Mike Shur – CEO and Founder at ShurkyJurky

[quote style=”boxed”]I’d start by finding a sugar momma. Seriously, being prepared financially is important because it increases the likelihood for success. [/quote]

Mike Shur works hard and loves his work. An ex-investment banker, Mike found his passion in jerky. His current focus is on disrupting the NW food and beverage startup and jerky industries. Mike is a hard-charging entrepreneur, with a soft side, and thrives under challenge. A former healthcare investment banker with an interesting background, Mike was born in Siberia, Russia, and emigrated to the U.S. as a young child, growing up in a street-wise neighborhood of Queens, NYC. As an only child, Mike found great inspiration from his childhood experiences, which taught him to be resilient, steadfast, and honorable, and jokes “getting my butt handed to me as a kid helped me forge character…and my failures have made me successful and happy”. Mike and his wife, Megan Stack, moved to Portland from the east coast over a year ago in pursuit of their love for the outdoors. Megan, a native Vermonter, is a local family nurse practitioner working with dialysis patients suffering from end-stage renal disease. Together, they founded ShurkyJurky in March 2010,to provide quality jerky to individuals leading healthy and active lifestyles, and initially launched their products through a CrossFit box in NYC — CrossFit Long Island City (LIC), their gym at the time (Mike lured Megan in with the promise of Paleo Pastries!). When not busy perfecting the jerky craft, Mike likes to enjoy sauerkraut, paleo donuts and great coffee. And when not exercising his doughnut addiction, Mike loves to inspire greatness in others by helping them reach their true potential. Mike aspires to hike Machu Picchu with Megan.

What are you working on right now?

(i) ShurkyJurky– Premier Artisan Jerky for the Healthy & Active Lifestyle; and
(ii) NW Food & Beverage Accelerator

Portland desperately needs a cohesive platform or system for Food & Beverage (F&B) investors to easily find new companies and founders of F&B startups need a collective, single location venue / facility for small-batch operations prior to reaching commercial scale and potentially outsourcing, as well as a communal business space.

I am proposing raising a fund with capital provided by strategic F&B players (Whole Foods, Rogue, Pepsi, etc.), financial investors (VCs and PEGs), and industry advisors / professionals (including past C-level executives and consultants).

Currently, the Accelerator investment model used by 500S and Y Combinator can be applied to this conceived F&B Accelerator with adjustments made for CPG given the upfront cap ex investment.

About ShurkyJurky – ShurkyJurky are Purveyors of Choice Artisan Jerky. We make ShurkyJurky from scratch using real fruit and without any refined sugars, additives or preservatives.

We are passionate about jerky which is why we go to great lengths to craft a truly high-end, premier quality jerky using fresh pineapple and without salt-laden soy sauce. ShurkyJurky is 100% Paleo / Primal, Gluten-free, Certified Raw and Whole30 Compliant. A truly revolutionary jerky made fresh with real fruit and unlike any other on the market today, ShurkyJurky is increasingly preferred by outdoor recreationalists, performance athletes and health food enthusiasts, as well as cocktail & beverage lovers and foodies alike.

Where did the idea for ShurkyJurky come from?

I began crafting artisan jerky in 2009 when my passion for smoked meats and jerky led me to create my own product given the lack of high-end artisan jerkies available on a commercial basis to retail consumers. I was working as an investment banker at the time and working out at a CrossFitLIC (LongIslandCity) in NY. When I brought in samples of our product people went crazy for it and asked me to make it for them. That’s when ShurkyJurky was born.

How do you make money?

We sell beef, pork, turkey and bison jerky to a high-end customer base. The traditional target market for meat jerky has been males ages 25-50. We maintain recurring revenue of 40-60%.

Our revenue model consists of three primary sources, including:
D2C (~10%)
ShurkyJurkyeCommerce website
Farmers Markets, F&B events & trade shows
Partnered craft beer & jerky tap room
Spartan Race
Wholesale (~90%)
Gyms &CrossFit
Athletic events, triathlons, races & competitions
Bars, brew pubs & high-end restaurants
3rd party eCommerce distributors
Natural food / gourmet markets / delicatessens / butcheries
Regional craft beer partnerships
Selective White Label, Licensing & Royalties
Charitable Foundations (strategy in process)

Currently, there is no commercial-grade, high-quality jerky / performance meat snack on the market according to our research and experience which indicate the lack of a truly comparable product that can cross demographics and bridge broad customer segments. We make artisan jerky and mainly women buy it.In fact, more than 65% of our sales come from women ages 20-60 who are very health conscious.

ShurkyJurky’s greatest differentiator and competitive advantage is that our product is sugar-free, made with fresh fruit, sliced thinner, and appeals to women. Although we have modest revenue, people really love our products.

