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Meet Jared and Kendra Lerwick of Pumpkin Creek Ranch in Windsor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jared and Kendra Lerwick.

Jared and Kendra, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My wife, Kendra, and I never dreamed we would be selling high-end beef cuts. She is a NICU nurse with an intense drive for discovery and I am sales and marketing professional with a degree in Landscape Design. Design and creativity was my life before the housing market crash eliminated my industry for a few years. I needed employment so I took a job selling marketing solutions at a tech startup. Eight years later and I am running my own team of sales reps at marketing giant Constant Contact. After having kids in quick succession, Kendra backed off her hours and stayed home. She is a dreamer begins developing a lot of ideas for businesses she wanted to start. I was becoming a marketing and sales nerd developing sales and go-to-market strategies. We were a pretty good business team void of an actual business.

When my brother, who operates the family ranch with our dad, called and said he was done trying to make money selling his cows and crops through the normal middle-man-heavy agriculture model, we put all of our attention researching ranch/farm direct-to-consumer products. We found there was a missing option for a niche that wanted just a few cuts, not a bulk order that required the purchase of a large freezer. (There are single cut options but they aren’t sourced). Dean, my brother, had developed a finishing ration all of which he grew on the farm. Also, he had been letting his cows stay on the ranch and extra year, resisting the urge to cash out for little money by selling to a middle man. When Kendra and I shared some of this beef with friends, we saw a product that we had taken completely for granted light up pallets. Dean had unlocked the secret to flavor: age and diet. The team was now complete. We had the production, sales, and marketing positions filled and a single vision.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been far from a smooth road for us. Frozen goods are one of the hardest products to ship. There are many options for insulation and boxes–none being correct for us. Insulation vendors are not usually modeled to sell custom to startups, rather, they require minimums of 1000’s to 100,000’s of units. Going the conventional route of white mailer boxes would be easy but it would also place our brand right in the middle of an indistinguishable sea of our competition. Finding our customers has also been a challenge. This is an expensive product. What do you charge for a single cut that came from an animal we waited three years to grow? Up to this point, we have been selling similar prices as the other ranches.

However, they are focused on bulk selling (1/4- 1/2 animal shares), which makes their individual steaks cheap. This isn’t and has not been a sustainable model. Many ranches use this model because they aren’t great at marketing and/or don’t have the time to put into moving small batches of product. We are pulling away from this model by positioning ourselves alongside Men’s luxury items. We have spent a year and a half evolving our brand to be the company you buy from if you need a perfect cut for that celebratory meal for two. Because this is a new concept, there are no turnkey websites and packaging options available to us. We are building everything from the ground up.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Pumpkin Creek Ranch – what should we know?
Our business is different from all of the other beef companies for a few reasons. Our flavor is unmatched and you can order just a few cuts at a time. Most ranchers still live in the move-the-product-fast agroeconomic model. For years the beef industry has but the product in your grocery store by taking a calf from the rancher, selling it to a finisher (feedlot), then selling it to a processor who has contracts with end-retailers (your store). Everyone places their markup on the product leaving the rancher with the least amount of gain. This created an industry of quantity, not quality, as ranchers couldn’t afford to put much time into their animals.

The industry has operated this way for decades but, because of rising production costs, the rancher is being squeezed beyond what can be sustained. This has ushered in the rancher’s switch to direct market selling. However, the piece of the old model that is still haunting this new movement is the need to fatten quickly and bulk sell for little markup. We reject this model. Our cows don’t live a short 18-month life. Our cows enjoy a full three years on the ranch. Also, everything they eat is from our farm (not imported). Also, our herd dates back to 1946, which is when our grandpa started it. Taking zero shortcuts and committing time to our craft means the cost to produce is much higher than other producers. We are not your economic option (that would be Costco). We are the brand you turn to when you need that perfect flavor for a specific meal. We are luxury, we are finest in flavor.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Relentless drive and creativity. My wife and I see the world completely differently than most people. This makes us weirdos in most circles. However, we live in a different world and culture than my brother on the ranch. When the person on the ranch tries to sell into our world, they often find themselves lowering their prices and selling directly to the bargain hunters for little gain. We have been able to go after a market many rural people don’t even know exists. Through hard work and creativity, we have begun to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

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