fixing them, so this was literally a dream come true. 

But before I even got started on this first house, someone in town made me an offer to buy it that I just couldn't refuse.

With the money made from the sale the profit went into a duplex. This way I could live in half of it with a roommate, rent the other half out and live basically mortgage free.

Eventually this led to buying a few more houses, fixing them up, selling a couple, and renting out the other. 

 

Time For a Change

After a few years with some bad renters, non-stop working out of town then being home for 4 days a month and having to work on the properties,  I decided it was time to move on and get out of that business. 

At the ripe age of 24  😂 ) I looked back and realized that I had been working my butt off almost every single day for 8 years, and felt like I deserved to "kick back" and "enjoy life".

(I was wrong)

All the properties were sold and I bought one nice, new place for myself and a filled the garage with my favorite motorized toys.

 

For a while I was having the time of my life.

It felt great. There was more free time in a week now than I was used to having in months.

But not before long I looked back again and realized, that outside of work, I hadn't done anything productive or useful at all. 

 

That's when I started to feel miserable.

Even at work things kind of peaked.

The "amazing" job started to feel very routine. There wasn't many new surprises or problems to solve, and I realized it was really only the money that was keeping me there. 

I needed a change but had no idea what else I could do. I had learned some great highly technical skills, but the certification we got was only for our highly specialized railway positions.

There was no degree or diploma that was recognized anywhere else.

 

I hired a career counselor.

The conclusion was that there were 3 main jobs I was suited for:

  1. Entrepreneur - This seemed impossible to me. Hadn't even considered it. One can't just decide to be an entrepreneur... right?
  2. Executive - Go back to school get an MBA. **shudders at the thought of school**
  3. FBI/CIA - I'm Canadian.

 

Entrepreneur Was the Best Option

I always looked at them like rockstars or professional athletes. But in the back of my head figured it was something that kind of chooses you, not the other way around.

I put them on a sort of pedestal. Something so cool, and so far out of reach that I had never even considered it.

The hardest thing now was changing my mindset around this. As soon as that finally sunk in, it was full steam ahead.

 

I read books, blogs, joined business groups and forums. 

After about a year of learning and making new connections I was accepted into one particular group where I met some amazing people and became really close with a few of the guys there.

One of them had been running e-Commerce businesses for 10 years and offered to mentor me.

This was the exact sort of opportunity I was looking for.

The only problem was that he lived in Europe.

I talked to a few people about the idea of just moving. Everyone I knew thought it was a crazy idea because there was no real plan, no credential, or guarantee of a successful business.  

In typical fashion, I did what I usually do when someone tells me an idea is crazy or impossible.

Set out to prove them wrong or right.

 

Moved to Barcelona

I sold/donated everything that didn't fit in a backpack and moved to a country I had never been, didn't speak the language, and only knew one person.

 

It didn't quite happen as over night as it may sound.

There was a lot of thought and planning that went into this.
It was probably one of, if not, the toughest decision I've ever made.

I was giving up a cushy job, 9 years of seniority, 4 weeks holidays, and that 6 Figure income. 

Note: It's definitely much better if you can keep your job and start something on the side, but I had some modest savings and despite my best efforts, hadn't met anyone locally that could teach me the ropes.

Here are a couple things I came across that helped me get into the mindset I needed to make this big change:

 

From my point of view this was the best opportunity I had come across

It had the added benefit of really putting the pressure on to take things seriously.

    Over the next 8 months I learned more than I could have imagined. It's amazing what you can learn by just being around people who have "been there and done it".

    Co-working spot in Barcelona

    On top of that it was an amazing experience wouldn't trade it for anything. 

    Something I should have done after high school instead of jumping into a serious career right away.

    I got a practical education while crossing off almost every single thing on my bucket list, and in the entire year only spent about $12 000 CAD on everything. Food, flights, housing, going out here and there, etc.

     

    Back Home

    After being gone about 8 months it was time to come home for a visit to see friends and family, do some paperwork, as well as take some time to really think about what kind of business I wanted to build.

