A Boy Grows Up to Be A Beef Jerky Maker and A Cop
Most kids don’t dream of growing up and becoming beef jerky makers, but Kyle Stanford has had a life-long love of the dehydrated snack. He’s been making jerky for over twenty years, but until a few years ago it was simply a hobby.
Kyle, who was born and raised in Florida, was introduced to jerky by a childhood friend. “I always loved his jerky,” he says. “He would bring it on camping trips, but there was never enough.” Eventually, Kyle began making his own jerky, learning the process from his buddy and the internet.
Kyle is a retired Bradenton police officer who was injured in the line of duty. While still on duty he would bring his homemade jerky in to share with his colleagues. They loved it and Kyle got to experiment with different flavors. It was still a hobby, though.
It was his premature retirement as a police officer, as the result of an injury, which led to his new business. “After multiple knee surgeries I was in rehab mode,” Kyle says. “I had to join a gym so I could work out.”
A Business Partnership Is Born in A Gym
As it turns out the manager of the Kyle’s chosen gym was Frank Price, now Kyle’s business partner in Stanford’s Jerky.
The two just clicked. Both are Riverview residents.
Frank, who had managed large fitness facilities for 25 years, tried retirement, but it just didn’t stick. “My wife encouraged me to get back out to do something,” Frank says. “She knew I couldn’t sit around. I needed to be around people.” He went back to managing a gym and met Kyle.
“Kyle always brought different jerky flavors to the gym,” Frank says. “Each one was better than the next.”
Finally, Frank asked Kyle if he’d ever considered going into the jerky business. Stanford’s Jerky was born in November of 2014.
Business Partners: A Match Made in Business Heaven
The new partnership is a match made in business heaven. Kyle comes with the jerky expertise and experience, having perfected his process with decades of experimentation. He had established efficient preparation and dehydration systems, and he knew his way around dehydrators. Kyle also developed a deep knowledge of beef and spices – a key ingredient to the success of Stanford’s Jerky.
Frank brings the business side of things. “I knew I was good with people,” Frank says. “And, I knew my way around marketing and a P&L sheet. I’m a sales man.” Frank had also been responsible for organizing events, and he knew Stanford’s Jerky was the perfect product to sell at events and local markets.
Becoming USDA Certified: No Easy Task
Making jerky for a hobby in your own kitchen is one thing. Making jerky to be sold commercially is another beast.
“We’re USDA certified,” Kyle says easily, as if becoming USDA certified is a simple process.
In fact, becoming certified was far more involved than either anticipated. “We were held up for months,” Frank says, “while we learned what needed to happen to become USDA certified.”
The commercial kitchen, located in Tampa, and fresh products had to meet many stringent specifications and be handled in very specific ways. Special licensing had to be acquired.
Kyle and Frank also had to work with Hillsborough County for permits during construction; regular inspections were held throughout the build-out process.
Only then did Stanford’s Jerky become USDA certified. In November 2016 they’ll celebrate two years in business.
Website and Local Markets Are Top Selling Avenues
Word of mouth and meeting people at local events have been Stanford’s Jerky’s most successful selling strategies to date.
They’re currently vending at the Hillsborough County Fair (details here). October 27-28-29-30 (this coming weekend) are the final dates for this year’s fair.
Stanford’s Jerky is a regular vendor at the MiraBay Market (third Sunday of each month, 11-3, at MiraBay in Apollo Beach), as well as many other local fresh markets (see below for full list).
They’ve also participated in countless annual events in South Tampa, Sarasota, and more.
Participation in the Bacon Festival in Tampa prompted them to create a seasonal line of bacon jerky products: candy bacon, pumpkin-spice bacon jerky and pineapple rum bacon jerky, to name a few.
What Is Stanford’s Jerky?
Stanford’s Jerky is a fresh product. It lasts, unopened, in the package for six months. Once opened it should be refrigerated and eaten within three days (If it can last that long. In my house, once the package is open it’s a goner).
Kyle uses a shoulder cut London Broil. There are no nitrates, preservatives or MSG. They also do not put nitrogen gas into their packages like most large-scale jerky makers.
Stanford’s Jerky is super high in protein and low in fat.
How Is Stanford’s Jerky Made?
The process takes many hours.
- The beef is prepared by removing the fat layer.
- The beef is sliced into 3” x 3” or 6” x 6” strips.
- The beef is marinated, usually overnight, but for a minimum of 12-18 hours.
- The marinated beef strips are then dehydrated, for 7-9 hours, at 160°
- The jerky is packaged.
Four Main Flavors
Southern: Bold blend of tangy and sweet mesquite flavors.
Honest JD: Named for Kyle’s dad, JD, who is known as ‘Honest JD’ in his poker circle. Honest JD is a rich jerky, with a kick of bourbon.
Teriyaki: Amazing ginger and soy flavor.
Slow Burn: A secret mix of spices that’ll wake your taste buds up.
So, which is the best-selling? I am not sure, but I can tell you I live in a house divided. My husband loves the Slow Burn, hands down. I’m torn between the Southern and Teriyaki. Try them all and decide for yourself.
What’s Next? Stanford’s Jerk Club
Kyle and Frank are ready to take Stanford’s Jerky to the next level. In addition to their live events and markets, they have 25-30 house accounts, to whom deliver monthly, and they are in discussions with various distributors.
They have also just launched The Jerk Club (love the name). Regular Jerk members receive their favorite jerky flavor each month by mail.
If you become a World Class Jerk (really love this name), $4.99 for a lifetime membership, you get jerky by mail each month, a $2.00 discount if you show your World Class Jerk membership card at events, online discounts, and you get a free jerky during your birth month.
Having the chance to meet Kyle and Frank was just fun. I always love meeting entrepreneurs who absolutely love what they do, and these two clearly do.
The 12-15 hour days have not squashed their enthusiasm at all and Kyle and Frank both jump at the chance to talk about their jerky and get you to try some.
The next time you’re at a local market, and Stanford’s Jerky is vending, you’ll know which booth is theirs by the beehive of people surrounding it. People are usually lining up 5 and 6 deep to try and buy Stanford’s Jerky.
To put Stanford Jerky’s popularity in perspective, they bought, marinated, dehydrated and sold well over 1000lbs of beef last month. That’s a lot of jerky.
Contact / Details / Buy Stanford’s Jerky
Stanford Jerky’s Facebook Page – watch for local events here, too.
MiraBay Market: 3rd Sunday of each month. November 20 and December 18, 2016. 11-3PM.
FishHawk Fresh Market: 1st Sunday of each month. 10-2PM.
Channelside Bay Plaza Artisan Market: 3rd Sunday of each month. 11-4PM.
Harbour Island Artisan Fresh Market: 3rd Sunday of each month. 2-7PM
Wolfe’s Produce. Hwy 301 and Bloomingdale. Riverview.
Craft Beer Cellar 1937 West Brandon Blvd.