I interned at Big Cricket Farms
My Summer Experience
I interned at Big Cricket Farms
In the fall of 2014, I had just returned from studying abroad in Nantes, France. During my international experience I found a multitude of American companies struggling to do business with other countries. I returned to the United States determined to focus my studies towards aiding American businesses in the international market.
I begin by declaring a minor in international business and meeting with the program advisor. The advisor recommended I reach out to the Ohio Export Internship Program (EIP) hosted at The Ohio State University. Luckily the EIP director is an alumnus of Bowling Green State University, and she speedily returned my email.
I was encouraged to apply for the program, and I readily filled out the application. After several rounds of pre-interviews and a final interview onsite at OSU, I was accepted to the EIP class of 2015. For the entirety of the spring semester I spent my Fridays commuting to and from OSU in Columbus. I and my EIP cohort were given the unique opportunity to learn the process of international exportation from experts working in the field. Professionals from the fields of shipping, international law, international sales managers, and former EIP participants etc. came in to present their own experiences.
After presenting in the class many experts agreed to become advisors for the exporting process—advisors available to EIP students at any point in the summer for consultation, questions or advice. The program centered on preparing students for an internship with a small to medium sized Ohio company. The focus of the internship was to boost the company’s involvement in the field of international exports, thereby boosting Ohio’s involvement in international exports, growing the Ohio economy, and providing new job opportunities.
I was paired with Big Cricket Farms, the first urban cricket farm in North America, located in the re-emerging city of Youngstown, Ohio. Big Cricket Farms raises, processes and produces frozen gourmet crickets for human consumption. Yes, you read that correctly, people eat crickets and Big Cricket Farms is strategically placed to develop the ever-expanding U.S. market. I began my journey into the world of emerging markets unsure of what my experience would hold.
My time at Big Cricket Farms has shaped not only my career path but my perspective as well. As my internship progressed I completed many different projects. To keep the article short I will list the range of projects I completed and then expand on the project that lead to the most personal development. During my internship at Big Cricket Farms I was able to:
- Apply for and receive a patent through Case Western Reserve University’s Pro Bono Patent Program
- Develop a system to track customer sales requests and input all back logged requests into the new system
- Create an interactive sales map to gauge where the customer demand falls in the domestic and international markets
- Develop and streamline the frozen shipping process with dry ice to ensure customers receive their product on time and still frozen
- Cultivate the farm’s relationship with an international distributor in Canada, who is willing to put together orders for the Canadian gourmet market
- Prepare all the necessary steps (from shipping estimate to bill of landing to finding and packing the pallet) to send out Big Cricket Farm’s first palletized shipment to a major U.S. food producer
- Vet references for a potential new hire, developed questions to pose and thanked the respondents for their time, as well as sit in on the new hire’s interview
- Apply for, prepare information and attend the Midwest Buyers Conference
These are just some of the projects I completed during my internship. The project I am most proud of ties into the Midwest Buyers conference.
In preparation for the conference I prepared a breakdown of every international buyer. The breakdown included a summary of the buyer’s country of origin, the needs of the buyers and area’s to emphasize while making the sale. As part of the preparation for the conference I asked if Big Cricket Farms would be interested in bringing a value added product to provide samples. The samples would allow the potential clients the opportunity to taste the crickets and see how the wholesale ingredient could be used in a product.
I was given the green light to develop a product as long as the project did not require additional funds on behalf of Big Cricket Farms. After emailing several potential partners, I came across a Michigan start up called ERG!. ERG! is a family owned natural energy bar producer located in Traverse City, Mich. The owner responded with great enthusiasm and was excited to develop a bar featuring Big Cricket Farms’ crickets. After discussing the intentions behind the product development, and setting a project timeline ERG! got to work creating what have come to be known as Bug Bites.
These small bars are a combination of natural fruits, apples and cherries, granola, hot peppers for a spicy kick and of course crickets. In order to separate the Bug Bites from the many cricket protein bars on the market, we decided to use ground crickets instead of cricket powder. So pieces of crickets can be seen in the bar itself. Not only have ERG! and I partnered together to create the first valued added product for Big Cricket Farms, but we also managed to create a delicious energy bar that further diversifies the bars on the market. An accomplishment I never thought I could count as my own.
Since the development of the bars for the showcase, Big Cricket Farms has continued to use the bars for product sampling purposes. In the next month, you will find Bug Bites at the Madison Museum of Natural History and the Taste of Huron local food competition. The partnership developed during my internship remains strong with potential to grow for both companies.
Working with EIP through Bowling Green State University has directly impacted my future career by providing me with an experience that directly impacted the Ohio economy. I am proud to say I was offered a part time position with Big Cricket Farms developing their sales accounts as I finish my undergraduate degree. In addition to the part time position, I was offered a contract that allows for renegotiation upon my graduation in May for a full time position. Not only are Bowling Green State University and EIP working to provide students with meaningful internship experiences, the University and program are working to provide jobs that continue to grow the Ohio economy.
 In taste tests with crickets Big Cricket Farms has found that in about 2/3 of the cases people prefer to see the insects they are eating and those who see the insects and enjoy eating them are more likely to keep eating and trying insects.