By CECIL PERGRAM
A Clay City man, Anthony Knox is realizing his lifelong goal of starting his own company Wild Man Beef Jerky after working on the idea since he was a teenager.
“I’m 50 years-old and I started on this recipe when I was 13 years-old and it’s been a long time just to get to this point,” Anthony Knox said. “On the these ingredients it’s been trial and error. I’ve spent thousands of hours and weighed every grain of salt that went into this to get it perfect to where I think it’s the best and it’s hard to beat.”
“I worked with Scott’s Archery. I was their second employee in 1987. We got bought out by the Outdoor Group in New York six years ago. The day they bought it and met with us I came home and told my wife that I’ve always worked on this jerky idea and that this was the time I needed to get into it because they’re not going to survive. The very next day after they bought it, I started working on the building for the jerky plant knowing that eventually this is where I was going to be.”
“This all started six years ago (not counting the ingredients) over Scott’s Archery being sold,” Knox said.
“The first thing out of their mouths was we got to get our numbers up. I was like that’s not good because numbers aren’t everything,” Knox said. “Starting out with Bill Scott as a young man, Bill always said that you do quality and not to worry about the quantity. That will all work itself out and come later.”
Knox says that he is now using the lessons that he learned from Bill Scott with his business now to have a good product and to not shortchange people because it will cost the business in the long run.
“Most beef jerky companies do not buy U.S.A. beef, I can get beef cheaper from Mexico or Canada but the beef I buy is American from right here in the State of Kentucky. It’s not shipped in here on a railcar from Mexico. This is American beef I buy my meat from The Chop Shop in West Liberty and it’s all local cattle that’s been slaughtered. I want the quality,” Knox said.
“It’s a good product and I’ve tried it all. I’ve bought thousands of dollars worth of jerky everywhere I go,I try everybody else’s’ stuff but with mine I would put it up against the best of them it really is a good product,” Knox said.
“Our goal is to get 200 bags a day everyday for 5 days a week, our goal is to reach 1000 bags a week. It don’t sound like much but it’s a lot of work it’s not hard work it’s just time consuming,” Knox said.
“Like I said I had this idea when I was 13 years-old and even the logo you wouldn’t believe the time it took to sit there and draw it,” Knox said. “I’m not an artist but I would sit with a notebook in a tree stand. That’s why I put Made by A Sportsman For Sportsmen on the package because that’s a fact that all of these ideas came out of a tree stand.”
Knox says that his product is days away from being available in Powell County and that he has about a dozen or so stores located throughout the county that is going to start carrying Wild Man Beef Jerky.
Knox says the only thing that his company needs to do before hitting the shelves it to get a stamp from the USDA.
“They’ll keep records of everything that we bring in here and keep track of every package that comes out of here,” Knox said. “It has to have this stamp so that I know where each package goes.”
Knox says that there will a USDA inspector at the plant everyday from anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple of hours.
“They’ll be here it’s that critical. It’s hard to believe over just a small operation but the first thing they told me was there is no difference between a small business and large corporation they treat everybody the same and that they don’t cater to small businesses,” Knox said. “It’s kind of a lot of rules to follow and it’s really hard to grasp just the rules part of it. They were here just this last week and I took a 75 pages test If I hadn’t been involved with this from the start there is no way that I have passed but I know every nook and cranny of the product.”
“We are proud of it. We came a long way and done a lot of stuff. You would not believe what I’ve went through to get to this point with the USDA. They are good people but their tough they don’t make exceptions for no one.”
“I’m not here to get rich. I don’t want to be big my goal is to make the best beef jerky that you can buy and I’m going to be cheaper than the other guys because it’s my labor and I can be cheaper than the competition,” Knox said.
“I’m here to make a living if I don’t have to drive to Lexington everyday to work that’s huge and you can’t put a dollar figure on that at my age,” Knox said.
Knox says that there are some real possibilities for growth with his company by the connections he made with retailers such as Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops everyday from the time he was working with Scott’s Archery. Knox says that he also made other connections by chance while on fishing trip with his son at the Land Between the Lakes in Western Kentucky.
“This gentleman walked up to me and said hey I love beef jerky but I’ve never seen a bag like that. I told him that I make it and told him that he could take the rest of the bag not knowing who he was or nothing. Two months ago I got a text message asking if I remembered giving him a bag of beef jerky. I told him that I remembered him having no idea where this was going but needless to say he said that he was an investor who owns a percentage of over 80 gas stations and that he wanted to do business.”
“The potential is really there, its my opinion there are no limits to the potential. If we can start out small and do 100 bags a day for a while and get used to the USDA and them get used to me. Hopefully we can really grow into something larger,” Knox said. “We’re not big but there is a possibility that we could have three-to-four employees shortly. If I can support three or four families that’s a real plus.”