Richard Cronk RiceWraps 2015

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A Raleigh startup with the mission to make the city "the world's capital" for frozen sushi rice manufacturing has tallied $250,000 in sales so far and is shipping frozen pre-made rice sheets and pillows in a variety of flavors to hotels and resorts, hospitals, colleges, schools and caterers. 

RiceWrap Foods is in talks with two major grocery chains, and will start taking retail orders February 23—the first retailer is Cary's Grand Asia Market, which will offer RiceWraps products by March 1. Partnerships with additional distributors are coming soon, says co-founder Richard Cronk.

We initially covered RiceWraps nearly a year ago when Cronk tried out a Kickstarter campaign to raise money. He admits he didn't give it the proper social media and marketing attention, resulting in a failed campaign. But the company is growing anyway, and will likely break even in the second quarter. 

In the meantime, Cronk let us inside the 3,000-square-foot factory he opened in mid-2014. Check out our short film about the company and frozen sushi rice-making here:

Credit: Ryan Timms/ExitEvent

Cronk and his son Kyle Cronk are the only employees, but a patent-pending process they developed allows them to make, freeze and package more than 5,000 pounds of sushi rice a week. They'll quadruple that figure when they add their first six employees. The goal is to be at 28 people by year's end.

Cronk is still seeking capital to help grow the business's retail and wholesale sales faster, and to improve its branding. But he's grateful for the help he's received in this region so far. Raleigh's Living Arts College took on RiceWraps as a class project to produce photography and imagery for its website and packaging.

And the gluten-free community has embraced it, with one celebrity chef calling it "brilliant" and "easy peasy." 

Perhaps Raleigh is on its way to being more than one capital city.