It’s time to announce our first Catalyst Centre winner of 2014!

Keen readers will be waiting with baited breath to find out about the 2014 winners of the Catalyst Centre. Well, it’s time to put you out of your misery. We’re thrilled to announce that the first winner is…..

The Bug Shack!

This start-up is completely different from anything we’ve ever seen before. The company’s name may give you a bit of a clue as to the nature of the business, but we couldn’t wait for Dr Jenny Josephs to tell us more.

What’s The Bug Shack all about?

I came up with the idea for The Bug Shack in order to combat environmental, welfare and nutrition issues in the current rearing of meat products. Across the globe there’s a huge movement gearing towards eating insects as a nutritional, tasty and environmentally friendly alternative to meat and I believe there’s a great business opportunity there! Insects contain all of the protein, amino acids, iron and calcium needed in a healthy diet and they come with the added bonus of being very low in fat. My aim is to produce tasty and nutritious meat alternatives for people who want to try something a bit different. We plan to start online and hopefully reach a wider audience in the future.

What stage is your business at right now?

My main efforts to date have been around market research – trying out different products and seeing how consumers react to them. It’s been really helpful to see what people think and what kind of insect products they might be interested in trying. I have thought of a good solution to cut costs and so I can now start to think seriously about manufacturing some prototype products – snack bars, for example. 

I’m working a lot on creating an image and brand for the company and plan to develop this on a research trip I will be taking to Thailand in the near future where I will also create videos and articles to help promote the business. Of course I’m also networking as much as I can.

Why did you decide to apply to the Catalyst Centre?

I first heard about the Catalyst Centre from Rob Wood at the University of Southampton. I thought it sounded like a perfect opportunity for me because although I’m really ambitious, I’m also aware that there are a lot of business skills that I still need to learn and know I would benefit from having someone who can mentor me. I think it’s important to surround myself with people who have more entrepreneurial experience than me – their advice will help me to solve problems a lot more efficiently than if I had no-one to talk to. Having the interest and support of a mentor is also a great way to stay confident and enthusiastic!

How did your pitch go? What did you learn from the judges on the day?

I was quite confident about my pitch before the day as I had lots of practice giving talks and pitches in the weeks beforehand. Despite that, as soon as I arrived at the Catalyst Centre, I realised my financials were a bit lacking! I had recently changed my business idea and so I was a bit hazy about exactly what my product was going to be, how much it would cost and how much I might be able to make!

Even so, I felt that my pitch went well and I really enjoyed it! The judges seemed very attentive and enthusiastic: one even said he was ‘excited’, so that obviously made me excited too! Some of the judges had new ideas for networking and celebrity endorsements. They made me feel that I would be in capable hands if I were to be selected as a winner.

I love it when people are interested in my idea; I find it quite inspiring to talk to others who are enthusiastic. Whenever I talk to people about my business plans they always have something interesting to add that I hadn’t thought of.

What are you hoping to achieve during your time at the Catalyst Centre?

I am hoping to manage a few anxieties about the future of my project like: How do I calculate realistic financials? How do I hire staff? How do I get my products packaged? There are a lot of things I want to work on but I hope to feel a lot more confident about tackling these by the time I graduate. I hope to have a product that I can sell and a brand that I can promote.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I would like to have a small range of insect snacks that can be sold online and I hope to be stocking these in organic food stores as well. I would like to have a presence at both music and science festivals as I think these would be great places to reach out to the public and let them try some insect products for the first time or as loyal customers. Another big ambition is to be breeding my own insects, so I hope to be collaborating with other entrepreneurs or large organisations to produce several tonnes of insects a week. This could then be scaled up in coming years.

Well, we did tell you it was a bit different! The judges were really intrigued by Jenny’s business idea. Some even had a taste of the half pork, half mealworm sausage rolls she brought along to her pitch and said they were delicious! We can’t wait for The Bug Shack to come into the Catalyst Centre programme in September and find out what happens next…

Don’t forget! If you’d like to join Jenny in the Catalyst Centre this September, you still have time to apply, so make sure you complete your application now!