Today we’d like to introduce you to Adam Van Cleave.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Adam. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in starting my own business, and being an entrepreneur. Even as a kid, I never talked about becoming a fighter pilot or a fireman when I grow up. I only wanted to be an entrepreneur. Of course, at that time I had no clue what business I wanted to create. So, I did what any reasonable person would do – I became an attorney. But I never really felt that passionate about being one. You can make a really good living as an attorney, but that just wasn’t enough for me. I wasn’t fulfilled. It was a job, not a calling.
At the same time there was something else stirring – I have always had a deep fondness and love for Texas. In 2011, I decided to make a change – to leave Michigan, and move to Texas. So I applied to a few jobs in Dallas and took the best offer that came my way. I packed up my Jeep to the brim and drove down to Dallas, and have never looked back. In hindsight, probably not the smartest thing to have done, but I can be pretty impulsive sometimes and I just wanted to be in Texas. I had also the utmost faith that everything would work out. And it did. Phew!! Shortly after moving, I met my wife Carmen, and it was Carmen who gave me the gift of a food dehydrator and a jerky starter kit. That gift was just perfect! I have always loved beef jerky, and had always felt that the selection in stores was limited, and boring. If you wanted quality jerky, it seemed like you either had to sacrifice flavor or natural ingredients. There was nothing that struck on this quadfecta – high quality beef, great bold flavors, no artificial preservatives, and little to no sugar. And I didn’t want to make that choice – I wanted it all.
I started experimenting with that first dehydrator and trying new and unique styles of jerky, which had great flavor that I personally enjoyed, and was proud to share with my friends. Initially, I would bring the jerky to work as a snack, but my friends and coworkers loved it so much they kept offering to pay if I made some for them. I didn’t take me long to realize that selling beef jerky could be the opportunity I was looking for to start my business. After doing some research, I confirmed what I already knew – that the beef jerky market was loaded with over-processed, sub-standard quality products with flavors that were too boring and too basic. I also found that snack food, and meat snacks in particular, were going through a renaissance. Less than six months after I received that dehydrator, I quit my job, bought commercial dehydrating equipment, and started VC Dry Goods.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We have definitely faced some challenges along the way, but looking back there is nothing that I would do differently. Each challenge was an opportunity to learn and to grow. Most of our challenges have come from pushing the limits of what the norm was in the beef jerky business. For example, we use the freshest ingredients to season our beef jerky – and so when we wanted to switch our production to a co-packer, we had a very difficult time finding one that had the capability to use fresh ingredients in jerky. You see, most co-packers have their capability limited by what the big manufacturers demand – it’s all dried ingredients (granulated garlic, soy sauce powder, etc). At that point, we had a choice. We could give up and started going with the industry norm using dried ingredients like everyone else. It surely would have been the easier thing to do. But we took the path less traveled because we did not want to ever compromise on quality. We kept searching for the right co-packer, and we fortunately found one who was willing to try our new process of using fresh ingredients, and meet our quality standards.
Another very big challenge we faced was with start-up capital. At the start, I wanted to hit the ground running. I had written a business plan for VC Dry Goods. Initially, I wanted to focus on a storefront that sells the highest quality beef jerky. I then quit my job, and after that went to the banks to get a small business loan. Well, we had no one willing to back us. So at that point, we looked at our options. My parents were kind enough to invest some of their savings, and my wife and I had some money saved as well. But even then, it wasn’t enough for that storefront that was so beautifully visualized in my polished business plan. So, we improvised. Because we needed a place to make our jerky – we started renting space by the hour in local commercial kitchens. Because we needed an outlet to sell our jerky – we started selling in local farmer’s markets. It was a lot of work, but it was an awesome experience. At these farmer’s markets we found our niche. We were tested for quality, flavor, and value, and we worked that much harder to make the best beef jerky possible. It really was a test because of the very sophisticated and discerning consumer that you find at these markets. They were critical when they needed to be – and we pushed ourselves to deliver what they asked for. When we delivered something they loved, they praised us – and we knew that was something to celebrate. I truly believe that is where we found our identity – VC Dry Goods really was born in farmers markets of Texas.
We still do markets, but it’s too seasonal to be a main source of income. In the last year, we have taken what was birthed in those markets and started selling to select retailers. The response has been spectacular. However, we recognize the significance that these markets have played in our journey, and we want to make sure that we always stay connected with our customers and with our roots.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the VC Dry Goods story. Tell us more about the business.
VC Dry Goods is a premium snack food company. Right now, our first offering is Genuine Craft Jerky, which is beef jerky taken to the next level. Think of it as charcuterie compared to ordinary cold cuts – there is no comparison and there is nothing like it on the market.
Our Genuine Craft Jerky really is that much better, both in flavor and quality. To get there, we start with high-quality Angus beef because of the great flavor that you get from the natural marbling. Then, we combine fresh ingredients to create new and unique flavors that will blow your mind. We also don’t use any artificial preservatives because we don’t have to – the process we use cures the meat naturally. We have three flavors at the moment, our original (G Dub!) which tastes just like a great steak, a spicy version of our original (Spicy G Dub!), and our hot flavor which features fresh garlic, ginger, and cayenne (Type-X). We also have some great new flavors coming. We have so much amazing innovation coming down the pipeline, and it goes beyond beef jerky. We have so many snack segments that we want to shake up, that’s why our company is called VC Dry Goods, not just VC Jerky. We are really just getting started, so stay tuned.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t really believe in luck, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. When I was younger, I learned a saying that sums up my view pretty well: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Under that definition, luck has played a large part in our success. There have been many great opportunities that have helped me grow personally, and us grow as a company. To attribute those moments to chance would be naive.
Opportunity is everywhere, especially in a place like Dallas. You just have to be prepared recognize it, and seize upon it. Our ‘luck’ will continue to be fueled by our hard work as we move forward and seize upon the numerous opportunities that exist in the marketplace.
- Genuine Craft Jerky – $7.99 per bag
- Goods To Go Club (Monthly Subscription) price – $6.87 per bag
- Address: 11625 Custer Rd.,
Frisco, TX 75035
- Website: www.vcdrygoods.com
- Phone: 2487018548
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: vcdrygoods
- Facebook: vcdrygoods
- Twitter: vcdrygoods