While growing up in Hammond, Bishop Noll Institute class of 1991 graduate Jeff King never dreamed he would be a business entrepreneur with a flourishing company selling, of all things, beef jerky.
Starting as a caddie at age 11 at Woodmar Country Club and working there throughout high school, King also never imagined a future caddying for professional golfers on the PGA and LPGA circuits, he said.
But King, now 40, is doing both. King, a professional PGA caddie, previously caddied for the LGPA for 12 years.
King said he was 24 years old and teaching in Florida when the opportunity to become a professional caddie for a female golfer arose.
“I will just do that for a year or two and travel around, get in the game and watch the tournaments,” King recalls. “Now here I am 16 years later.”
Recently, King hit a hole in one with his new company, Kingmade Jerky, with business partner Adam Papazian. In just five weeks Kingmade Jerky is receiving orders coast to coast, King said.
Made at a plant in Nebraska and direct shipped, King said his main goal is to have Kingmade Beef Jerky featured at golf courses and pro shops. To date King’s product is sold at 25 venues including J&M Golf Club Inc. in St. John. It comes in three flavors: classic, buffalo style and sweet chili pepper, all of which can be ordered in four-packs, six-packs or by the pound at www.kingmadejerky.com.
As a professional caddie, King wanted to find the perfect jerky to sustain his clients on the golf course. He wasn’t thrilled with what was available so King said he crafted his first batch of turkey jerky in his McKinney, Texas, kitchen using a dehydrator he bought at Bass Pro.
“It was so bad we took pictures of it,” King said. “Everybody took just one bite. Nobody ate another bite.”
After extensive experimenting, King’s beef jerky drastically improved, becoming so popular that other golfers would rifle through the zippered pockets of his clients’ bags, which is actually against golfing etiquette, King said.
“People weren’t even saying ‘hi’ to us anymore, they were just going through our golf bag,” King said. “It was hitting me in the pocket book because I was spending $200 or $300 feeding them.”
Eventually, while practicing in Miami, golf pro Scott Brown suggested King sell the jerky and said he would see if other golfers would buy it – and 70 did.
“Long story short, I have never asked one person to buy beef jerky off me,” King said.
By chance, in California, King met Papazian, who just happened to be in the food business. Papazian told King he takes products from the kitchen to the market place and had contacts in branding, marketing, production and packaging food products. It was the birth of their partnership and Kingmade Jerky.
King attributes his success partly to the work ethic he learned in Northwest Indiana.
“Being from the Region definitely makes you tough,” King said. “It makes you appreciate a lot of things that you do come across whether good or bad. It definitely teaches you to work hard and stay on to what you want to do.”
King can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
“The support and pride of everyone in the Region has been overwhelming,” King said.