Through the years, Hans Hippert would load up bags of his homemade beef jerky and bring them to his brutally honest taste tester, his friend’s son, 6-year-old Jonathan “JoJo” Contreras.
“He would tell me it it’s too sweet, or too salty, or too hot,” he said. “No matter how it would taste, he would always annihilate the entire bag.”
Along with the bags of free jerky, Hippert also issued a promise to JoJo.
“I told him if I ever started a company, I would name it after him,” he said.
Nearly a decade later in 2012, Hippert quit his job, minimized expenses, set up a business and lived up to the his promise. JoJo’s Jerky, 3310 S. Jones Blvd., was open for business and began selling at various farmers markets across the valley.
Hippert launched a Kickstarter campaign July 6 to raise $25,000 by Aug. 6 to help the business expand to a national market.
Growing up, Hippert remembers that beef jerky was always a treat his parents gave him on special occasions
When he was on his own, he decided it was a treat he wanted more often. Hippert worked designing and building surveillance equipment, which took him on the road often.
While traveling, he decided that jerky was the perfect accompaniment.
Instead of buying expensive brands with ingredients he couldn’t pronounce, Hippert decided to experiment with his own creations to take on the road with him.
“There are so many preservatives (in store-bought jerky),” he said. “I used the best quality meat.”
His concoctions didn’t stay hidden for long. Soon, friends and family were asking him to ship batches of jerky to them.
One of his local friends was Contreras’ father.
“I remember I would always ask for it,” JoJo Contreras said.
He added that he would always eat the entire bag.
“It was always good,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one to enjoy the bag. Hippert was bombarded with orders.
“I was traveling so much, I couldn’t keep up with the orders,” he said.
After he and his wife had children, time became more scarce and it wasn’t viable for Hippert to continue making the products and keep a full-time job.
But he loved making it.
“You realize your dream, and you need to take steps to support that dream,” he said.
Hippert set up a booth — JoJo’s first booth as a business — at a food festival, and the product sold out on the first night. The company was expected to have more product the next day.
“So after the festival, I stayed up all night making as much as I could to sell the next day,” he said.
The company has grown, adding employees to the mix.
“I wouldn’t be anything without my huge support system,” Hippert said.
At its peak, the company goes through about 1,600 bags per week. Right now, during a slower time, Hippert said it’s about 1,000 per week.
JoJo’s Jerky has also developed nine flavors such as its carne asada, Caribbean jerk and teriyaki.
“The triple threat is still my favorite,” Hippert said, referring to one of his original flavors.
He said booths can been seen at seven to 13 different farmers markets in Henderson and parts of Las Vegas during the week. Hippert has been at food festivals and at monthly events such as First Friday and Vegas StrEATS.
Even though he has a small retail space inside his headquarters, his primary method for selling is online and at the farmers markets.
“We have our regulars who come every week to get bags,” he said.
Because Las Vegas is transient, he has made national — and even international — connections from people who crave his product.
Their attention has led to Hippert crusading to distribute around the country.
He immediately thought Kickstarter would be a good avenue to raise the funds to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.
The $25,000 would go toward a Harvest Saver R5 Commercial dryer, a vacuum sealer, an expanded walk-in cooler, a moisture content meter and new labels.
Regardless of national aspirations, Hippert plans to be in Las Vegas for a while.
Contreras is now 15 and looking for a job part-time job. JoJo’s Jerky was his first choice.
Even though it’s a little slower in the summer, Hippert is supposed to train him so that when the busy season starts, Contreras can help.
“It would be cool if he did come to work here,” he said. “Regardless, he has free jerky for life.”
For more information, visit jojosjerky.com.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.