Often, the key to success for a small business is to identify a niche and fill it.
But be advised: if the niche you have in mind involves chewy, tasty, healthy treats for people on the go, someone’s already spotted it.
People’s Choice Beef Jerky, a fourth-generation family business in Los Angeles, switched in the 1990s from purveyor of meats and sausages to an artisanal snack brand. Today, the company turns 20,000 pounds of beef each week into the cowboy campfire snack, with flavors ranging from Classic to Sriracha and Carne Seca.
“If you distribute stuff, anybody can get that anywhere,” said owner and president Mark Bianchetti. “But if you make certain products with your label, your branding, your flavor profiles, and people want that, then they have to come to you. You can’t be all things to all people. You kind of have to pick a direction.”
People’s Choice is a big hit on the west coast and in Hawaii, and the company is adding markets, notably Canada and New York. It employs a full-time staff of 18 in the same East Pico Boulevard building where Bianchetti’s grandfather, John Bianchetti, established Peoples Sausage Company in 1940. (The company had existed as a local market at a nearby location since 1929.)
Jerky’s become a popular choice for people who look for lean, high-protein, low-carb foods. Bianchetti’s products also appeal to the modern appetite for gourmet brands.
“We try to get away from being overly processed,” Bianchetti said. “Our product is real beef jerky, without a lot of additives and preservatives. We use almost 100 percent domestic beef, and we pride ourselves on the fact that we’re downtown LA and trying to stay authentic to where we started way back when.”
Small business is hard work. Bianchetti’s been rising at 4:30 a.m. since he joined the family firm after college in 1978. But the strong position that comes from building a trusted brand and lasting relationships is worth the effort.
“I’ve had people come in here and say, ‘I remember your dad from 40-50 years ago,” he said. “That’s what I think is so cool those relationships. I think my son sees that now when people come in and talk to me. That’s the most rewarding thing.”