We currently sell D2C via eCommerce such as Etsy and via social media. Our re-designed eCommerce sitewent live on 7/25 along with our new crowdsourcing campaign with Portland-based startup, Crowd Supply. We are targeting high-end food retailers such as Market of Choice and Zupans and athletic retailers such as REI. Also, we are working with local restaurants, brew pubs, bars, craft brewers and coffee shops. In addition we are targeting D2C food festivals, trade shows, farmers markets and athletic events.

What does your typical day look like?

It’s more like the atypical day. There is really no such thing as a typical day, at least not today. I also think that this is part of the process of building a company from scratch, just like our jerky (for which we do have a small-batch streamlined process). One minute I’m making and shipping products and samples, and the next I’m speaking or meeting with investors, distributors, vendors and strategic partners. Other days I could be dealing with financial matters, customer service inquiries, or getting input from and providing advice to other local entrepreneurs. Although we are raising capital from investors (in addition to our live crowdsourcing campaign), we’re bootstrapped today, and it’s challenging being a solopreneur, but there are great rewards that come with the work. There are many key learnings and great relationships forged with other local entrepreneurs. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way…if you can’t handle the fire, step out of the kitchen”.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am often inspired by ideas from other people. I tend to be quite analytical and thoughtful about vetting and implementing ideas.For me, ideas often stem from a combination of these things: listening to others, being introspective and/or being observant of things around me.

Before going full-time with ShurkyJurky, I analyzed, monitored and evaluated the artisan jerky industry for three years. Usually, I take several weeks to a few months to assess whether an idea has true merit and or a business concept has market potential. When viability is likely, I proceed with planning, building and executing.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Besides the obvious jerky revolution? I really believe that what happened to craft beer will happen to artisan jerky. We’re excited to see all the new web-based and brick & mortar artisan jerky startups launching every month. We think this is a real trend and a clear indicator of the disruption to come (see our Press Kit for crowdsourcing examples and our pitch deck for other industry players). I’ve been saying for yearsthat the jerky revolution is coming (despite brow-furring and jaw-dropping looks of confusion and bewilderment – yes, people looked at me as though I were crazy).But the reality is that the revolution is actually already here…it’s arrived and you can’t ignore the pink elephant in the room. But before the juggernauts realize what has transpired, it will be too late. They will face a fate similar to the beer-brewing behemoths.

I also think that bacon on everything is another trend that is picking up steam. And bacon can easily be substituted with high-end, artisan jerky. “If it can be done with bacon, it can be done better with jerky.”

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Even though we’re in good company, in an effort to prevent being blacklisted and having to hire an attorney (those fees add up quickly), it’s best to keep the worst of the worst under wraps for now.I was certainly selling my soul to the devil or working for the enemy. Frankly, I chose the wrong career despite gaining an invaluable skillset. I wasn’t really well-suited for investment banking from a personality and creativity standpoint. But I stuck with it because I knew the training would pay off, and it certainly did. Like Mohammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” I’m hardly a champion of anything but in the long-run it was the right decision.

And in fact, the only job I really enjoyed, before launching ShurkyJurky was my college internship with Alpine Investors, a San Francisco-based private equity firm where I sourced deal flow and vetted investments. Ever since then I have been like a heroin addict, chasing that first good hit.Just like when my wife found Salt & Straw ice cream, after years of a Ben & Jerry’s addiction. So really, everything in between Alpine and ShurkyJurkywas like training for the big match. So, I guess, for me, it wasn’t so much a specific job, as it was an entire career path.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d start by finding a sugar momma. Seriously, being prepared financially is important because it increases the likelihood for success. If we could reset the clock, we would save more money to launch the new business venture as there are many upfront costs, which we knew going into it.It’s helpful to be able to plan in advance (in most cases) but in this particular case, with respect to ShurkyJurky, certain things transpired where it was a “now or never” decision and we decided to move forward as we were working against the clock.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Stay determined and be persistent despite obstacles. My favorite quote, by Calvin Coolidge (and it’s kind of a long one) summarizes it very well. So I’ll just let Caltake it away…

”Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

I think this is pretty much the mantra every entrepreneur must adopt and live by on their quest.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I continue to work on my shortcomings, every day. I try to find the silver lining in every “failure”. Sometimes, when we think we’ve failed, we’ve learned something that put us on a new path, taking us closer to our final destination. What I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that no matter how awful or terrible I think something is, it’s actually not the end of the world and things will work out if I continue to put in the work. This shift in mindset allowed me to view obstacles as opportunities rather than impediments.

Currently, our fundraising efforts are slowgoing but I wouldn’t call this a failure. We’re actually very fortunate to have experienced a lot of momentum and realized much support from local entrepreneurs, fans and customers.

