Penn students have launched numerous startups from their dorm rooms, but few have been as unconventional as this new business from College juniors Christian Kildal-Brandt and Ryan Finch. The two students, who met on Penn’s track and field team, are running an artisanal beef jerky business.
Kildal-Brandt and Finch co-founded Ninth Street Jerky in their sophomore year with the aim of bringing a high-quality, nutritious snack to college students and revamping the “gas station” image of beef jerky in the process, Finch said.
On Nov. 12, Penn's on-campus market Gourmet Grocer began stocking their jerky, which comes in six different flavors and is priced at $11.99 per packet.
The founders said they were inspired by the high-quality, affordable meats they found on trips to Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market. When the two students were on the Track team, beef jerky was an easy source of protein. They are no longer on the team but still rely on jerky as a snack.
“We definitely wanted to keep in shape, and jerky was the way for that,” Kildal-Brandt said.
The students said beef jerky's ease of consumption and high protein content makes it an ideal fuel food for college students with busy schedules.
“It’s a very easy product for students to consume,” Finch said.
Ninth Street Jerky sources its products from Amish artisans in Lancaster County, Pa. These artisans use the more traditional method of manually hanging the jerky to dry. The founders said this gives the jerky a higher quality and a more authentic taste compared to mass-produced jerky processed in large-scale industrial dehydrators.
“What you can find on our jerky actually is a hole in every single strip of jerky where they’ve hand hung it,” Kildal-Brandt said. “So when we say we’re differentiating ourselves from gas station brands I think that’s what we mean.”
Ninth Street Jerky is currently available online and at Gourmet Grocer, but the company hopes to expand to retail locations on other college campuses in the near future.
One of their first targets is Northeastern University, where Ninth Street Jerky Chief Marketing Officer and co-founder Philip St. Jacques is a senior. After Northeastern, the founders hope to expand to other schools in Boston and all over the East Coast.
But the founders said they are also open to adapting their plan.
“We’re going to base our business model on what works.” Kildal-Brandt said. “If things don’t work on college campuses and people are just not buying, but people are buying off the Internet model, we’re just going to switch to the Internet model. But right now I have great hopes for the University of Pennsylvania.”
Kildal-Brandt said his favorite flavor is “Pioneer,” which is a cracked pepper jerky, while Finch’s is “Ranger,” a barbecue jerky. Moving forward, the founders said they plan to hold outreach events on Penn’s campus to promote their product.
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