Behind the Brands: Think Jerky
An exclusive interview with Ricky Hirsch, CEO and Founder of Think Jerky. Think Jerky uses only 100% grass-fed beef that has no hormones, no antibiotics, no gluten, and no nitrites and each flavor is expertly crafted by a different Michelin-Star Chef.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve started several business in finance but always wanted to launch a company with a tangible product. Food intrigued me because there are so many ways to create, market, and distribute products. As my mom will attest, I was a picky eater as a child but loved beef jerky, so it was the natural choice for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It sounds cliché, but every day is interesting because we’re always doing something new. As a small team, we wear many hats so everyone is very involved. If I had to pick, I would say the most interesting aspect of starting Think Jerky has been the amazing people I’ve gotten to meet – from Barry Turner (Lenny & Larry’s Cookies) and Peter Rahal (RXBar), to Andy Friedman (SkinnyPop) – as well as our thousands of amazing customers. The people have definitely been the best part of our journey.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think the funniest “mistake” we made was at the very beginning when we were creating our recipes. All our jerky is made by world-famous Chefs. They thought I knew how to formulate a recipe for production and I assumed they knew… It turns out no one had a clue and the initial trials were a complete disaster! Thankfully, we had some help along the way and learned how to replicate the Chef’s recipes on scale.
Tell our audience what makes Think Jerky so special.
I think what makes us special is the quality and care that goes into our products. Along with being one of the healthiest jerky products on the market (we only use 100% grass-fed beef or free-range turkey with no added hormones, antibiotics, nitrites/nitrates, or gluten), each flavor is crafted by a world-famous Chef. This culinary attention is like having a gourmet meal in each bite.
Tell us the founding story of your business.
I came up with the idea in my bathtub. I was between businesses and spending a lot of time meditating and reflecting on my next venture. What I would do is take a bath and write down a bunch of ideas, then assess them the next day. Usually the review sessions went, “This idea is weird… No one would want that idea…” but then one day I saw “Chef Crafted jerky” and was like, “Oh hey, that sounds great, let’s do that.” The rest is jerky history.
How did you come up with the name of Think Jerky?
I can’t remember the exact day/time, but I chose Think because I’m a big meditator, reflector, and practitioner of mindfulness. I believe we all need to take time to consider what we want, where we want to go, and how we want to get there. Think is a reflection of me and also a broad enough name that we can go into other food categories without being pigeon holed
Where does your business call home, and what makes it special?
Our business has always been remote. We call Chicago “home” but we have employees in Ohio and Florida. Our business philosophy is personal responsibility and hard work, so as long as we get the job done and are accountable, we’re comfortable working from wherever/whenever.
What is your favorite aspect of running an artisan jerky company?
My favorite part is creating tangible products that brings people joy and interacting with our customers who love our products.
What is your favorite flavor of jerky?
I love them all for different times of the day.
In your opinion, what separates the small-batch jerky artisans from the larger jerky producers?
I think both small batch and large scale producers offer great products for different customers/budgets. One thing that makes us special is that we can use seasonal and niche ingredients, which provides a more culinary experience. If you’re too big, you won’t be able to use certain ingredients because you can’t source enough.
How has 2020 impacted your jerky business, and what do you see as the future of jerky? –
2020 was a rough year for most everyone. I see things moving back to normal now, so our plan is to keep moving along at our speed.
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