After snagging second place at their school's startup pitch competition, Hallie and Jaye are confident that their edible bug business is the food of the future. Now their ultimate goal is to get Chirps chips--tortilla chips made with cricket powder--on every grocery store shelf. First, they get to move on to the county pitch competition to try and win tickets to New York City to compete in the next round. But there are a few bumps along the way, with their cricket supply shrinking, no kitchen to cook in, and trouble brewing between the two teammates. Can they clinch first place, or will their business go bust before it really begins?
Based on the true story of a sustainable protein start-up company, this illustrated novel is a reimagining for a middle-grade reader. Chirps founders Rose Wang and Laura D'Asaro met as freshmen at Harvard University and cooked up the concept of selling chips made with cricket flour to help Americans feel more comfortable eating bugs. Together, Rose and Laura appeared on the TV show Shark Tank to pitch their idea and landed a deal with Mark Cuban. Chirps chips are now sold in stores across the nation.
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About the Author
Laura D'Asaro and Rose Wang are the co-founders of Chirps, one of the first companies to make food with cricket protein. Both are Shark Tank winners, Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs, ELLE USA Impact Award winners, Echoing Green fellows, MassChallenge Gold Winners, and Harvard Dean's Design Challenge winners. In addition, Rose is a TEDx speaker, and Laura holds multiple world records, including the record for the world's largest nachos (yes, it was made with cricket chips). They also sit on the board of an education nonprofit, Wema Inc., in Kenya. Laura and Rose were college roommates at Harvard, and now both live in San Francisco, California.
Vanessa Flores began drawing at the age of three, inspired by animated movies and books. Summers in Puerto Rico fueled her love for mountains and magic. She loves illustrating humor, magical realism, and representing her Dominican and Puerto Rican culture through the art of storytelling. Vanessa currently lives in Orlando, Florida, where she enjoys trying new food and meditating in botanical gardens. www.vanessafloresart.com.
Read an Excerpt
Here’s the secret to building a business: Be like the spiders. Not just any spiders—-the spiders of the South American rainforest.
The spider is a solitary creature. It spins its own web. Captures its own food. Eats solo. Check out any spider in your yard or corner of a ceiling. A loner, right?
But not the Anelosimus eximius. Yesterday in science class, we watched a video about them. These spiders aren’t like other spiders. They’re “social spiders.” They live together in massive colonies. Fifty thousand spiders crawling together! Think of all those legs! These social spiders figured out that if they spin a gigantic web together, they catch more prey than going it alone. Heavy rain—-which happens constantly since, hello, it’s the rainforest—-can majorly wreck a web. But the spiders learned it’s way easier to repair the damage with thousands of legs instead of just eight.
I wish we’d known about the rainforest spiders before everything happened.
You see, Jaye and I were a team. We had each other. We had a plan.
But, it turns out, what we really needed was a whole mess of spiders.
A much bigger web.
And an enormous platter of nachos.
“I love the chip aisle.” I grabbed Hallie’s hand and pulled her with me. We giggled, tripping and skidding around a mother pushing her chubby toddler in a shopping cart.
“I do, too,” Hallie agreed. “Obviously.”
“No, even before we started this, the chip aisle was my place.” My eyes scanned the colorful, shiny bags standing at attention on the shelves. “If Nai Nai’s in a good mood, she lets me pick a bag. Choosing is serious business.”
I glanced over my shoulder and spotted my grandmother in her olive--green quilted coat. She was waiting in line at the seafood counter. Nai Nai always insisted our fish be weighed at least twice to make sure the scale was correct, so I had plenty of time.
Hallie smacked her lips loudly. The mother with the cart stopped and looked our way.
“What’re you doing?” I whispered. Hallie wasn’t like me. She didn’t care if people stared at her. In fact, I think she kind of liked it.
“I’m seeing what kind of chip mood I’m in.” Hallie made more loud smacking sounds. “It’s like a taste test, but without the food. You pretend you’re eating.” She stood on her tiptoes, reaching for the kettle corn. “I’m thinking sweet.”
“Spicy and hot for me. Always.” I pointed to an orange bag on a bottom shelf.
“Check out the wacky flavors.” Hallie’s long chestnut hair bounced as she spread her arms wide. “I mean, dill pickle tortilla chips? Really? We can make up such better flavors. What about cheddar caramel potato chips?”
“Or pineapple chili chips?” I suggested.
“Cheesy tomato?” Hallie offered. “Garlic butter banana?”
“How about hot--and--sour soup chips?”
Hallie and I tossed ideas back and forth at lightning speed. We were good at doing that.
“Icy cucumber lime.”
