A startup fish store from Louisiana specializing in Asian carp is the winner of the first regional entrepreneurial pitch competition at Murray State University.
Gov. Steve Beshear is sponsoring 8 regional competitions aimed at getting start-ups a shot at venture capital from an angel investors network.
“As a state, we need to support these visionaries and provide them with the tools to turn their vision into reality, including the financial means to get started,” Beshear said.
The competitions are sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship in the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, along with the Kentucky Angels Network and the Kentucky Innovation Network.
MSU was chosen as one of eight sites across the state.
Of the four competitors, the top two winners received cash prizes and the opportunity to present their plans to the entire Kentucky Investors Network in Frankfort.
Judges awarded first place and the $1,000 prize to Fin Gourmet Store, which hopes to take advantage of Kentucky’s largely untapped Asian Carp population.
Dr. Lula Luu, formerly a nutritionist at Louisiana State University, made the winning pitch.
She says the carp hosts a bounty of nutritional benefits not found in other fish, but Americans have yet to overcome the health misconceptions about the invasive species from China.
“I know there’s a lot of geopolitics happening with this fish right now but with the way we look at it, it’s an economic opportunity, it can create jobs and give people meaning, because it's a skill," said Luu. "Part of our vision is to not only make this a signature Kentucky product line, but also make it kind of like ‘Anything a salmon can do, a carp can do better.’”
Luu also says keeping the business local makes it a more reliable economic driver.
“The current fishing practices are just not sustainable," said Luu. "I mean, look at what’s happening in New England. The cod industry is literally at a standstill. They cannot fish for cod. The cods that we eat now are coming from Iceland.
"And we’re sort of in a movement of food right now where we want to know where it’s coming from, that’s its local and it's helping somebody. We’re really wanting to bring that back, and this is the perfect place to do that because there's a craftsmanship culture of how to make things here. I think some of that essence has been lost elsewhere. ”
Luu says Fin Gourmet, co-opted by her business partner Dr. John Crilly, hopes to open its first Kentucky venue on Paducah’s Bridge Street by the end of the year.
The second place $500 prize went to Paducah-based Personal Medicine Plus, developers of an app for health insurance providers to help customers monitor their health stats.