Why I Quit My Day Job and Started a Jerky Company

October 5, 2015
by Courtney Wissot for Thrive Market
Why I Quit My Day Job and Started a Jerky Company

Meet Jason Burke, the founder and CEO of The New Primal. In 2009 he swore off junk food (goodbye, Texas toast and frozen pizzas!), embraced a more active lifestyle and a primal diet, and started a jerky company—in his very own kitchen—to help do the same for others. Here's his candid account of how his adventure began, as told to Brand Editor Courtney Wissot.

Jerky, for me, began as a hobby, because in the journey to change my diet, my biggest struggle was having healthy protein that’s portable. I needed something that would sustain me between meals, and jerky seemed to be the natural option.

There’s nothing more primal than jerky, but the commercially produced jerky available in most convenience and grocery stores by and large comes from factory-farmed meat that’s loaded with artificial growth hormones. It’s also among the most over-processed, preservative-filled products available. So, I began making my own at home. Within a few short months, I was making batches of jerky for myself and many of my CrossFit gym comrades.

Fast forward to six table-top dehydrators later. One night, my wife, Kristin, came home from a girls night out complaining of smelling like a “smokehouse.” She informed me that my at-home jerky making project had become more than a hobby.  That's when I realized that we may be on to something special.

It was suddenly clear to me that lots of folks were also looking for an on-the-go snack that allowed them to stay on the right track with their primal diet. I had discovered a way to make jerky—the perfect portable protein—healthy again.

So, I quit my job to make and sell jerky.

I was working a software sales job at the time. I had been with the same company for four-and-a-half years and my position paid well, was secure, and offered plenty of opportunity for advancement within the company (not to mention my office was only a mile from my house). I had all of the trappings of a corporate job—including full benefits and a 401(k) plan that the company matched.

My wife is an entrepreneur, so my job provided the "security" of a stable, predictable paycheck, and health benefits. I had been working on the jerky business for two years as a side job, and while I knew we had a product that people liked, the idea of giving up that weekly paycheck for an extremely unpredictable business was gut-wrenching.

I spent months going back and forth on when the timing would be right to actually take the plunge. Quite honestly, I was scared to death of the unknown and every doubtful thought you can imagine entered my head: I don't know enough. The product isn't good enough. The packaging isn't ready. I don't have enough money saved. What if I have to go crawling back to my old job in six months?

I would work a full day at the sales job and then come home to package up shipments until late in the night. The sound of a tape gun in my living room taping up flat rate USPS boxes at midnight got real old, real quick. Ultimately, I decided over the summer of 2012 that I wouldn't finish the year at my day job. I wanted at least a full quarter getting some traction with the jerky business so that we could start 2013 with some momentum.

Kristin and I took a vacation to the mountains of Colorado that summer (knowing it may be our last vacation for a while). On the plane, I read Blake Mycoskie's book Start Something That Matters. That’s when my decision to leave my job at the end of the third quarter was solidified.

With a great deal of blind enthusiasm and determination, I put in my two weeks notice in September, and October 1, I hit the streets of Charleston, SC with a backpack full of jerky going from store to store.

And the rest is history.

Going primal changed my life and I decided not to keep that to myself. Jerky was simply my platform to spread the message. When I observe what goes on in modern day grocery stores every day and hear the conventional wisdom of our current so-called dietary experts, I realize we have an enormous mountain to climb to reverse the damage that’s been done.

That’s why I decided to leave my corporate job and start a beef jerky business. Going primal worked for me. I’m convinced it saved my life, and could do that for you, too.

Photo credit: Jason Burke

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