My Second eCommerce Company: Steak Jerky

I’m attempting to document recent history that is just outside my immediate memory and it’s a frustrating task because accounts change and files get deleted. Domains are let go and information is lost. This is an attempt to recreate the story of my second ecommerce business, Steak Jerky, which was a partnership with my friend, Jason, in 2002.

Steak Jerky

I think we should have some western theme in at least one of the logos. We’ll also need a common thread among all the artwork including the logos and the text buttons. We need buttons that say: Jerky, About Us, Jerky History, Contact Us, Store, Jerky Benefits and any others we think of.” –Jason, October 9, 2002

Jason had purchased a food dehydrator and had started experimenting with making beef jerky at home. He had just moved to Greenfield from Muncie and had a bigger kitchen to experiment in. This was before either of us had kids and while I was still finishing up college, he had graduated and so had lots of free time to experiment. - Not just beef jerky...Steak Jerky

Some flavors I’m planning are:

  • BBQ
  • Original
  • Hotter than Heck
  • Chinese
  • Black Pepper

Will be served three ways:

  • Flats (3” by 5” sheets)
  • Strips
  • Bits (Like popcorn jerky)

Jason was the product guy and he had big ideas. He came up with a list of possible flavors and different ways to serve them. “If I can figure out how to do it, we might even have jerky chew also.”  He spent a lot of time learning about jerky, how to make it, and about companies that were selling it. That’s actually how he got the idea – after stopping at a jerky store while out on vacation.

Mix or Match

Here is what I need from you to start:

  • Logo family
  • Website feel (colors, font, etc)
  • Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
  • Humorous stuff
  • The contract
  • Logo for bags
  • If you’ve got some other ideas let me know.

I was tasked with creating the website, logo, and the contract. I found a ‘mountain ranch’ image and used it as a backdrop for the relatively crude logo. Although I don’t remember for sure, the site looks like it was built on OScommerce, which was around in 2002. That’s the same platform I chose to use for my first ecommerce client in 2007 so it’s a good possibility that’s what it was.

Here’s what I’m thinking… To make the equivalent of a full time job, I would need to sell 2000 pounds a year and that would cover most expenses prior to going legal. That’s 5.5 a day which is quite a bit when we are only talking on the web. However, we have several options of distribution available to us: Web, eBay, Gun Shows, Fairs, Local word of mouth, and eventually going after the big contracts (Marsh, Kroger, convenience stores, even the coveted…WalMart!!!)”

Not just beef jerky….Steak Jerky!

The first sale was on November 20, 2002. The order went out in a plastic ziplock bag with black marker labeling. I remember asking Jason if he could vacuum seal the bags to make them look more professional, but at the time he didn’t have a sealer (he later got one). He was always experimenting with new flavors and cuts. He found that the best jerky was thinly sliced.

I write on the labels for the customers. It wouldn’t be hard to design a logo for the packages and print on stickers that I could print out, but I don’t have the money to buy the sealer. I am going to add black pepper and backwoods garlic and pepper as flavors on the website this weekend. They will be variations on the original marinade. I’m not going to put up teriyaki until I know I can make it, but I will experiment with that too. 

We didn’t how to do SEO or any online marketing back then. This was even before we started Neighborhood Geeks together (we had previously ran an antique booth together and formed a band named Shog). I didn’t learn about SEO until I started Telablue in 2007. This was 2002. Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace didn’t even exist then and Google Adwords was relatively new (2000).

I looked into Google advertising and I think that is the way to go at first because it should also get our listing up there quicker. Erich, I have sent you the hot flavors picture and the will be sending the 2 other flavors soon. I will need web versions of these. I also plan a page describing how much a half pound is and how much a pound is. Ross, if you still have interest, we need some modifications to the cart system.

Ross was Jason’s technical advisor back then. That was before I got my A+, Network+, and Microsoft Certifications. That was before I learned CSS, PHP, and WordPress. The business didn’t last long. By December Jason had shut it down but not before we had orders from all over the country. I recently asked Jason why and he said, “At the time, it was going to be too expensive to scale up the professionalism of the product (like good packaging, consistent manufacturing, separate production area) to really be proud of our work for clients we didn’t know.” But we learned a lot.

If this story interests you, you might also be interested in my first ecommerce business or my latest ecommerce business.