Totally buggin’

Senior creates insect business out of passion for animals


Grace Elder

Senior Hailey Hickman held up an isopod as it crawled around her hand on April 17.

For years, senior Hailey Hickman has had a passion for animals, but not just the typical ones. Geckos, a Bearded Dragon, fish, birds and even an Axolotl make up the pets that she has owned throughout her life.
For many of the reptiles Hickman has owned, it’s important for them to have access to live food. Because of this, Hickman has kept many insects, using them as reptile food and placing them in the reptile enclosures.
While doing research about different bugs to use for her reptiles, Hickman discovered an unexpected business opportunity, which became half of the business she runs today.
“I figured out isopods were a thing, and a lot of people actually collect them and use them for reptiles and a bunch of other things,” Hickman said. “You can make a lot of money off of it, and so I thought maybe it would be cool to start … collecting some and selling them.”
Hickman uses her knowledge and passion for animals, especially reptiles, to grow her business, which includes selling insects and exotic pet sitting.
Although Hickman has owned insects for her reptiles to eat for years, she has kept the bugs she is selling for around seven months now. Eventually, there became so many insects that she didn’t know what to do with them, so by January, Hickman decided it was time to start selling them.
The insects that Hickman currently sells are isopods and Dubia roaches. Isopods are crustaceans that look similar to Rolly Pollies. They are often put in reptile enclosures as natural cage cleaners to eat plant matter and decay. Dubia roaches are a tropical species of cockroach, and unlike isopods, are commonly used as reptile food.
“(The Dubia roaches), you would actually feed to your reptiles, the isopods you don’t really feed,” Hickman said. “They’re more or less the collector’s thing.”
The other aspect of Hickman’s business is exotic pet-sitting. She has been pet-sitting since she got a car last summer. Although she specializes in exotic pets, which includes animals like fish, reptiles and birds, Hickman will also pet-sit for typical household animals, like dogs and cats.
Since her business is still fairly new, Hickman is working on its development and even building her own website for it. Because the website is still a work in progress, Hickman tends to advertise directly to people instead of letting people come to her.
“Nothing’s really advertised or launched completely, but I do go on Facebook in different groups … and advertise and sell things here and there when I have it,” Hickman said.
While she does spend time building and advertising her business, Hickman is still a busy student with school, work and extracirriculars taking up the majority of her time. According to Hickman, her packed schedule is the reason her business has not fully developed.
Still, Hickman finds time to commit herself to her business. She doesn’t mind using her free time to work on it, Hickman says, since she likes it so much.
“Since I enjoy it, I just do it in my free time, really,” Hickman said. “Or at school, if I’m caught up with schoolwork, I’ll sit there and do certain things for my business.”
While Hickman’s business is, of course, a business, she also considers it to be a hobby. Hickman believes that since she enjoys it, the typical downsides of owning a business, such as taking up lots of time or requiring personal money, is not something that will negatively affect her.
“I don’t really find it as much (of) a job or something I have to do,” Hickman said. “It’s cool that I get to make some money off of it, but I definitely do it because I enjoy it.”
It’s not just Hickman who can see this enjoyment, though. Senior Kihlee Culberson has seen Hickman’s passion for reptiles and bugs grow from the beginning and deems them a part of her personality.
“That’s one big thing about her,” Culberson said. “Her reptiles are everything to her, that’s her baby. She’s had that (bearded dragon) for years … that’s her favorite thing because I don’t think that she cares about anything more than she cares about her.”
According to Culberson, Hickman’s passion extends even to her business. To her, it’s evident that she enjoys running it because it’s something she talks about often and never tries to hide.
“She’s happy talking about it too, you’ll never find her upset talking about (it),” Culberson said. “She’ll talk about (how) it can be a lot, but it’s nothing that she would never stop doing. She would always do it out of love.”
While friends like Culberson support Hickman’s business, not everyone has the same reaction. According to Hickman, people tend to think that her business is a little silly. But, once she describes what she does and how she makes money off of it, they’re on board, no matter how “silly” they may find it.
Regardless of what others think, Hickman’s passion for her business is not going away anytime soon. She’d even like to expand her business in the future, making it even more reptile-based than bug-based. But right now, Hickman is content with the base she is growing and the goals she has already accomplished.