Locally Made, All Natural It's Jerky
By Kayla Anderson
By Kayla Anderson
Photos by Eric Leslie
SOLD IN 3,100 stores in Western states, family-owned It’s Jerky shows that entrepreneurship is alive and well in Redding.
Founded in 1996, Redding resident Jim Gurney was a truck driver and avid hunter, making jerky in his spare time. When Jim would go out hunting, he would get a deer, make some venison jerky out of it and give it to his fellow truck drivers.
His co-workers loved it so much that Jim began running out of meat and started procuring it from local markets to continue his passion. However, he was making so much money selling jerky on the side that he eventually left his job as a truck driver to pursue making jerky full-time. The business steadily grew over the years and he soon relocated to a bigger storefront on 6854 Airport Road.
Meanwhile, his son Dustin grew up in Redding, graduated from Anderson High School and studied business at Chico State University. He became the divisional manager for Wells Fargo, helping other businesses secure funding to follow their dreams. While in that role, Dustin saw that his dad was struggling to keep up with the demand at It’s Jerky and felt like he could transfer his experience into the business that he knew quite well from his upbringing. In 2012, Dustin made his dad an offer to buy It’s Jerky, and took over the reins of the family business in 2013.
Dustin put his entrepreneurship skills to work and was able to get his beef into more than 3,000 locations in five Western states (fun fact: The Enjoy Store in Redding was one of its first distributors).
“I knew how to scale the business and I wanted to keep it in my hometown,” says Dustin. He buys all of his meat from California, and uses only the best pieces of select top round low-fat cuts. The product line includes six jerkies and four beef sticks. The Honey Pepper is the most popular product, but the Thick-n-Zesty is Dustin’s favorite.
“The product sells itself, no nitrates, all organic,” Dustin says.
It’s Jerky ships 15,000 pounds of meat per month, but Dustin says it wouldn’t have been possible without the combined effort of the rest of his staff. In order to grow, his team was able to dial in It’s Jerky’s manufacturing and packaging processes. Their dedication to be as efficient as possible led to profits and the ability to keep up with the demand of jerky connoisseurs in the United States.
To keep up with the demand, It’s Jerky recently moved into a larger facility on Crossroads Drive next to Rare Air Trampoline Park. The move will open up an opportunity for It’s Jerky to meet its nationwide distribution goal of getting into 10,000 stores in 25 states (increasing from a 1,200-square-foot facility into a 5,000-square-foot one).
“We want to continue to expand, offer good jobs, good wages, and stay in Redding,” he says. “We’ve been offered distribution in the Midwest and East Coast, but right now we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew,” Dustin says.
Putting 50 to 70 hours a week into the business, Dustin manages the operations and his wife Jamie helps out with the financial side. He says his favorite part of owning his It’s Jerky is being able to make a change at the drop of a hat.
“In the corporate world, you have to go up the chain of
command, which can take weeks. If there’s something we
don’t like here, we can change it in five minutes. We focus on production and profit, treating people right,” he says. There is no time to spare in the jerky world – taking four weeks to fix a problem can kill the bottom line.
“We’re hardworking people. I’m going to grow this business, but I can’t do it without my employees. I’m blessed that I have a good team. Two managers have been with me since I bought the business and they’ll help me take it farther,” he says.
It also helps having winning recipes. Biting into a Honey Pepper beef stick, Redding resident Richard Anderson says, “I remember years ago when Jim was selling his jerky at the Shasta District Fairgrounds. It is still so good.”
It’s Jerky is definitely on the up and up, but Dustin says his biggest accomplishment so far is building a successful business in Redding.
“As long as you have work ethic and constant dedication to the business then you can do anything,” Dustin says. •