CCPA Summer Series 2017: Joseph Leroux ‘18 at Chirps Chips in San Francisco, CA

CCPA Summer Series 2017:  Joseph Leroux ‘18 at Chirps Chips in San Francisco, CA

First, have you ever eaten a bug? If not, order some Chocolate Chirps Cookie mix (the regular version is better than gluten free)—they will change your life.

My name is Joey and I believe no internship exists in a vacuum. I spent my CCPA-funded summer in San Francisco working for a startup that makes food with insects! My Pitch to Chirps Chips in February was that my interest in the edible insect industry is rooted in my values, and Haverford would pay me to work for them if they’d have me. When I sent in my cover letter explaining how I’d started fasting because I care about my impact on the environment, and that I was planning to start a cricket farm at Haverford, I got a call from Rose Wang (the CEO) right away.

I was excited to work for Chirps because if you Google food made with crickets, you’ll find that Chirps Chips is one of only four or five companies playing in the sandbox that is the US market. The three women who founded Chirps met at Harvard and turned down high-paying jobs with stable companies to bring insects mainstream. Now, three years later, Mark Cuban is helping them (via email) make their dreams come true.

Since I was pitching a self-designed internship, I wanted to try an unconventional structure (which I stole from my previous boss/mentor, Andy Pleatman ’66). I tried to use the first two weeks of my internship to find the ways I wanted to spend my time at Chirps. Basically, I poked around on our Amazon site, and cleaned things up, which turned into a surprisingly large project. I also thought they needed a KPI dashboard—a project I was adamant to complete, but ended up scrapping because I was wrong and it turned out to be useless right now. 🙁

After I had settled in and learned about their priorities for the summer, Rose and I worked on getting feedback from customers and stores. The food distribution industry is super opaque, so gathering this data is difficult and expensive. Side note—this gives Amazon a huge edge in the food business.

I loved how manageable it was to get to know San Francisco. The city is small, so it feels like a home base, and it’s part of the sprawling bay area, which offers beaches, forests, garlic festivals, and Tesla. I loved working for Chirps because of the amount of responsibility that Laura and Rose gave me. As an intern, I struggle with seeing myself as part of a team, when in reality I will only be around for 10 weeks. I usually don’t believe that I could make a big impact on the organization, and that’s important to me. I felt I was able to make an impact on Chirps, and I would love to go back.

Thank you so much to the CCPA and the Whitehead Internship Program for making this possible, and thank you to Haverford and Swarthmore for nurturing my interest in edible insects.


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