Student Spotlight: Victoria Turbyfill

Spending the next four years researching in a laboratory was not in Victoria Turbyfill’s plan. She was looking for a more direct route to launch her career.

She found it in the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship Program (The Thomas S. Johnson Program) and the Gator Hatchery, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center’s student incubator. Turbyfill and her fellow Hatchery mates will have their ventures on display Friday during the Gator Hatchery Fall Showcase (noon to 2pm in Heavener Hall 140).

Learn more about Victoria, her venture, and how the MSE Program has enhanced her entrepreneurial mindset.

Name: Victoria Turbyfill

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida

Degree Program: Master’s of Science in Entrepreneurship (The Thomas S. Johnson Program

Why did you decide to pursue the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship (MSE) at Warrington?

I decided to pursue the MSE Program to broaden my mind and skills. I received my degree in Plant Genetics from UF in 2015, and intended to pursue a doctoral degree. However, I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and my mind is always wandering with new ideas. I am also a very “action-oriented” person, and did not see myself researching in a laboratory for four more years. I took the plunge and decided to pursue a degree completely different than my background in hopes of following my passions to somehow change the world.

How has your time in the MSE Program impacted you thus far?

It’s been fantastic. The program has gone beyond my expectations. I am constantly exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking. There are so many opportunities to network and make connections through the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. Compared to traditional science, this program has nothing to do with memorization and instead focuses on critical thinking. I really like that. I have also thoroughly enjoyed being around like-minded people.  Entrepreneurship is certainly a way of thinking, and by being around other people that think similarly you are encouraged to think big and take risks. You will never succeed if you don’t try.

Victoria and her foster dog, Pumpkin.

Victoria and her foster dog, Pumpkin.

Tell us about your venture.

I am working on creating dog food that uses alternative, sustainable protein–crickets. These protein-packed insects are incredibly efficient to grow and harvest. For example, crickets only use 1/10 of the water and 1/6 of the feed consumed by traditional protein sources, such as cows. Additionally, they contain all of the amino acids, b-vitamins, and other key nutrients humans and dogs need. This clean protein source will be the way of the future.  My company is named SUSTAIN because not only do we focus on producing an environmentally sustainable product, but we are also working towards creating a nutritious, grain-free food to sustain a healthy life for pets.

The world of insect farming is booming and the trend of entomophagy (insect eating) is on the rise. The number of North American insect farms has doubled since 2010 and a cricket-based protein bar, Chapul, was recently funded on Shark Tank. I hope to produce a quality product and provide people with a sustainable, ethical alternative to the current dog food they are purchasing.

Why was the Gator Hatchery the ideal place to grow your venture?

As an MSE student, we are often in direct contact with other students who are in the Gator Hatchery. After speaking to some friends who had ventures in the Hatchery, I decided it was the right move for me to apply. The Gator Hatchery provides students with phenomenal resources and an amazing network of people. It forces you to buckle down and work on your venture because there are certain deadlines and objectives we have to meet. I am a very self-motivated person, but being in an incubator has only helped propel me forward in creating my venture.

What’s a typical day like in the Hatchery?

I’m not sure if I can characterize a typical day because all of the days are so different. The Gator Hatchery is like the hub of action, and I can always count on Nola Miyasaki, the Executive Director of the Hatchery, to help me with all of my questions. Starting a venture is all-encompassing, and having the resources at the Gator Hatchery brings stability and guidance to this crazy ride!

What’s your biggest challenge in bringing your venture to market?

Production. I am currently making my product in my home kitchen, and eventually I will need to scale up. Right now, I am focusing on producing dog treats and will eventually be selling them to local pet stores as a “proof of concept.” I think another issue of bringing my product to market is acceptance. I am fully aware that this product is niche and will not appeal to everyone who buys dog food. My goal is to pursue the customer segments that hold values in line with my company’s mission: Sustainability and the humane treatment of animals.

What are you hoping to get out of the Gator Hatchery Fall Showcase?

I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to pitch my idea. Pitching is difficult because you have a short time window and must capture people’s attention right away. Every time I pitch SUSTAIN, I get a little better. I am also excited to hear about everyone’s progress and all of the neat ideas that are going on in the Gator Hatchery.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I am currently working towards my 200-hour Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Certification. I have practiced Ashtanga for several years and decided to pursue a teacher training even though it was not optimal timing during my master’s program. This training has allowed me to deepen my own practice (on and off the mat), and I hope to give back by being able to teach people when I receive my certificate. Yoga has changed my life in so many ways, and I would not be the person I am today without my practice.

How do you spend your time when not studying?

When I’m not studying or working on my venture, I spend time with my dogs. I foster pit bulls that are about to be euthanized at our local shelter, Alachua County Animal Services. I work with the Rescue Plenty of Pit Bulls and have fostered 13 dogs to date, which would have otherwise been killed. Nothing brings me greater joy than pulling a mangy or skinny dog, bringing her back to health, and finding an awesome home for her to spend the rest of her life.

If you had a million dollars, how would you spend it?

On my venture! If I had a million dollars, I would be in business tomorrow! This would drastically help me scale and get the production facility I need.

If I weren’t allowed to use it on my venture, I would buy a piece of land in Oregon, build a tiny house, and start an animal sanctuary. This is my ultimate goal!