Hermosa Beach jerky maker plans Kickstarter expansion
Jim Nielsen, a local resident and owner of Jimmy’s Sticky Jerky, knew he had a good product when he was in the Army and his mom would send him care packages.
“Everybody would hover around me during mail call because my mom would send pounds of jerky,” said Nielsen, a Michigan native and former hunter.
Since the mid-’90s Nielsen has been expanding on his family’s recipe to create massive amounts of jerky to give to family and friends. In 2012, when he was between jobs he decided to make it a business. He partnered with a friend who was also between jobs – Monaka Wallis, and they began their beefy adventure.
“We decided, ‘Hey, we’ll make a go at it,’” Nielsen said. “We took what we had in our pockets, got a kitchen and formalized our recipe. We designed packaging, bought some ovens and off we went. We’re not quite breaking even, but we’re not too far in the hole.”
In order to take his business to the next level and increase production to sell nationwide, Nielsen and Wallis decided to start a Kickstarter campaign, an online program to connect entrepreneurs with potential investors. Their goal is to raise $7,000. As of Tuesday, the pair had $525 pledged and 28 more days to raise the money. If they don’t make their goal, Kickstarter’s policy is that none of the money pledged will be used.
“In short, we started our business a little more than a year ago with the normal mistakes and successes in any new business, but the one resounding fact we’ve come to realize from our friends and customers alike is that our Beef Jerky is some of the best on the planet!” the Jimmy’s Sticky Jerky Kickstarter page says.
Currently, Nielsen makes the jerky by hand in a rented California Certified kitchen in Torrance. If funded, he plans on upgrading his kitchen so he can sell nationwide and hire more people to help him make the sticky meat.
“Instead of doing 2,000 to 3,000 bags, I want to do 10, 20, 30,000 a month and go from there,” said Nielsen. “I’ll still do special batches and new flavors, but it costs money to get it started and get that inventory sold.”
He currently sells his jerky in over 20 stores in the South Bay and L.A. area, including Ashley’s Deli, Uncorked and Granny’s Grocer as well as the Torrance and Redondo Beach farmer’s markets.
“Basically you can’t throw a stick in Hermosa Beach without hitting our jerky,” Nielsen said, adding that it’s made in small batches. “Our jerky has no additives or preservatives, I make it with a low sodium soy sauce, fresh peppers, ginger, garlic that I peel and grind myself – those kinds of things. It’s not mass produced. I do 20-pound batches and sit there and monitor it and pull it out piece-by-piece. It’s a very hands on type of deal.”
Nielsen hopes the Kickstarter funds could help him spend less time pitching his meat to businesses, and more time expanding the company.
“It’s very fresh and full of flavor,” Uncorked owner Jeff Bonafede said. “It’s all handmade, you can’t beat it… I’m kind of a chili head, so I like the ‘fire’ flavor. He has another one with ghost pepper that has a great afterburn. We get plenty of good comments from customers. It’s just so hard to beat.”
The name, Jimmy’s Sticky Jerky, was a hard name to come up with, said Nielsen.
“It’s sticky, and I make it,” Nielsen said. “Honestly, I regret the name because now I have to make sticky jerky instead of regular.”
Previously, the jerky label featured a cow or turkey PhotoShopped near the Hermosa Beach pier. “But people said they didn’t want to see what they were eating,” said Nielsen.