Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “The biggest thing is to support sustainable products”
With Anne Carlson, Founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, LLC
The biggest thing is to support sustainable products. How you spend your dollar is how you vote for a better planet. In order for us to survive, we need consumers to buy sustainable products. So spread the word, ask your local store to carry sustainable goods, and of course, put your money where your mouth is!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Carlson, Founder and CEO of Jiminy’s, LLC, the creator of sustainable cricket protein dog treats designed to nourish our pets and promote long-term stewardship of the earth. Anne brings sustainable choices to the pet food industry — something that is sorely needed and almost completely lacking. With Jiminy’s use of cricket protein in treats — the most sustainable protein alternative on earth — Anne hopes to significantly reduce our pets’ carbon ‘pawprint’ and slow climate change.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I used to work for one of the big pet food companies. The company was acquired by an even bigger company, so I decided to part ways and stay in California.
Jiminy’s began when I was approached to lead a grass-fed beef dog treats company. While I loved the idea of a sustainable treats for dogs, I knew that traditional animal protein, especially beef, was not the answer.
Through research, I learned that the United Nations had issued a report showing that insect protein could be the answer to world hunger. That was my ‘aha’ moment. Learning more, I focused on cricket protein and found that it is not only a sustainable and humane protein source, but the nutritional profile is amazing as well. Truly a superfood!
The answer to the next question — do dogs like it? — was crucial. This is where my two babies got involved. Derby and Tuco gave it 8 paws up! Pet parents can feel great about giving their dogs these treats. It’s all upside and you can’t say that often enough. It’s good for the earth, low calorie and hypoallergenic. Dogs love it. I’ve said this before, but it’s literally and figuratively, wagging tails all around!
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
We are a delicious, nutritious, sustainable, and humane cricket protein dog treat brand targeting a primary cause of climate change — producing animal protein to make pet food. Most people don’t realize that in the US alone, we have more than 89 million dogs who consume over 32 billion pounds of protein per year. Most of this protein comes from traditional animal agriculture sources (cows/chickens), which is arguably the biggest contributor to climate change. My idea is that we replace the traditional protein source with cricket protein, which uses exponentially less of our precious resources (land, water) and emits far fewer greenhouse gases.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is taking to tackle climate change? Can you give an example for each?
While we generally knew that our dog treats were environmentally superior to traditional protein alternatives, we wanted to quantify just how much better we really were. To do that, we partnered with Carbon Credit Capital in New York to measure the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our products’ ingredients and ingredient procurement. This is also known as a “cradle-to-manufacture” life cycle assessment.
Our initial hypotheses were confirmed. Not only does Jiminy’s provide more nutrition per gram of treat, and consume substantially less water, but they also emit an average of 7.4 times less greenhouse gases than beef protein treats, and 2.3 times less greenhouse gases than chicken protein treats.
As we move forward, we plan to measure greenhouse gas emissions, water savings, and number of dogs impacted.
What was the most difficult thing you faced when you first started your company/organization? Can you share how you overcame that. This might give insight to founders who face a similar situation.
I needed that first investor so that we could make our first batch of the treats! This is the scary part. You are asking people (generally friends and acquaintances) to believe in you and your idea AND give you money based on an idea. I fully believe in our concept and mission, but I had to find the right way to explain it to others. We are lucky, the potential for making a difference in pet is enormous AND that helped us land our first investor fairly quickly!
Many people want to start a company to tackle environmental issues, but they face challenges when it comes to raising enough money to actually make it happen. Can you share how were you able to raise the funding necessary to start your organization? Do you have any advice?
We have managed to build quickly by embracing an asset-light model. We utilize co-packers, shared warehouse and office space, as well as shared human resources. We launched our first products in the second half of 2017. We found key advisors that helped us move quickly yet get it right with a small core team.
If I had to give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, I would tell them to think about what they know well and what they don’t know. Find advisors who can step in and help in those areas that you don’t know well, rather than trying to figure it all out on your own.
Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.
I believe that we need a multipronged approach to tackle climate change. It is a huge issue and as such needs many people working towards solutions. Everything helps. Governing bodies can push for change with regulations, carbon taxes, etc. Private organizations can create point solutions that provide better options (that’s what we’re doing at Jiminy’s). Even consumers can make an impact by supporting products that are sustainable (Jiminy’s!), and by making lifestyle changes (eat less meat, ditch the plastic water bottle, ride a bike to work, etc.).
What are some practical things that both people and governments can do to help you address the climate change and global warming problem?
The biggest thing is to support sustainable products. How you spend your dollar is how you vote for a better planet. In order for us to survive, we need consumers to buy our products. So spread the word, ask your local store to carry sustainable goods, and of course, put your money where your mouth is!
Government can help in 2 ways. Number 1 — tax carbon at the source. That will bring the costs of carbon intensive products more in line with products and practices that produce less carbon emissions. Number 2 — use those carbon tax funds to develop technologies that will remove carbon from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there’s almost no time left and a scattergun approach on climate change is now necessary. This means money will probably be spent on unsuccessful ideas along the way, but we’ve hemmed ourselves in at this point and can’t afford the time it’d take to explore one solution at a time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband, Eric Carlson, has joined me full time at Jiminy’s. His support and assistance have really made this possible.
Eric recently went to Idaho to meet with the staff at ZamZows (they are a 15-store chain with over 80 people working in their stores). He was going there to train the staff on the Jiminy’s products — why we created the products, what the benefits are, etc. As he was getting ready for the meeting he turned to me and said, “I feel like a frog who jumped into a pot of water and then you slowly turned up the heat.” He’s kind of right, I first asked him to proofread a press release. Then I had him brainstorm design ideas with me. Then he was building displays and delivering local orders. Now, he’s our Director of Business Development.
You need someone who can step in and help with all the crazy stuff that happens — Eric is that person for me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
This is going to be hard — can’t say this enough.
This is going to consume your life. My husband and I talk way too much about crickets.
You are going to be constantly raising money. You can make it easier on yourself if you spend less money. From the beginning, rather than advertising, I’ve personally focused on Instagram and Facebook to raise awareness. For an entrepreneur, social media can be a tremendous resource.
It is never going to go exactly the way you plan. And this is in good ways and bad ways. The key is to keep moving forward and savor the happy surprises. We just found out that some dogs may have a Taurine deficiency due to diet. Guess what? Crickets naturally have Taurine!
You better be passionate about your purpose because that is what will keep you going. There was a woman at this year’s SuperZoo — it’s a huge trade show — and she was put off by the idea of crickets as dog treats. Thought the idea was icky. Within 10 minutes, she ate a piece of one of our biscuits. All it took was a look at the treat and information on why we use cricket protein. Credit to her too that she kept an open mind. If I wasn’t passionate about my purpose, that moment never happens. It still makes me happy.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the world, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m going to use that first line next time I meet with investors! Our world is changing. We can fight — we have to fight climate change by making better choices big and small. I’m personally dedicated to identifying those things I can do that, in aggregate, will make a difference.
Personally, I think the best place to start is by rethinking what and how your family eats. It can make such a huge difference with relatively painless changes. When thinking about the family, don’t forget the pets! Reducing the amount of traditional animal protein (cow / chicken) is an excellent place to start and can make a surprisingly huge impact.
Giant reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the recent, comprehensive analysis of the food system’s impact on the environment. In rich nations (like the US and UK), people need to cut beef by 90% and milk by 60% while increasing foods like beans and pulses between four and six times. If you haven’t tried any of the recent meat and milk substitutes, then you’re in for a treat. The tastes and textures are fantastic and constantly improving. It bodes well for the near future.
Making changes like this can seem daunting, but you can ease your way in. Pick a couple of days a week to start and gradually expand.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!