Shelly Van Cleve and her daughters Monica and Allie have been selling gourmet fish and shellfish dishes for more than 20 years under Van Cleve Seafood Co. from Gwynn Island, Virginia. Back in 2017, they became a media darling when they made Oprah’s favorites list with a 200-year-old family recipe for seafood pie with blue crab.
But new times call for new ingredients. And the daughters of the storied seafood family are up for the change. Van Cleve jokes that she’s the mother, but her daughter, Monica Talbert, is definitely in charge.
Last year, the women launched The Plant Based Seafood Co., a separate business from the still-active family seafood company. Ingredients in the new food include kelp, seaweed, artichoke and medicinal herbs. Each product is also free of dairy, gluten, corn and soy. Still, they’ve gotten the recipes very close in taste, appearance and texture to the real thing from being around and eating seafood for so many years, Van Cleve said.
“All of our products are tested on seafood lovers, and usually people who catch it as well,” Van Cleve said. “When it passes all that, the guy sitting in a third floor apartment in Ohio, he’s gonna love it.”
The reaction was immense. “We got a ton of backlash from our own industry. They almost outcast us as traitors to the industry,” Van Cleve said. But that was a good thing to Talbert, who welcomed the pushback so that there could be an open discussion about some of the issues in the industry, Van Cleve said. Van Cleve Seafood Co. operates through contract manufacturing and has three employees
The women use the new company as a platform to discuss fraud, child labor and overfishing in the industry — topics they know about from being in the seafood industry themselves for decades. “We are the foods-of-the-future, passionate in making healthy, sustainable plant-based seafood products to give the marine animals and oceans a much-needed break,” Van Cleve wrote in an email. “We want to ease the pressures and demands of those overfished species, species that we have or are fished to extinction.”
So far, they’ve raised $150,000 from Cork, Ireland-based incubator Hatch with plans to raise more.
For Talbert, eating plant-based is about feeling better than when she ate meat — she and her sister tried the diet during a retreat and felt healthier, Shelly Van Cleve tells me over a video call from her home in Virginia as Talbert boarded a delayed flight. And as she settled into her new diet, Talbert wanted to make food they could buy and eat themselves.
Now, more than a year since the launch, Plant Based Seafood Co. has debuted three plant-based products — coconut shrimp, dusted shrimp and scallops — which are sold in frozen boxes of 10 for $13.99 in more than six dozen grocery stores across the country as well as a few online grocery sites such as British Columbia, Canada-based Vejii.
Its packaging reads “mind blown” after the way people react to trying their food for the first time. The women and their team of 10 are working on new launches, including a plant-based oyster they plan to launch soon.
The women have been passionate about ethics and the environment from the start of Van Cleve Seafood, Shelly said. For instance, they refused to sell female blue crabs so they could remain in the water to lay eggs and say they don’t buy from companies or places that violate human, environmental, or sanitation standards or mislabel products.
“Van Cleve Seafood was a 20 year schooling that provided a degree in what’s wrong with the seafood industry and armed with that knowledge we hope that The Plant-Based Seafood Co., is where we can work on what is right…for the environment, the animals, the people and the planet,” Shelly wrote in an email.
Q&A: What Could Get In The Way of Austin’s Growth?
I spoke with Nathan Jensen, a government economic policy professor at the University of Texas on Sept. 3 about Austin’s growing tech scene. Austin’s on a path to excel, he says, but issues such as recent legislation barring abortions after 6 weeks and restricting voter rights could deter some younger, more diverse people from joining the ecosystem.
Responses have been edited for conciseness and clarity.
How would you describe the tech ecosystem in Austin, and how has it changed over the last few years?
It’s hard to get your head around it, because it’s so dynamic. Obviously, there’s a lot of very large companies here. But the other thing that’s hard to see in the data is, and this is pre-COVID, the number of tech workers who are working remotely from Austin. There’s a lot of companies moving and scaling up their operations here…. Google has a large office here… Apple opened a major corporate campus … There’s a lot of indigenous kinds of innovation entrepreneurship here as well. It’s a pretty deep pipeline of both new entrepreneurship but also some more mature companies coming here to Austin. It’s a pretty incredible ecosystem.
What are some of the aspects that are attracting entrepreneurs and investors in the city?
Some of it’s as simple as local talent and a place where you can move your talent. And I’ve heard a number of companies over the years say this is a great place. You outgrow a single location, or you want your employees to have multiple locations to choose from for an office. … A lot of employees who’ve transferred here or from other parts including not just in the US, but from abroad, that it’s a very appealing location from a quality of life perspective. And when you’re trying to recruit in a competitive market that’s a pretty attractive option.
What do you think Austin has done right to grow its tech space? What resources exist that are really working?
What’s interesting about it is that many decades ago, there were a lot of initiatives, at the city level, but also NGOs, pushing the tech scene. … UT has been a great asset. Taking advantage of a university as an anchor institution is really valuable. A lot of other communities have done this.
Also, again, keeping the quality of life, paying close attention to quality of life issues here. It’s been, I think, a really important, valuable lesson for many cities. Do your best to make it a place that people want to live, and when there’s mobile companies with mobile workers, they’ll often choose your location.
What has been the reaction to entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, and investors moving into the city?
It’s been a little mixed. It’s a progressive city. I think they’re open to immigrants and immigration. But there’s a lot of demonizing California, which is a little ironic, to me. It’s this weird tension that the state government loves to swing a company from California to Texas as kind of a political proof that the Texas model works. So you see the argument in our state, politicians bragging every time a company leaves California, but at the same time, at least on the ground here in Austin, that is something you hear people talk about all the time. And our unemployment rate is low. And we’re already attracting a lot of businesses. So I think there’s not as much excitement or open arms for these not-small entrepreneurs.
There still is a lot of excitement over small business and entrepreneurship here. I think it goes with the creative culture. People love to hear about little startups or companies doing innovations in med tech.
What is the future for Austin? How large do you think it has the potential to grow in terms of being a tech hub?
It’s hard to see it slowing down. You see consistent investments.
There have been over the years political decisions at the state level that have affected our attractiveness. There were [gender neutral] bathroom bills, similar to what North Carolina passed years ago, that were proposed, and Apple and a bunch of companies came out against them. I’m sure you’ve been following Texas’ abortion bill and voter restriction bills. So there are some aspects that the state government could make this much less attractive.
Barring those state level decisions, affordability would be an issue, but it’s still not that dense of a city. … So if anything it’s been a bit of an acceleration here. I think we’re all pretty optimistic.
Billionaires Are Older Than You Think
The average age of a woman reaching billionaire status is 60 years old, while it’s on average 63 years old for men, the analysts found, an analysis by Chicago-based DailyFX found.
Analysts looked at Forbes’ Billionaire list data from 2010-2021 in order to determine the average age for men and women. It included 328 women in 2021. That’s 36% more than last year, according to the analysis.
Though, men are still more likely than women to become billionaires — there are seven times the number of men than women on the list. Women make up only 11.8% of the world’s billionaires, according to the analysis.
Women account for $1.54 trillion, more than ever before, according to the analysis. They’re excelling most in the fashion, food and beverage and manufacturing industries.
This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.