It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that fish-food entrepreneur Peter Goggins ’21 (CAHNR) has reeled in the big one.
Goggins, founder of Pisces Atlantic, was the grand-prize winner of the Wolff New Venture Competition on Monday evening, and the recipient of a $20,000 prize. The annual Wolff competition celebrates five promising UConn-affiliated startups.
After much trial and error, Goggins created an innovative fish food based on his belief that the fish that people consume should be fed healthy ingredients. He plans to use the prize money to accelerate the company’s growth, invest in a marketing strategy, and continue research and development efforts.
“Honestly, it’s a dream right now,’’ says Goggins, 21, after being selected as the winner. “The other startups are changing the world, and it’s a serious honor that the judges would select me out of such a passionate group.’’
In the last few months, Goggins has moved the business from his parents’ home into a manufacturing facility in East Hartford where he has vastly increased production. He hopes to disrupt the fish-food industry with his compound, which consists primarily of dehydrated vegetables and insects.
Some commercial feeds include feathers, bone meal, and chicken excrement, he said. They can also contain “junk fish” like anchovies, which are high in mercury, and plastic bits culled from the ocean. In addition to his concerns about nutrition, Goggins says he is dismayed by the environmental damage done by conventional fish-food companies as they scrape the ocean floor for ingredients.
Goggins, a senior majoring in environmental science, says the award is “the equivalent of strapping a rocket booster on the company.’’
“This award is just the beginning for me,’’ Goggins says. “I feel energized and I’m optimistic about the future. I have so many projects that I plan to put into motion that I believe will help me ‘make a splash’ in the mainstream market. Although this win is incredible for my business, I know this means that it’s really time to put everything I want to accomplish into motion.’’
The five startups that participated in the Wolff competition have benefitted from a host of advisers and mentors. Under the guidance of the School of Business’ Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CCEI), founders of 10 startups spent part of the summer learning more about business and tapping the advice of experts. Five of them were selected to participate in the Wolff competition, which was held virtually this year.
This year’s Wolff finalists are some of the best startups that UConn has fielded, says CCEI Director Jennifer Murphy.
The Wolff competition not only celebrates the success of the startups, but also the entrepreneurial ecosystem at UConn, says John A. Elliott, Dean of the School of Business. He says he was excited to have participants from a variety of schools and colleges across the University.
State Sen. John Fonfara, a UConn alum, viewed the presentation and says he was excited about fostering more entrepreneurship in the state. He urged the aspiring entrepreneurs to remain in Connecticut and grow their businesses here.
Other startup finalists included: included alumna Hayley Segar ’17 (CLAS) who has created a new line of flattering women’s swimwear called onewith; graduate student Janoye Williams, who works full-time at Pratt &Whitney while completing his second master’s degree in business, created a mobile app called Junity that will connect teenagers with educational, employment, and mentorship programs; alumnus Jeremy Bronen ‘20 and his team created SedMed, a toilet-life/assistance project to help the elderly and disabled use the bathroom safely; and medical resident Reid Waldman, who created VeraDermics, a company that will deliver wart-treating medication via a microneedle patch.
Greg Wolff, an alumnus, insurance and financial planner, and the son of the people for whom the Wolff award honors, says the finalists were all outstanding and that he is confident they will all be successful.