By DEANNA LYE
On a snowy Monday afternoon, I managed to sit down and have a chat with Alex Krakoski ’16 about his entrepreneurship endeavors. If you were thrown into a situation where boarding school was a campus that mirrors beautiful castle grounds but lacked refrigerators to store your own favorite food, what would you do to prevent your bouts of hunger for snacks? For Alex, he resorted to making his own rendition of beef jerky to prevent these hunger pangs. Prior to his attendance at Cornell, the sophomore entrepreneur was a high school student at Leysin American School, a boarding school in Switzerland. The two years of boarding school allowed Alex to meet many international students from exotic countries. When he was invited to visit his friends during school breaks, Alex saw that his homemade beef jerky was a window of opportunity to earn money to fund his flight tickets for these overseas trips. To get the business going, Alex’s mother assisted in making the first few batches for sale.
Although Alex sold beef jerky at Leysin to earn money for personal use, it was not until his freshman year at Cornell that allowed him to realize that the wealth of resources on campus at his disposal could fuel the beginning of a fulfilling business adventure that he could pursue, which he has done so ever since August 2012 with his very own startup. What was previously a temporary small side business became an extremely promising startup with a team of 10 members (including Alex himself) that manage the company we now know as “Worthy Jerky.” When putting together the team, Alex identified that there were specific roles in the company that needed individuals with specific skill sets, some of which include the knack for outlining financial projections and possessing business-oriented skills. As Florida is where he resides, Alex approached his friend who was studying finance in a college in his hometown to join the team and assist in the financial aspects of the business. After distributing samples at a gym in Miami, Alex also managed to rope in Ben Pham, a fellow Cornell student as one of the leaders of his startup team. He also welcomed recommendations from friends who knew individuals that were food and nutritional science experts as they would be valuable additions to the company. The team currently consists of Alex, David McDonald (attending University of Florida), Ben Pham, Camille Kapaun, Justin Siegel, Brenda Margolies, Chandra Yueh, Jim Li, AJ Schonenberg and Dan Yoon.
As a student at Cornell, Alex knew that when it comes to having access to academic classes that piqued his interest, Cornell’s unique Intro to Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management class taught by Professor Dan Cohen (Director of the E-lab accelerator program in the Johnson School) would provide the inspiration he needed. Joining the E-lab gave Alex access to valuable advice from mentors who were Cornell graduates or MBA students that have had experience with startups. There were lectures that also taught students about the numerous factors to consider when building a new company and the techniques of pitching for communicating the essence of their product to potential customers. For Worthy Jerky, Alex was taught how to assess customers’ needs and concerns so as to position the product as a premium and healthy snack option. Alex has managed to work with his savings from the initial success of the product in Switzerland as financial backing and has secured external funding for expansion.
Alex has not looked back since the growth of the company here at Cornell. With a slight chuckle, he remarks, “I have not visited an on-campus recruitment since my Freshmen fall semester; I definitely see myself as an entrepreneur [in the future].” To him, success at raising a startup means to strike a good balance between enjoying oneself while working hard at growing the company. As for tips to any students out there on campus aspiring to create their own startup, the CEO of Worthy Jerky recommends that any ideas that one has should have a substantial amount of research as backing before jumping into starting his or her own company. It is also best to approach professors who are experts in the related field, as they will nonetheless provide invaluable advice. Alex adds that the idea need not be very complicated and complex to make for a successful business. “You need to be open to the idea of failure, and have the willpower to try things that may or may not work.”
If you are interested in ordering from Worthy Jerky, visit the company’s Facebook page; I highly recommend it. They offer the following mouthwatering flavors: Citrus barbeque, spicy citrus barbeque, spicy teriyaki and raspberry chipotle. The flavors are made from actual fruits and vegetables. For instance, the teriyaki option has pineapple and ginger.
For further questions, you can reach Alex via email: [email protected]
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