I’ve also learned that I should listen to my wife more often…she usually knows what is best for me and has my interest at heart.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

So I’m not sure if this exists already but I haven’t seen it yet. I would like to see a free app that lets you virtually exchange e-business cards, perhaps via a simple Bump-like function or a direct share. The biz card contents should seamlessly integrate with your smartphone’s contacts and be easily accessible and shareable for convenient forwarding to others. Long gone will be the days of “What’s your number or email?” A simple e-biz-bump will take care of it. If you build it, they will bump, right?And I have to give credit where it’s due, this was actually my wife’s idea.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I’m kind of a dreamer, so this is one of those really open-ended questions for me. This answer is really quite controversial, however, I really believe in “paying it forward”. I think that we as people and individuals should consider our effects on our neighbors and society at large. If everyone had their neighbor’s interest at heart then we would all collectively be concerned for each other’s welfare. I think that mandated social wellness programs do more harm than good and that individuals ultimately need to be accountable for their own outcomes. I think that more education vs. not mandated taxation puts us on the right path. I’m paraphrasing but the old adage goes “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for life.”

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I have yet to attend my first rock concert andI am a huge fan of rap and hip-hop. I grew up listening Biggy, Tupac and Mobb Deep. And lots and lots of Beatles! I know, they seem to be polar opposites but Jay-Z did produce the White Album. Anyway, it wasn’t until RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), where I attended college that I was exposed to a broad array of timeless music genres, like classic rock. Then I went on a classic rock binge. Today, I’m a big fan of Macklemore and Lupe Fiasco. Someone should do a mashup or they can do a concert together. I would go to that…

Also, despite coming across as an extravert, I am actually an introvert and enjoy spending quality time with myself to reflect and recharge. I like the company of people one-on-one, which affords intimacy during conversation or in very small groups which really gives me the opportunity to get to know someone on a more personal level. Yes, I like making meaningful connections with real people.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

LinkedIn has been priceless for networking. It’s like going to a professional conference or event without leaving your home or office. You can connect with interesting people from similar or different backgrounds and share contacts, connections, and get advice. It gets my vote fornetworking tool of the decade. I do believe that LI will be the Naturally Born hardcopy Resume Killer.

Dropbox is indispensable given that I am constantly working remotely. Being able to save down and access in real-time large files is key to working efficiently and making every second count. Of course when there is no Internet, that’s a major bummer and that’s when I’m on the phone or doing things locally on my Mac.

PopAPP – POP (Prototyping On Paper) transforms sketches to click-through prototypes in minutes. POP is the app that lets developers turn paper sketches into app prototypes, and is a member of AVOS’ Accelerator, the Internet company led by YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. POP doesn’t satisfy with prototypes and is providing a novel tool for anyone with an idea to turn that idea into a real app just using pen and paper. POP believes that “if you can draw, you can make apps”. POP is the easiest solution to turn sketches into click-through app prototypes in minutes.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins to anyone, young, old, experienced or novice. It’s a quick and easy read with a ton of great conclusions about business and life in general. It distills the key aspects of what truly makes successful companies, the people, leadership, practices and character attributes. The ones that become great do certain things their competitors do not.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Pat Black

Inspiring unconventional thinkers to change the way businesses do business.

Why:Offers awesome, inspirational and mind-activating quotes and ideas…unorthodox concepts and things that make you go, hmm. Good brain food.


Portland-based pitch day for leading, rising and promising, local startups.

Why:Interesting new forum for local PDX startups as 10 companies will leave the event funded with the decision cast thru audience member votes. Their profile is new and still in process but the event is sometime in September.

Lisa Suennen

Lisa is a founding partner of Psilos Group, a healthcare VC fund focused on improving quality and reducing costs in the healthcare economy.

Why: I have been following Lisa for over a year. She is witty, funny and enlightening, providing unique insights into our health care system that not only educate the audience but also leave you quite entertained.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud and smile each and every day. But the last time I laughed was before leaving the house this afternoon when our cat, Moojie (pronounced “Moo-Jee”) wined, cried and rolled around like a puppy just as I was heading out the door. We get a lot of laughs and smiles with her. She’s our baby.

Who is your hero?

Growing up I never had one and I struggled with that because everyone around me seemed to have someone. Today, I only have one and it’s my wife and life partner, Megan. She’s my hero because she “would live in a cardboard box with me”. She’s my fire, and that’s just how it is.

Have you ever been put in a situation where you were given instructions that went against what you knew to be best? How did you act and what were the implications?

Yes, at one of my roles, I was asked to provide a recommendation with respect to certain project. In doing so, it was suggested rather overtly that I support a theory with cleverly positioned “facts” rather than using objectivity to establish a theory. Without going into specifics, I stood my ground and remained objective, impartial and honest to myself with my recommendation. I chose integrity over politics and the cost was my role. Fortunately, it put me on the path to ShurkyJurky as well.

Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do because it makes me happy. I like to create, build and inspire. When I wasn’t doing these things I felt like a part of me was dying each and every day that I was on a different course.


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