Dan Ford gave up his full-time career as a lawyer to follow his dream of creating Australia’s best beef jerky. That daunting transition paid off and not just in delicious beef jerky – just ask one of his 722 Kickstarter backers who pledged $26,500 last January to help get Ford’s Bald Rock Beef Jerky business up and running. The Kickstarter campaign raised over five times his original goal, making the campaign the most successful Australian Agricultural crowdfunding project to date!
Read on for entrepreneurial insights and inspiration from Dan to transition your side project into a full-time money-making gig!
Where did the inspiration behind Bald Rock Beef Jerky come from? Can you describe the founding story? My interest in beef jerky started when I visited Zimbabwe at the age of 13 where I was intrigued by the ancient process of drying meat that was so common and popular there. I had put together my basic recipe with the help of my mother’s cooking expertise by the time I was 18 and back in Australia. I made beef jerky regularly but each time I would tinker with my recipe to continue improving it.
When I was 21, I settled on the same recipe that I use today. I was inspired to start Bald Rock Beef Jerky by the feedback that I received from family and friends who enjoyed the delicious snack that I would share with them. For many years I put off starting Bald Rock Beef Jerky but after returning from a Rotary International Group Study Exchange to Wisconsin I made a conscious decision to go for it. Bald Rock Beef Jerky launched this time one year ago! The Pontifical Swiss Guards in the Vatican were actually sold my very first commercial packets. Since then I have never looked back!
What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting the business? How about the most rewarding parts? I have never had second thoughts about concentrating all of my time and energy on following my passion. However, making the decision to give up my profession as a lawyer to follow my dream of starting a beef jerky business was daunting and not a decision that I made easily! The further I progressed, the more sacrifices I had to make. I had to resign from my position as Officer Cadet in the Australian Army Reserves due to business commitments, which was another difficult decision to make. I had little financial security after spending my small life savings on startup-related costs, and that proved to be a difficult balancing act.
“I have never had second thoughts about concentrating all of my time and energy on following my passion.”
The most rewarding part of starting my business is meeting like-minded entrepreneurs, building new contacts, making new friends and being out on the road visiting my retailers. Receiving the Agricultural Business of the year award in my hometown and then the Innovation Business of the year for the region has been very rewarding.
Where do you see the company in five years from now? I would like Bald Rock Beef Jerky to be a well known brand around Australia. I would also like to have a healthy export market and to have expanded into the countries where I already enjoy internet orders from some loyal customers who enjoy great tasting Australian beef jerky (99designs’ SF office included!). I would like to have opened my own processing plant in my hometown of Tenterfield which I believe will have a positive impact on local industry.
What sets you apart from your competition? One of the unique features of Bald Rock Beef Jerky is my all natural recipe which uses grass fed free range beef all sourced from my family’s property “Bald Rock” and properties in the surrounding district. All of the ingredients are preservative and gluten free.
“The design of my packaging was something I wanted to set me apart from the others. I set out to have the best beef jerky packaging in the world.”
The design of my packaging was something I wanted to set me apart from the others. I set out to have the best beef jerky packaging in the world. Every packet of beef jerky that I came across in Australia, every packet I saw while travelling in Canada and USA, I would purchase. I wanted my packaging to be better than all the others. Thanks to 99designs and my designer g3Mrk who is from the Philippines I think I went pretty close to achieving this with my first ever packaging run. On my next packaging run I intend to make it just that much better.
You launched your packaging contest in December 2012. Where was your company at during that time, and how has it changed since? Prior to launch, setting up Bald Rock Beef Jerky took me 18 months of thorough planning and research. A big part of this was the design of my beef jerky packets and display box. Getting all my design work completed on 99designs allowed me to then move onto the manufacturing of the packaging and then ultimately the sale of my first packets! One year on we have nearly 100 retailers, a very successful market tent set up every weekend at the very popular Eat Street Markets, Portside in Brisbane, several employees and an office headquarters in my hometown of Tenterfield.
How has your brand developed at all since your 99designs packaging contest? Have you invested in more branding materials/collateral? I continue to work with the very designer g3Mrk that designed the Bald Rock Beef Jerky packaging on 99designs. In fact I am just planning the latest design update with him now! I am looking forward to once again working with my designer through 99designs on an exciting new brief which will see some small changes to my current packaging to make it even better but also I hope to work on some new packaging and promotional ideas.
The work my designer does through 99designs is not limited to logos and packaging but extends to flyers, postcards, business cards, banners, merchandise and different types of retail displays.
“Having good professional packaging designed has opened up lots of markets that I would not otherwise have been able to enter.”
How important do you feel branding is to the success of your business? Good packaging design is crucial to the overall success of my business. Having quality professional packaging designed has opened up lots of markets that I would not otherwise have been able to enter. While I feel as though I have made a good start with branding and design, this is something I am going to continue to work at.
What advice do you have for others starting a business? Tell anyone who is willing to listen what your dream is. Associating with like minded people is an absolute must! Take regular notes and plan everything out well. Whatever time you think it will take to start a business double it. Perseverance is everything.