Entrepreneur developing new crab-processing way|ECU grad student eyes Washington for his company

Published 3:21 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

By By GREG KATSKI Community Editor
Gabe Dough wants to make Washington the “core” of America’s crabbing industry.
His ambitious plan starts with his upstart, biotechnology-based crabbing company, Shure Foods.
Through experimental work with the company, Dough has been using proprietary materials, such as enzymes and proteins, to tweak the consistency of raw blue-crab meat and bind it into medallions and patties.
The company’s extraction and manipulation process is designed to reduce the end cost of producing the delicate blue-crab meat, Dough said.
Dough insists the process involves much more than “just gluing meat together.”
The East Carolina University graduate student hopes his work will revolutionize the way crab meat is used in America.
“It’s a foundational product. You can do 1,000 things with it — bread, fry, grill, bake, broil,” he said.
Currently, Shure Foods is marketing the product to area commercial-crabbing companies. Dough said, eventually, he would like to base the business at the Beaufort County Industrial Park.
The Beaufort County Committee of 100 has backed the business, Dough said.
“The people of Washington have been supportive,” he said.
The budding businessman has already pitched his product to Tom Thompson, executive director of Beaufort County Economic Development. Thompson is excited about the job opportunities that a business like Shure Foods could provide for others, especially commercial fishermen and truck drivers.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Thompson said. “Any new product like this may turn out to be the next Microsoft.”
Considering the overwhelming support and location, Dough called Washington the “ideal” place to start a business like Shure Foods.
“We feel like, as far as a core place to be, Washington is central to North Carolina,” Dough said. “It is a great crab-producing region. We can draw crab to Washington from a lot of areas in North Carolina. Being on (U.S. Highway) 17, we can also bring crab from places even farther south than that.”
Dough has been able to showcase his product through a $30,000 low-interest Company Inception Loan from the N.C. Biotechnology Center. Dough said the loan was received through ECU’s Entrepreneurial Initiative Program. The program is designed for graduate students looking to start their own businesses. Students, such as Dough, get help in drafting business plans from fellow graduate students. They also receive support from investors throughout the eastern North Carolina region.
The program takes on between three and five business projects a year. Dough’s project received attention from the program because of its potential impact on the region’s economy and crabbing industry.
“It could help bring back the crabbing industry in eastern North Carolina,” said Marty Hackney, director of the Initiative program.
Dough, who was born and raised on Roanoke Island, has always had a vested interest in the industry. His uncle owned a fish house in Wanchese, and his best friend’s father was a successful commercial fisherman.
“I’ve been hands-on with fishing,” he said.
Dough, 33, graduated from ECU with a bachelor’s degree in geology in 2005. He started work on his new product between then and enrolling in graduate school at ECU in spring 2008.
Dough didn’t dive into the project until getting positive feedback from a mentor and former owner of the Washington Crab &Oyster Co., Harold Stephenson.
“He said, ‘I think you’re on to something,’” Dough said.