Entrepreneurs

How 2 guys turned their love for beef jerky and golf into a business that's making millions

While working as golf caddies, Dennis Riedel and Blair Swiler would snack on beef jerky that Swiler made from scratch in his Florida kitchen. The friends turned the hobby into a business, and their company is projected to do $100 million in retail sales this year, Riedel tells CNBC's "Power Lunch."

Riedel and Swiler are the co-founders of Chef's Cut Real Jerky, which sells premium beef jerky, chicken jerky, turkey jerky and bacon jerky.

Founded in 2009, it was recently named one of the fastest growing businesses in the food and beverage industry in the 2017 Inc 5000 ranking, which cites the jerky maker's 2016 revenue at $26.9 million and three-year growth at 5,669 percent.

Before starting the company with Riedel, Swiler was a chef. He left his culinary career after the lifestyle nearly killed him.

"I worked long hours. I smoked. I weighed more than 300 pounds," he tells Inc. "I keeled over from a heart attack. I was 38. My wife insisted I quit restaurants."

So the couple up and moved to Florida, where Swiler became a caddy at Calusa Pines Golf Club, and befriended Riedel. At the time, Riedel was making $100 per golf bag "on a good day," Riedel tells CNBC. Then, he noticed how much golfers liked Swiler's jerky.

"He would bring this jerky on the golf course, hand it out to myself, other employees at the club, the members, everybody loved it," Riedel says in a video by the brand. "I pestered him for a few years to teach me the recipe."

After two years of asking, Riedel convinced Swiler to reveal the method behind the meat.

"[We] got off of the golf course one day and ran down to the store, and put all of the ingredients together and he showed me how to make it in the kitchen," Riedel says in the video.

In 2009, Riedel spent his summer caddying at Bayonne Golf Club in New Jersey. While there, he had the idea to sell the jerky to golfers, according to Inc.

"Courses typically have a snack bar after the ninth hole, and Dennis persuaded the director of golf there that they could make good money selling jerky," Swiler tells the publication. "They let him use an auxiliary kitchen for free to make the jerky, and they sold it in ziplock bags for $9.

"In September, Dennis called and told me we had a business. I moved to New Jersey, and we started churning out 200 to 300 bags a day."

After Bayonne, the pair then landed their jerky in prominent golf courses like Pebble Beach and Bel-Air Country Club.

"Dennis was instrumental in getting it into the hands of people that mattered," Swiler says in the video. "[It] grew from one private club to another, and then public golf courses also."

They both quit caddying in 2011, according to Golf Digest, and pursued their business full time.

"Eventually we sold to 45 of the 100 best clubs in America," Swiler tells Inc.

Now, the company's investors include CAVU Venture Partners and a handful of celebrities like baseball player David Ortiz, football player Von Miller and actress Olivia Munn, according to Fortune.

The jerky is also distributed though retailers like Costco, Safeway, Kroger and 7-Eleven, but Swiler tells Inc. that the company has no plans to just be a hole-in-one.

"That's our ambition: to expand beyond the meat category," he says.

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