Visits Chesapeake Gold Oysters to celebrate growing aquaculture company

When the Startup Maryland ‘pitch bus’ pulled into the parking lot at Hooper’s Island Aquaculture company early on September 10, the fishery was already teeming with activity. From oysters sizzling with garlic butter, bacon and cheese and a three foot high Chesapeake Gold logo ice sculpture filled with bivalves on the half shell, to employees packing cardboard boxes with the company’s signature oysters in the newly renovated processing center, dozens of people were on hand to welcome Startup’s passengers to Dorchester County.

Led by and for entrepreneurs, Startup Maryland rallies entrepreneurs and economic development stakeholders to connect, celebrate, coach, and help raise capital for new and innovative enterprises. Co-Chaired by Mike Binko, CEO of KloudTrack, and Julie Lenzer Kirk, Executive Director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, the 2013 tour kicked off in Ocean City the day before.

This year’s Dorchester stop was the result of Chesapeake Gold’s Johnny Shockley’s pitch in 2012 when he was one of 168 entrepreneurs who shared his startup story during the inaugural tour. Recalling that first encounter, Binko said he was “blown away when he heard Shockley’s pitch by the innovations taking place on Hoopers Island.” He credited Shockley and Ricky Fitzhugh for transforming an ‘old guard seafood industry’ and reminded the crowd that their efforts reverberated far beyond Maryland.

After welcoming Startup to Hoopers Island, Shockley stressed the importance of sustaining and growing the region’s fishery industry and his commitment to ‘take it to the next level’ for future generations. Shockley acknowledged and introduced Steve Phillips, President of Phillips Seafood and area native. Phillips credited Johnny and Ricky with their food safety and sanitation technologies and for serving the ‘best product on the market anywhere.’

Tim Sagoo, President of Congressional Seafood, a Chesapeake Gold distributor, stressed how “customers today want healthy, locally grown and sustainable protein, and pledged to ‘do whatever I can’ to support the transformation of an old guard Maryland industry to serve restaurant patrons.”