We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff Hunter and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Interestingly, I never in a million years though that I would start my own business. I had invested in startups with people who were MUCH smarter than me, more business savvy than I ever thought I could be and they had business degrees which I never had. ALL of those startups failed miserably and I lost all my investments. That humbled me because when I saw these extremely smart people fail with fantastic ideas that I was willing to invest my money in, I never believed I would ever be in a position to be successful in business myself. The way our business got going was based on an idea that corrected a problem that I was having and my wife had solved for me. When I showed others the idea, we immediately were asked to make more for them. That wasn’t much of a light bulb moment as it was more like, hey “maybe we could make a little bit of money on the side making this product.” As we realized making our product on our sewing machine in our 1 bedroom apartment wasn’t very efficient, we decided we should maybe team up with a couple of people who had experience bringing products to market. They believed we had a great idea and they gave us the confidence to take the plunge. I had about $40K in savings which was all we had to try and get this started. We spent the next 8 months perfecting the product, sourcing the materials and going through factory after factory trying to find the right place to help us manufacture it, then building the website and then launching it. Strangely looking back on it, we had jobs, we didn’t feel pressure, we didn’t have any expectations and we certainly weren’t putting all of our effort into making this work. It was a slow, fluid process of just tackling one thing after another, knocking over one domino after another until things just sort of evolved into a business. It was once we starting making sales when we realized, “ok we truly are on to something, there is a market here, lets go!”
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Our fitness brand started on an idea. A moment of innovation that solved a real problem that nobody had yet found a solution for. What evolved from there was the need to make sure that it was the highest quality product made in the United States. As we grew our product line, we wanted to remain known as innovators. The majority of fitness brands simply buy their products off of Alibaba and slap their logo on generic products made overseas. There was truly no real innovation happening in the fitness accessories world for a long time. We set out to change that. Now we are blessed to be known as one of the most high end fitness brands in the industry. Everything we make we spend hundreds of hours designing, testing, and perfecting before we ever launch it, whereas 95% of the industry just continues to put their logo on more and more generic products as they grow. Part of me wonders if we had taken that road how much easier our business would have been to run, but I think our customers have come to know what to expect out of our products and choosing the easier path would save us in the short term, but long term we wouldn’t have the respect or confidence in our brand that we’ve built over the last 6 years. Nothing we’ve done has been easy. Running a business never really is and that is why so many fail. We’ve done well because we’ve always kept business as lean as possible. Just about everything we do does NOT go smooth. We lose money, we lose time, we lose opportunities. But we adjust and adapt and we stick to our core principles of creating the highest quality fitness gear in the world. When you live by that, you will always have a loyal customer base. So if we continue to innovate, we have people in line ready to buy because they want to see what we’ve come up with. That’s extremely valuable.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to give a shoutout to our late business partner, and mentor Mr. Kirk Sullivan whom without his experience, expertise, encouragement and weekly tasks he would put on me to keep the ball rolling, I would NEVER have made it work. He suddenly and tragically passed away about year and half after we launched JerkFit. I had grown quite close to him in his final months and his guidance was essential to keeping me on track to keep the momentum going. When he passed, I remember in a eulogy I did at his funeral saying “I feel like a captain who’s lost his compass”. I spent a long time trying to whether the storm of scaling our business without the guidance I had so relied on. This forced me to have to learn to make decisions on my own through gut instinct as opposed to experience which I simply didn’t have. His passing surely set me and the business back, but no doubt aided in my growth as a CEO and business owner. I am forever indebted to him and miss him dearly.