Love for bearded dragons leads to business venture

Yash Chitrakar

Kristin Mathewson’s office is an odd one.

It houses four acoustic guitars hanging on the wall, posters of Led Zeppelin, classic rock DVD’s on the ceiling and an army uniform on the door hanger. Most peculiar, however, is the shelf which contains four large totes filled with a few thousand Dubia roaches.

When it’s quiet, the cockroaches can be heard scurrying in their totes, making a crackling noise like that of a fire. Mathewson breeds roaches partly for her spiny six-year-old bearded dragon, Derek, who sits in in an aquarium in the corner.

She bought Derek from PetSmart in 2012.

“I only got him because whenever I passed by, he always posed like Michael Jackson, one hand in the air and the other on his abdomen,” Mathewson said.

Because of Derek, Mathewson opened up her own business, Lizard Luncheon, a Dubia roach distributor that mails roaches and bearded dragon care products all over the US.

Around the time she got Derek, Mathewson was a senior at Washburn, pursuing her undergraduate degree in nursing. She suffered from bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder during this time. Derek came as a saving grace in her life and she wanted nothing but the best fodder for her dragon.

“Pet stores don’t sell roaches,” Mathewson said. “They sell crickets, but crickets have six times less nutritional value. Plus, bearded dragons prefer Dubia roaches to crickets.”

For four years she bred a small amount of Dubia roaches just for the dragon. However, in 2016, she decided to spend $700 on a large stock of breeders and expanded her hobby into a business.

The fact that roaches are low-maintenance helped a lot. Mathewson spends only about three hours every week tending to the roaches.

“All you have to do is maintain a temperature of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, put water crystals and throw in half of oranges or apples every three days and the roaches will thrive,” Mathewson said.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been struggles. In the first two months, she made the mistake of selling her whole stock of breeders. She learned from that experience and now only sells the offspring that come in small and medium sizes. 

Mathewson spends a lot of her time designing brochures, crafting thank-you cards to customers and printing instructions. She puts care into packaging, and with each order, she packs in some complimentary water crystals and chicken feed neatly.

“I was just inspired by the packaging of Apple,” Mathewson said. “It is so satisfying unboxing an Apple product. I want my presentation to be similar to Apple’s.”  

Her business is growing and it is garnering the interest of new bearded dragon owners.

“I feel like the number of people who are getting bearded dragons is increasing,” Mathewson said. “They are very sociable. They love people. They, like the roaches, are also very low-maintenance.”

The endearing connection between Mathewson and Derek is palpable. At various times in the day, she will hold Derek up on her shoulder or chest and the bearded dragon will nuzzle up against her. She will gently scratch the bridge of his nose and he will slowly close his eyes in contentment.

Mathewson established Lizard Luncheon because of this connection and plans to keep doing this, hopefully adding horned worms and super worms to her bug roster in the near future.