Food & Drink

How The Founders Of Fish Fixe Are Helping Americans Eat More Seafood

Melissa Harrington and Emily Castro knew the stress of working full time and trying to find time to make healthy, family-friendly meals. They understood that seafood, something most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of, can be intimidating when you’re not used to cooking it.

Harrington had been in the wholesale seafood industry at the time for over a decade and despite having easy access to seafood, didn’t cook it for her own family. Then she asked her husband to portion out, vacuum seal and freeze her favorites so she could stock the freezer. The idea for the company came about after she began sharing it with her former Texas A&M teammate, Castro, who loved the ease of pulling a piece of premium fish from the freezer and having it ready to cook in just a few hours—or even minutes—with a quick thaw. They realized there was a need for a service to make it easier to enjoy fish in everyday meals.

Wanting to solve this dilemma inspired them to found Fish Fixe in the fall of 2017, which helps bring high-quality seafood directly to your door—and shares approachable, delicious recipes to help you enjoy it. Maybe you saw them on Shark Tank? Here, they share what it’s been like breaking into the male-dominated seafood industry.

Jess Cording: Is there anything you wish you had known when you were starting?

Emily Castro: We knew what we had was something other people would want. We believed in our dream, but it was really once the pandemic hit that we realized just how many people would want it. We really bootstrapped it in the beginning, and I wish we’d believed that we could have grown that much, had that fire in the beginning to just sell it like crazy, but we would have needed the capital.

Melissa Harrington: We both had full-time jobs (and we both had two kids under three) when we started. Emily was in the wine and spirits industry, I was in the seafood industry, and so the time that we had to build was once the kids were asleep, or we were waking up early, staying up late. We believed in it, but we weren’t sure the concept had been proven. This was before meal delivery kits and online grocery shopping were really popular.

Castro: I wish we’d known that online If we’d known barely that two years after we started the whole world was going to shut down and everyone was going to be shopping online and that online seafood purchasing wasn’t going to be that weird [laughs] I think we would have just gone out and raised more capital.

Cording: Has it been challenging to break into such a male-dominated industry?

Harrington: A funny story from the very beginning: I was in the warehouse watching the guys filet the fish and taking all these videos, trying to be all cinematic about it. I’d send them to Emily and say, “Hey, save these for Instagram.” She wrote me back and said, “We will never have fish eyes or gills on our Instagram.” We have to focus attention towards the people purchasing the seafood, and the majority of household goods are bought by women.

Castro: The whole reason we felt so passionate about what we’re doing is that 80% of Americans are not eating the recommended amount of seafood. And like, okay, well where’s the breakdown? A lot of it is because they’re marketing to the wrong people. Just being honest, as the purchaser, I don’t want to be reminded that my fish had eyes not too long ago. I want the beautiful filet, I want to see the finished product and how it’s going to help my family. For us it was a very natural fit.

Harrington: We really aimed at breaking down barriers. We started by interviewing friends about why they don’t eat fish at home, and it was often because they didn’t know how to buy it, prepare it or cook it. We really leaned into that. Our products are excellent and speak for themselves, but really connecting with that consumer sets us apart.

Cording: Any advice that you would offer for someone who’s juggling a full-time career and launching a business on the side?

Castro: You have to believe in what you’re doing and make it worth that extra time. You’re going to sacrifice. That might mean skipping that dinner party with friends or staying up late or waking up early. Our families really understood that. You’ve gotta make those sacrifices and it’s going to pay off as long as you don’t lose the vision.

Harrington: Where can you make your own sacrifices that don’t harm your family life or your full-time job?Just don’t lose focus on that vision. And one day your friend will put an application in for Shark Tank behind your back and you’ll have to pursue that vision full time [laughs].


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