“What are you guys doing?!” Steve, said as he walked into the house. He could tell right away that we were cooking something…
In the oven?!?!”
The air was moist with the smell of brown sugar, soy sauce, and liquid smoke, erupting from the cracked oven door. Approximately 3 dozen, or 7-8 lbs of beef, cut into thin slivers of meat was suspended by skewers inside the 375 degree appliance.
It was my very first enterprise, Leatherface Jerky Company. I, along with two of my closest friends Armando and Stafford, would spend each hour after school at the grocery store, and then destroying my mothers kitchen. Well, until she had enough and we had to rotate through Stafford’s house, much to the delight of his little brother Steve.
We would cook the meat through the night, and then equally divide the meat into brown paper bags. A sharpie would scribble “$15″ on the front and back of each bag, and as many bags as we could fit would be stuffed into our backpacks to be taken to school and distributed in the hallways between class.
We did okay, I mean what do you really need to spend money on when you are a sophomore in high school? Not even gas. So we reinvested all of our revenue. We bought more meat, more soy sauce, more liquid smoke, and more brown paper bags. We were first to market, so we had a pretty good run, but pretty soon this other kid, Harvey — his dad was a hunter, began showing up with his own bags of venison jerky. He had a real smoker, and his dad had a better recipe, so Leatherface quickly became a flash in the pan.
I wasn’t concerned, that Christmas we had gotten a Compaq Presario, and it came with a 8x cd burner. I was one of the very first kids that had access to one, and pretty quickly Sean Parker and I had partnered on my next venture. I could make $10-15 a mix, and since most mixes were usually very similar, could crank out 3ish a night.
But you need a place to listen to your mixes, and while a discman with 10 second skip protection is good, if you really wanted the girls to notice you you needed a ‘system’. This thrilled my mom, finally I was out of the kitchen (where the computer hutch was too) and into the driveway.
After designing subwoofer enclosures, and installing systems, I partnered with newegg and began to build desktop pcs. Then came the ages of 18-21 where I found limited success in the ‘hospitality’ (and a quick dabble in ‘pharmaceutical sales’) industry. Next came the certified bartender training company, a management holdings company/consultancy, a web design development company, and finally (FINALLY!) I am hitting my stride at the helm of a digital agency.
From here, it sure looks like entrepreneurship is a part of who I am, it defines my character, and is as much a part of who I am as my freckles and baby browns. Hindsight is 20/20. During the entire timeline contained in this story, for nine years from 2000-2009, I was lost. I was operating under the impression that I was to go to college with a program that was strong in my interests (mechanical or electrical engineering) to learn some good stuff, and go out and get a job working for a company that would provide a steady income and a very monochrome existence (no offense to all you drones out there that enjoy working for the man).
Only once, when I was building computers, did someone (my father) pull me aside and say “you know what, there is another option available to you.” Not one high school teacher, mentor, counselor, or college level professor, in 9 years ever tapped my shoulder and said,
“Not everyone is wired to work for someone else.”
So whats my point? To be bitter? Hell no; I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot during my 9 years in the desert, and I love my life. My point is this, there may be someone that looks up to you, that has a few quirks, that may appear on the outside to be wired a little ‘funny.’ If you come across someone like that in your life, I want you to point them to Grow Detroit, and encourage them to reach out. Take them to i3 Detroit, or any other number of Hackerspaces. Take them to a Makerfaire, or a local TEDx or ignite event, or spend just a few dollars and buy them an issue of Make magazine. Or even easier, find an entrepreneur, send them an email, and just ask them if your pipsqueek can buy them a coffee.
Michigan needs a bit of work, and we’re gonna need to all work together. We continue to hemorrhage talent, and most importantly we have a new generation on our hands, whose existance has been tracked since conception and some of them will be hungry to shape the world,
So lets all feed them a little jerky eh?
About Jordan Skole
Jordan Skole was the Technical Director of Robot Couture, a boutique social agency located in Metro Detroit. He currently runs the Social Media & Reputation Management department at Search Optics. He loves travel, dogs, bikes, and coffee, in no particular order. You can follow him on twitter at @jordanskole.