    I had been soaking up as much as I could, and putting it to use by building a small drop shipping (definition here) site. This however was more of an exercise than something I wanted to do forever.

     

    The next business had to be environmentally friendly. 

    Something sustainable that would make a positive impact on the world.

    I found the more I educated myself the more I realized how important it is to be conscious about the environment.

    This probably happened because my whole life was spent optimizing and innovating everything so it would be better for me.

    But the more I learned, the more I started thinking beyond optimizing just for myself, and started considered how all my choices affected everyone and everything around me, such as the environment and animal welfare.

    Could I optimize for these things too?

    Could the next business be a better product for the people using it as well as be better for the environment at the same time?

    This would be an awesome way to make the biggest positive impact on the world.

    There were a few ideas I was researching but nothing stuck yet. 

     

    The Idea

    One morning I was sipping a coffee, just scrolling through Facebook when an article popped up titled, "Entrepreneur Invests into Cricket Protein Bars".

    I thought to myself, "That sounds dumb... Probably just some click-bait / spam article."

    But, with health and fitness being my main passion I had to read it... just in case there was something to it.

     

    Two paragraphs in, I was sold.

    How was everyone not already putting crickets in everything?!

    Not only are they on par or exceeding superfoods and animal proteins, nutrient wise, they were also more efficient, eco-friendly, and ethical.

    I had to give them a try.

    The only thing was I don't ever eat protein bars because there's usually a lot of sugar in them and not that much protein as a powder, so I hopped on Google to look for a cricket protein powder.

    (The lightbulb still hadn't gone off yet)

     

    Turned out no one was making it. 

    I spent the next couple hours searching and could only find an old, outdated site that said they made a bug protein powder and were launching soon. Except the launch date had long passed and there was nothing available.

    FINALLY, at that moment it hit me like a lightning bolt.

    I turned around, erased all the projects off my whiteboard and wrote "Cricket Protein Powder" across the top, and ordered up some ground cricket powder to experiment with.

     

    Research

    While waiting for the cricket powder to come in I made a list of all the health food and supplement stores in the city and a plan to drive around to go talk with them.

    The first stop I made was a store I had never been to before, but was the first on the route, and I had heard a lot of people talking about it.

    I took a look around the store, and it seemed like the perfect place.

    I tracked down the owners -two older ladies that looked like nice grandma's-  and I explained the idea, all the benefits, and asked if they'd ever be interested in carrying a cricket protein powder.

     

    They burst out laughing.

    Right in front of a bunch of other customers.

    😦 = Me

    They were almost in tears, telling me it was the dumbest idea they'd ever heard of and to get out of their store.

    I was pretty stunned and remember sitting in the car for a long time after.

    That was so embarrassing I really didn't want to go through it again.

    Just wanted go home and feel sorry for myself.

    Quit right there and save any more embarrassment, but I decided since I went to all the trouble of making a list and driving downtown, I'd try 4 more stores.

    Plus, It could have just been bad luck that I happened to visit a meanie on the first stop. If all the other stores thought it was dumb I'd go back to the drawing board.

    Turned out everyone else loved the idea. One guy said he even looked into doing it himself but couldn't take the risks of a new business right now.

    That was enough proof for me that this idea had legs.  🐛

     

    Experiment

    Once the cricket powder came in I starting mixing it up with different ingredients in the coffee grinder like cocoa, stevia, vanilla, and it actually turned out to be good!

    I honestly couldn't believe it.

    I thought for sure it would be terrible and taste like fish food or something, but it was actually good.

     

    Next was to contact the list of factories I dug up on Google and figure out how one goes about getting protein produced at a large scale.

    ... more laughing.

    I literally spent two weeks straight on the phone calling different brands and manufacturers, but there were always one of two responses:

    • "Crickets?! Hahahahaa!" *click* ... line goes dead.
    • "Whoa, those cost way too much, you'll never ever be able to make it work kid, good luck." *click*

     

    I was down to my 2nd last contact on long list.

