When Mike Shur ’06 (business administration) was laid off from his job as a health care investment banker, he started thinking about how he could fill his days.
He remembered Anthony Greco, who lived across the hallway his freshman year at RIT, and the homemade beef jerky made by Greco’s grandfather that Greco would share with his friends.
Shur, who was born in Russia and had always enjoyed eating smoked meat as a child, started playing around in his kitchen in an attempt to duplicate the recipe. After hundreds of tries, he created a healthy version of jerky with no refined sugars, additives or preservatives.
In 2013, Shur turned the artisan jerky into a full-time online business called Shurky Jurky. This year, he plans to begin selling the product to high-end grocers, CrossFit gyms and specialty shops.
“I am really fortunate to be doing what I’m passionate about and what I enjoy,” said Shur. “It’s truly a luxury to be in this position right now.”
After graduating from RIT, Shur knew he wanted to go into investment banking. But two years of the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of finance took its toll. When he was laid off during the economic downturn of 2008, he took advantage of the free time to reclaim a healthy lifestyle. Along with experimenting with jerky, he joined a CrossFit gym, began following a Paleo diet of eating only unprocessed foods and lost 40 pounds.
He debuted his meat snack at a CrossFit Paleo potluck party and before he knew it, he had been dubbed the “jerky dealer.”
“One of the guys came up to me and said, ‘This stuff is amazing. You should sell it,’” Shur said. “I started making it and selling it to people in my CrossFit gym.”
Shur returned to investment banking but continued to make the snack on the side and continued to tweak the recipe based on customer feedback. In early 2013, he was ready to quit his venture capital job in Portland, Ore., and work on the business full time. He and his wife, Megan Stack, moved from New York City to Portland in 2012.
In its first official year, the company sold about $2,000 a month through mail orders—and that was without a formal marketing campaign. Shur hopes those sales will jump to more than $200,000 this year because his company is partnering with a U.S. Department of Agriculture manufacturer, which allows them to sell the jerky to retailers.
“Our product is going to appeal to someone who wants to lead an active and healthy lifestyle—individuals who are looking for something that is going to provide a meal replacement or a natural form of protein,” he said. “They are tired of bars, powders and supplements and they want an alternative.”
Greco, who left RIT after his second year and now works for Computer Sciences Corp. as a financial analyst, said that he is honored his grandfather inspired a business. He has no doubt Shurky Jurky will be a success.
“My grandfather’s jerky never used all natural ingredients like Shurky Jurky does, and I have to say you can taste the difference,” Greco said. “I give Shurky Jurky hands down the best jerky I’ve ever tasted. Sorry Grandpa.”
Shurky Jurky is made from scratch using pineapple instead of refined sugars. There are no additives or preservatives, unlike traditional jerky, and the majority of the company’s customers are women. It is 100 percent Paleo and gluten free and available in beef, pork, turkey and bison. For more information, go to shurkyjurky.com.