Before opening for business in November 2010, Chris Woehrle was an art director in the music industry.
Since he cooked nearly every day and it enjoyed it much more than his day job, Woehrle decided to team up with his neighbor, Robert Stout, and go into the food business– or rather the snack business. They chose to make jerky, which, Woerle said was terribly produced universally using industrial corn syrup and unattractively marketed with vacuum-sealed bags.
Woehrle and Stout took upon the challenge of raising jerky quality to the likeness of higher class European charcuterie, and dried and cured meats. They use 100 percent grass-fed beef, and stay away from the typical flavors like teriyaki and hot and spicy in favor of their more original Korean BBQ and Sichuan ginger. These deviations from the norm, in addition to opting for craft paper rather than vacuum-sealed plastic, helped the company to stand out, Woerhle said.
Before incorporating, Woerhle and Stout assembled a makeshift smoker in a MacGyver-esque fashion, using a window fan and two air conditioner filter panels. They installed it on Woehrle’s balcony, and tested several flavors. Satisfied with the baseline test-run, Woehrle installed a real smoker on his balcony and began testing different marinades and flavors.
They raised money from family and friends and bought their own commercial kitchen—a bold financial choice for a new food company. But since jerky production requires unique kitchen apparatus —like their smoker—it translates to a process so specialized that it requires more than a few rented hours in a space, Woehrle said.
Planning for some elements of starting a food business, like shipping costs and product expiration, tend to trip up novice entrepreneurs, but these issues don’t apply to Kings County Jerky. Shipping costs are low for jerky since the product is lightweight, and because it is shelf stable for a year, it can usually be mailed in a envelope. Woehrle said the company has been profitable both years it has been in existence.
Kings County Jerky’s three flavors — Korean BBQ, Sichuan ginger and classic — are sold directly from their website and at several New York food markets at $8.99 per 2 ounce package. Starting in January, the product will be available at various retailers nationwide. Though Woerhle chose not to disclose specific locations or number of venues, he is excited that “the business is going to change a lot.”