    This specific company didn't want the headache of helping develop a brand new product with someone new to the industry, that would probably only make small annoying orders.

    HOWEVER, they knew another company down the road that was more progressive and gave me their info.

    These other guys we said they had started hearing more and more about crickets recently and were absolutely thrilled at the idea of helping make this a reality. 

     

    We began the R&D immediately. 

    It took almost 8 months.

    Way longer than it should have, but I'm stubborn and wanted it to be as close to perfect as possible... and paleo, and cricket as the only protein source, and affordable, and and and.... but this was unrealistic.

    To have it exactly as I wanted would have made a 30 serving tub cost about $150 USD.

    There had to be some compromise.

    To be strictly paleo and hit all the other targets I'd have to use whey or a beef isolate protein, but that went against the main point of sustainability.

    Ultimately I decided to go with the pea and brown rice protein in there which ended up being fine.

    Most paleo people - myself included - are paleo-ish and follow the Pretty Much Paleo Diet anyway.

     

    A surprising benefit to using the plant proteins.

    After testing dozens upon dozens of the cricket and plant based samples, I realized that for the past 10 years even though I'm not lactose intolerant the whey still didn't sit that well.

    Developing and Testing Different Formulas

    I'd always have one after a workout then go sit in the sauna slightly incapacitated from what I thought was just the hard workout.

    I hadn't realized for years - because I hadn't tried anything else - but the whey kinda bloated me.

    Not enough to feel terrible, but enough where I'd never even think about having a shake before a workout unless I wanted it to shoot out of my nose mid squat.

    With cricket protein could take a double (500ml / 17oz) serving minutes before going to Jiu Jitsu and go full-out for 2 hours straight.

    No burping, bloating, or feeling too full. (no farts either 💨 )

    It cut out the hunger but but left me feeling light.

     

    With that I felt things were ready, and it was time to move forward.

    All I had to do now was figure out how to convince strangers on the internet that ground up crickets actually taste good.

     

    tl;dr - Summary

    Crik happened because I was constantly pushing to improve every aspect of my life.

    • By deciding what I wanted my life to look like in 10 years, I knew I had to start an online business and deliberately develop those skills.
    • By trying to optimize my health and fitness with whole foods and functional routines, it led me to always keep and eye out for, and to try new things.
    • Always trying to improve led me to be more conscious of (optimize) the impact I was making on the world around me.
    • In learning more about where I could make the biggest improvements it turns out food is the #1 place North Americans have the most negative impact on the environment.
    • Heard about cricket protein bars and was convinced they were the future of food.
    • Wanted to try a powder cause the bars had lots of sugar, but no one was doing it.
    • Lightbulb went off that this was the perfect business for my lifestyle, interests, skills, and it can make a huge positive impact.

     

    Next Post

    In the next post I go over Why Crik Is the Way It Is.

    Everything from the name, logo, formula, to why we only accept USD and more.

     

    Thanks for reading, leave your comments or questions below.
    I read every single one of them.

     

    2 comments

    Nov 17, 2016 • Posted by Alex Drysdale

    Francesca, thank you so much for the great comment and for grabbing an order of protein. Can’t wait to hear what you think.

    Nov 16, 2016 • Posted by Francesca Bezaire

    Very impressive Alex. I am very excited for you in this venture. After seeing “Bugs on a Menu”, I was really looking forward to seeing if there was a Protein Powder made of this that I could try. Here you saw a little Advertisement and now this is your life. I am looking forward to getting my first order and trying it out. I have been talking to people about this documentary and they get grossed out about eating bugs. Not me, I grew up on a farm and obviously these people haven’t smelled a chicken coop or the inside of a barn or stepped in poop. Crickets live a much cleaner life. I do eat meat but if I can get my protein another way or add to what I am getting, all the better. I will keep in touch (my light bulb is going on too!).

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