How One Entrepreneur Quit His Job In Entertainment To Make Jerky For A Living
Quitting your job to open up your own business is risky. Quitting your job to open up a business that only sells jerky ... well, that's even riskier. But for people like Tim O'Grady of Jive Jerky, throwing caution to the wind is what being a small-business owner is all about.
"I opened this store and thought, this might be really good, or it'll be really, really bad," O'Grady says. "But I'm never going to know unless I try."
A year later, Jive Jerky has become a staple among the roughly 2,000 residents of Moscow, Pennsylvania, who can't seem to get enough of O'Grady's homemade jerky. With dozens of beef and pork options to choose from, the store has seen a huge demand for its niche product, both online and offline.
We interviewed O'Grady as part of our Fast Track Q&A series in which we're asking various small-business owners 11 questions about their professional and personal inspirations. O'Grady shared with us his days of being a lazy ice cream boy, his gift of gab, and which eccentric entrepreneur he most admires. Read more in the series »
Interview conducted by Business Insider Studios and edited for clarity and length.
BI Studios: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Tim O'Grady: The starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. My love for beer and my distaste for exercise has really put a damper on those plans.
How did you get the idea for your business?
I started making jerky with my father when I was a kid. It was just something that we did on the weekends. I spent years as a touring musician and then eventually worked in corporate consulting with an entertainment company for festivals and tours. I got to the point where I didn't want to be away from home anymore, so I decided to start my own business and plant roots. And that's how I ended up opening Jive Jerky.
How did you pick the name for your business?
As with most things with this company, ideas come from sitting around the table with friends and family, having a couple beers, and just spitting stuff out. It's sort of one of those things that came out. I thought it was funny and felt it rolled off the tongue easy enough, so it just sort of stuck.
What is the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
I'd have to say this whole entire endeavor, because there wasn't really anything to gauge before starting this business. It wasn't as if I was opening up a pizza shop and knew who my competitors were and could base my business off of what they were doing. There's no competition where I'm at, which is an awesome thing, but it's also kind of scary. Because I'm the only one, I'm left figuring it out as I go, as opposed to looking at what other people have done and trying to improve on that.
What's the strangest request you've ever gotten from a customer?
It always revolves around making some kind of weird jerky. We offer 30 flavors of beef and about five or six flavors of pork. As far as jerky, it's a pretty wide selection. But we'll always get somebody who asks if we have alligator or ostrich jerky. We don't make exotic meats like that - beef and pork is good enough for me.
What is your greatest talent, professional or otherwise?
My ability to talk to customers. We're selling a product and all, but a big part of that is that people are able to come in and talk for a couple minutes. Being able to be friendly with people is important. It's different because we're in such a small town and you can get to know a lot of people very quickly. I feel like the whole world would be a lot better off if it moved just a little bit slower and people were a little more friendly. People being able to come in and hang out for a minute and ask questions and get a friendly response back has really benefited us.
What's the first job you ever had?
The first job I ever had was selling ice cream when I was 14 or 15 years old. In the neighborhood that we lived in, there was an ice cream stand at the local swimming pool and the beach. People were always at the pool and nobody was at the beach, so I would always request the beach location and I could fall asleep in the 6-foot chest freezer they kept in the back filled with ice cream.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
When I was in high school, I worked as a telemarketer for about three weeks. I think we were selling time shares. I worked with my best friend and we sat next to each other. This was probably the only telemarketing place that gave you a phone where you could dial out, so all we did was make prank phone calls all day. I lasted three weeks before they fired me. It's the only job I've ever been fired from.
Which entrepreneur or business personality do you most admire?
I'd say the person that's been the most fascinating to me in my lifetime has been Howard Hughes. It just seemed like whatever that guy put his mind to he could accomplish, and he made incredible things. Not to compare our jerky to anything Howard Hughes has done. Building military jets is a little bit different than making salty jerky.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I guess I'd want to be able to make everybody who's miserable and who has an awful attitude happy. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with them. It's purely a selfish reason. It's not because I want them to be happy. It's just because I don't want to have to deal with them.
What advice would you give to an aspiring small-business owner?
Just go out and do it. You can spend your whole life trying to plan something out, thinking about the best way to go about it, before you realize the years have slipped by and you never did it. Just go out and start it. If it fails, it fails. But at least you went out and tried.
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