When one hears about UC Davis, one thinks about its world-class agriculture program or the extensive research facilities and faculty that have made it one of the greatest public universities in the nation. However, one recent grad and two seniors have committed themselves to create a new reason to be proud to be called an Aggie.
Founded and spearheaded by senior political science major Alex Lane, Get Some Jerky is “what freedom tastes like”: an all-American, high-quality beef jerky company located in Davis. Lane, as an unsatisfied jerky lover, decided to create a company that would offer a meat lover-worthy, preservative-free jerky because he said people deserve better.
With only two and a half months since the company launched, Lane and his fellow founders, 2011 graduate Sarah Hellesen and senior history major James Panabaker, have artfully crafted their way to produce four distinct flavors of jerky – hot beef, sweet and spicy, homestyle pepper and a sweet teriyaki turkey jerky – and interest three investors. But Lane said these achievements have not come easy to Get Some Jerky.
Lane tells of the sacrifices the company has demanded from him and his co-founders in order to grow as entrepreneurs, including the almost complete eradication of their social lives, stress and extra time invested in learning small business management due to working 100-hour weeks.
“To sum it up in one sentence: The company is my life,” Lane said.
UC Davis prestige is not particularly associated with business and entrepreneurship; a company like Get Some Jerky, however, proves that Aggies can do business as well. It is vital to notice that Get Some Jerky is not the first company to arise from innovative students from this university.
Companies such as Aseptia, a food processing technology company, and Solera, a company created to develop small electricity-generating systems, were founded by Aggie impresarios with a true spirit of innovation.
Evidently, the entrepreneurial interest of UC Davis students is increasing. Lane has been attending meetings of a Davis startup club focused on mentoring and helping new entrepreneurs in the city. Davis in general has been truly helpful for Get Some Jerky’s success.
“We’ve been receiving much support from local Davis citizens; our investors are actually local as well,” Panabaker said.
Panabaker said that Davis locals encourage and care for students’ business ambitions.
Appealing to Davisites is one of Get Some Jerky’s primary goals; thus, what better way to attract locals’ attention than by having a bear meander around the town’s biggest events?
Get Some Jerky’s mascot is, indeed, a bear by the name of Jerk. Co-founder and handyman Panabaker wears the bear costume to the farmers market, on-campus activities and occasionally to downtown Davis to take pictures with locals.
But Get Some Jerky has other priorities as well. The three founders, a CPA, a lawyer and informal support by Chase bank in Davis are the only influences and minds in the corporation. Although Lane is the “mastermind” behind Get Some Jerky, Hellesen said she realizes that an addition of other professionals into the business will increase the efficiency and growth of the company.
“As we grow, we’re planning to bring in somebody from marketing, because while it’s something we can do by ourselves, it could be much better done by a professional,” Panabaker said.
However, a low budget and the relative freshness of the company have not made this possible just yet, exposing Lane, Panabaker and Hellesen to more responsibilities and situations they said they are not entirely savvy and well-versed for.
Lane plans to start selling the jerky at the Coffee House in the Memorial Union soon. After that, he plans to expand to other campuses like UC Berkeley, where he expects that Get Some Jerky’s mascot bear will become popular and widely accepted by the locals.
Ultimately, Get Some Jerky – and in essence Aggie pride – should be available in store counters throughout the nation.
As of now, Lane must continue to exploit his intellect, innovative talent and unique charisma to attract new investors to the company and thus slowly grow as an entrepreneur.
“Starting the company is like having a baby,” Lane said. “You’re always stressed, broke [and] too busy, but it’s worth it.”
DANIEL RIESGO can be reached at email@example.com.