Two Nebraska-Lincoln Brothers "Jump" at Business Opportunity

Sep 28, 2016 – Bugs... It's What's for Dinner - Coming Soon From Nebraska's Bugeater Foods!

For Nebraska-Lincoln brothers Kelly Sturek and Alec Wiese, being awarded an exclusive $100,000 USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture wasn't the first major accomplishment these business owners pulled off. Convincing people to give your product a chance when one of the major ingredients is... well, more than a little off-putting... can be a monumental task.

This mystery ingredient? Crickets. Yes, Brothers Sturek and Wiese are the founders of a company called Bugeater Foods, along with co-founder Julianne Kopf. Their grant will be used in the development of insect rice and pasta products. For the uninitiated, way back before they were the Cornhuskers, Nebraska teams were called the “Bugeaters," thus the tie to alma mater!

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CEO Sturek is the first to admit their journey hasn't always been a smooth one. "Alec was actually the first person to tell me this [type of business] wouldn't work here, but also the first to come on board when he knew I was serious," he says. Sturek says the stats speak for themselves. "Crickets use 98 percent less water, 96 percent less feed and 90 percent less land for the same one gram of protein than a cow. They're also very clean. When raised for human consumption, crickets are actually cleaner than chickens. They even taste really good if you know what you're doing!" Alec admits conquering preconceived notions about bugs as food is the most challenging part of his job. "Changing people's minds about eating insects... it's always going to be our biggest hurdle. After someone tries our product it's obvious how great they are, but getting over the initial mental leap of eating bugs is still too much for some people!" Instead of getting discouraged, these brothers are excited for the future. In five years, they plan to sell internationally, with multiple product lines and flavors. They also plan to produce aid-relief products that can also have applications in the military, government and hopefully even space. Wiese says, "we want to be the future of food."

Brothers Sturek, an entrepreneurship major, and Wiese, economics, credit the Fraternity for preparing them to take on the business world, especially as owners of a fast-growing company. "Delta Sigma Pi showed me there is a lot more to business than what is in the classroom. It's meeting people, working in small groups and finding your niche. Going to conferences and events showed me you get a better sense of what people do and what business is about when you talk to people. Business is after all 80 percent who you know, 20 percent what you know," says Sturek. According to Wiese, "classes taught us business concepts, Deltasig taught us how to interact with people, either professionally or casually. It greatly increased my interpersonal skills and is where I met and bonded with some of my closest friends."

And they can credit their company for keeping their adventurous culinary spirit alive. Not afraid to try unique foods, Wiese says eel is likely the strangest thing he's eaten. "I was apprehensive the first time, but now it's one of my favorite things to order when eating sushi." And for Brother Sturek? "Ostrich and alligator... and I love to get eel any chance I get. One thing I am looking forward to eating is a tempura style tarantula from the bug chef."

Ready to follow in their footsteps, while also supporting fellow brothers? Your culinary adventure awaits at Δ

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Alec Wiese and Kelly Sturek, both Nebraska-Lincoln, were recently awarded an exclusive $100,000 USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to further the development of insect rice and pasta products.

By: Stacy Heyderhoff, Cincinnati Alumni

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