chapul-hero

Chapul finds Shark Tank success with BigCommerce

Environmentally conscious entrepreneur turns crickets into profits

300% 10k% $50k
year-over-year sales spike in traffic when episode aired investment from Mark Cuban
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An Appetite for Change

How crickets and ecommerce are saving the environment

Pat Crowley’s true passion is water. A lifelong environmentalist with a degree in hydrology, he began his career fighting for resource conservation in the agricultural industry, which uses 92% of the world’s fresh water. But after years of frustratingly slow progress on the regulatory side, Crowley realized that to drive big change he needed to think small.

“I learned about eating insects on a podcast driving home from work,” he said. In addition to being high in nutrients and low in fat, crickets are an incredibly efficient source of protein, requiring just a tenth of the resources needed to produce beef or pork. “I wanted to create an agricultural industry for insects, but it didn’t make sense until there was a consumer demand. Creating that product and selling it online was my answer to creating the demand.”

So Crowley and his team spent six months developing a gourmet energy bar made from tasteless cricket flour mixed with natural ingredients like dates, nuts, ginger and chocolate. In June 2012 they launched a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to get Chapul bars into production. They ended up raising over $16,000 from hundreds of backers in just 19 days.

“We thought we were five to 10 years too early for this — it was more about spreading the idea than making money,” said Crowley. “But we realized we’re actually right at the pinnacle of people being open to this.”



I wanted to create an agricultural industry for insects, but it didn't make sense until there was a consumer demand. Creating that product and selling it online was my answer to creating the demand.Pat Crowley, Founder & CEO

Going Big with BigCommerce

The right platform empowered Chapul to educate and sell directly to consumers

Chapul launched their store in June of 2012 to coincide with their Kickstarter campaign. From their first to their second year, online sales grew by over 300% and show no signs of slowing down. For Crowley, picking BigCommerce was an easy choice. “We liked the balance between user-friendly functionality and completely DIY capabilities. With all the apps and add-ons, we basically chose BigCommerce as a platform that we could launch our store on and stay with as we continue to grow as a company.”

Chapul currently uses several integrated apps, including MailChimp for email marketing and ShipStation for logistics. They leverage many of the native BigCommerce features as well, giving high marks to SEO functionality and built-in blogging.

Crowley’s advice to entrepreneurs building a new online store? “Don't spend a lot of money on your design in the beginning. It is easy enough to get it ‘good enough’ with all of the user-friendly templates.”

“We were able to set up our webstore on BigCommerce ourselves, with basically zero web design experience,” he added. “As we have been growing, we hired a design firm to tailor our page to facilitate our branding. The great thing is that BigCommerce is structured to facilitate both options.”

BigCommerce was our very first ecommerce platform — we've been with BigCommerce since the beginning, just like one big happy family.Pat Crowley,Founder & CEO


We were able to set up our webstore on BigCommerce ourselves, with basically zero web design experiencePat Crowley,Founder & CEO
We liked the balance between user-friendly functionality and completely DIY capabilities. With all the apps and add-ons, we basically chose BigCommerce as a platform that we could launch our store on and stay with as we continue to grow as a company.Pat Crowley,Founder & CEO

Building Buzz with Shark Tank

Chapul hooked a Shark while experiencing a huge spike in traffic and orders

Appearing on Shark Tank was a major milestone for Chapul — their national television debut was also their first pitch to an outside investor. “You can only grow at a certain rate when you’re bootstrapping and turning your revenue from one production run to the next,” Crowley said. “But time is imperative, we are impacting our future more and more every day.”




Chapul’s Kickstarter campaign was primarily focused on the environmental mission, but Crowley knew he’d have to take a different approach with the Sharks. “You have to know your audience and what incentivizes them,” he said. “To investors it’s all a matter of selling the product, and the more bars we sell, the more demand we create for insects. It is all interconnected.”

Crowley came into the Tank asking for $50,000 for a 5% stake. Robert Herjavec made the first offer, but Mark Cuban ultimately closed the deal at $50,000 for 10% of the company. He was especially interested in Crowley’s cricket flour, recognizing an opportunity to leverage the proprietary ingredient to fuel a sustainable food revolution.

Given the audience response, it looks like Cuban picked a winner. When their episode aired, Chapul experienced a 10,000% spike in traffic and received a slew of positive tweets. “BigCommerce reps were great in making sure that our site would be able to handle the traffic.”


BigCommerce reps were great in making sure that our site would be able to handle the traffic.Pat Crowley,Founder & CEO


We look forward to continue pioneering a new food source and acting as a model for bringing about change through entrepreneurship. Pat Crowley,Founder & CEO

What’s Next for Chapul

The future-focused company is scaling quickly and inspiring change

300% 10k% $50k
year-over-year sales spike in traffic when episode aired investment from Mark Cuban


Cuban has taken an active role in promoting Chapul. In August, the bars debuted at Central Market alongside three other products Cuban invested in via the show. The Shark even made an appearance at the Dallas location, put on a Chapul apron and served up samples to shoppers.




“He’s dedicated more time than we would’ve expected,” acknowledged Crowley. “He and his staff have been tremendously helpful, and we would not be experiencing the growth that we are without them.”

Crowley has continued to do public outreach for water conservation as well, including talks on eating insects at TEDx in Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, a fitting homage to the speech that inspired him to start Chapul. “It’s been a rollercoaster of exhaustion and excitement,” he said. “We’ve been growing faster than we expected and look forward to really scaling this. We’ve done a lot of work paving the foundation and infrastructure of this industry, and we’re ready to capitalize on that work right now.”

Chapul is currently carried by stores in 29 states and five countries, and thanks to online sales the bars have been enjoyed on all seven continents. They also continue to take a collaborative approach to the edible insect revolution, helping interested farmers and other startups enter the market.


Enabling consumers to make healthier and eco-conscious purchases is a great feeling.Pat Crowley,Founder & CEO

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