“Honey vanilla peanut butter.”
“Red--fire cinnamon spice!”
Suddenly I got worried. “Hold up. Are our chips okay? Should we be adding more flavors?”
“No way. Our recipe rocks,” Hallie told me. “Besides, Mr. T said to keep it simple while we build the company.”
Mr. T is Mr. Thompson, our teacher for Business Education and Entrepreneurship. That’s the sixth--grade elective class we both chose at Brookdale Middle School. Our class project last month was to create our own startup business. Mr. Thompson picked our partners. He paired me with Hallie Amberose.
I’m not going to lie. I was not happy.
Hallie wasn’t one of the popular kids. Not even a tiny bit. And I was.
Well, I was friends with Spencer Montan and Erica Sanchez, which is kind of the same thing.
Then Hallie volunteered to eat a cricket on our class field trip to the zoo. After that, Spencer and Erica called her “Bug Girl.” But Hallie didn’t care. In fact, she decided our startup company should sell chips made from edible bugs. Crushed crickets, actually.
Making bug chips with Bug Girl? I was doubly not happy.
But that was back in September. It’s November now, and a lot has changed.
Hallie and I have become friends. She’s way nicer and more fun than Erica and Spencer. And I’m really trying not to care (as much) about being popular. But part of me still cares (a little).
And I think our cricket chips are PURE GENIUS.
I’m all about edible bugs now.
“Ta--da!” Hallie unzipped her purple backpack and pulled out a plastic baggie. The red--and--white homemade label on the front read:
The world’s first cricket chip
Pushing aside the bags of pretzels, she placed it in the center of the middle shelf.
We stepped back to admire it. This was the dream. Our cricket chips on store shelves around the world!
“Chirps belongs right there,” Hallie said confidently.
“I don’t know.” I couldn’t keep the doubt from my voice. “It’s a long way from my kitchen to Wegmans. I mean, let’s get real. Hot Cheetos aren’t made in a house in upstate New York by two twelve--year--olds.”
“We’re just starting out, Jaye. You’ve got to bee--lieve.” Hallie dragged out the word believe.
“I believe in our chips.” They’re made with cricket powder, so they’re super healthy for people and the planet. Everyone who’s tried them agrees they taste better—-and a bit nuttier—-than regular chips. “But it took us almost six weeks to get the recipe right. And we only came in second in the school pitch competition—-”
“Second is good,” Hallie cut in.
“We didn’t win,” I pointed out.
“So what? The top two teams still move on to the county pitch competition. We get another chance to win.” Hallie grinned. Her smile had a way of overtaking her entire face.
I wrapped a long strand of my black hair around my finger. I stared at our little baggie on the shelf, dwarfed by the big, well--known brands. “We have no money, Hals. How can we possibly turn our chips into a snack sensation with no money?”
“We can make money. Maybe I can walk dogs. There are lots of dogs in my neighborhood. And you can babysit—-”
“I hate babysitting,” I reminded her. Watching my seven--year--old brother, Eddie, was bad enough.
“Okay, fine. I know, we’ll collect our old toys and have a yard sale. We can sell our baby stuff, too. Like blankets and rattles.” Hallie never ran out of ideas.
I twisted my hair tighter. “I don’t really have any.”
I’d moved here from China when I was in kindergarten. My baby stuff had been left behind. Or given away, I guess. And Eddie still played with most of my old toys. I didn’t have anything to sell to make the kind of money we needed.
Hallie planted her hands on her hips. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll find a way.”
“Yes! This is too important. Our chips are filled with protein, and eating crickets instead of a hamburgers helps with climate change, because cows use so much water and grass and . . .” Hallie was throwing out the facts I already knew. “We have to do this. You and me. I promise you, Jaye. Someday our chips will be on every supermarket shelf in the nation!”
I grinned. “Not the nation. The world! Come on, Hals, you’ve got to bee--lieve!”
Hallie raised her two pointer fingers to her head and wiggled them like antennae.
I did the same. This was our special never--give--up cricket signal.
“Hey, want to try some chips?” Hallie called to a bearded guy in a baseball cap who was reaching for pretzels. She pointed to our tiny bag. “They’re going to be the next big thing.”
“Bigger than big!” I cried.
“Huge!” Hallie added. “Ginormous!”
The bearded guy shot us a confused look.
Hallie didn’t care. She grabbed both of my hands. Together we spun in a circle right in the middle of the snack aisle. Neither of us could stop laughing.
Excitement tingled from my fingers to my toes. This wasn’t just a school project anymore. Or even a corner lemonade stand. We were going to build a real business. I’d never been at the center of something so important.
And Hallie made me believe.