In 80 percent of the world’s nations, people eats insects as a regular part of their diet and culture. However, in the United States we’ve been slow to adopt this practice, even though, according to Kathleen Rolin, co-owner of Cowboy Cricket Farms, it is essential to supporting the world’s growing population. Kathleen Rolin first became interested in insect-eating at Montana State University’s annual “bug buffet.” Rolin, who was studying nutrition at the time, saw how excited people were to try insects and how it influenced them to think more deeply about what they eat. She decided she wanted to be a part of the movement to popularize entomophagy (the eating of insects) in the United States.
When Kathleen told her husband James that she wanted to start a cricket farm, he immediately said no. But as he did his own research, looking for reasons not to start the farm, he became convinced that it was a good idea.
Kathleen and James started by requesting letters of intent from companies that use crickets in their products – in short order, they received more letters than they needed, requesting more crickets than they could produce. Kathleen says, “The company has grown into more than just a farm. We came out with some consumer products, began developing technology to make cricket farming easier, and we started the first network of cricket farmers.”
After just a year in business, Cowboy Cricket Farms had received over $100,000 in grants and awards, helping them to far exceed their first-year financial goals. In 2018, they were named finalists in the American Small Business Championship. In 2018, they opened an IPO set at $750,000, after getting a small business exemption from Montana’s state auditor.
James met with SCORE mentor Rick Sanders, who helped them with their business plan and encouraged them to apply for grants. The couple, who had always thought that grants were out of their reach, received every grant that they applied for.
Sanders also gave the Rolins ideas for getting press, which has led to outlets like The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Great Falls Tribune, the Montana Standard, NBC Montana, and other outlets covering the farm.
Kathleen says, “Rick taught us to value our time. We used to give free tours for the public, but Rick explained how time is money and suggested we start charging a small fee for the tours. It has proven to be a great source of revenue. We now do more than just public tours; we do educational tours to school groups and even lectures at the university.”