Jack Beuttell graduated in 2014 with a dual master’s degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Fuqua School of Business.
He had majored in anthropology and religious studies in undergrad and had spent about seven years working for a real estate investment company. But he eventually wanted to do something else, and he came to Duke knowing he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He had set a goal for himself to take advantage of the university’s resources and “safety net” to start a sustainable business while still in school.
Beuttell worked on a couple of ventures while in school, including a ranch investment fund and a farming incubator called Project Venture Farming to help local farmers produce local food more successfully.
He focused on environmental entrepreneurship, describing himself as a passionate outdoorsman and conservationist who was enthusiastic about finding a commercial engine to help the environment. As a high schooler he spent several summers on his uncle’s Montana ranch, and right before he started at Duke, he returned to those roots and spent four months working on a cattle ranch in Colorado.
While at Duke, Beuttell took advantage of many of Duke’s entrepreneurial resources, including the Duke Startup Challenge and the Program for Entrepreneurs. He also started an environmental entrepreneurship club within the Nicholas School.
When he was unable to secure sustainable funding for his ventures while in school, he began consulting for investors in agriculture following graduation.
He didn’t yet know that his first client would speak to his love of environmental entrepreneurship and his prior experience.
Like many startups, Kunoa Cattle formed to solve a problem. There are many cattle ranches in Hawaii, but most live cattle are shipped to the mainland while finished beef product is imported in.
Beuttell was interested in helping to solve the environmental cost of these practices. He wrote Kunoa Cattle’s business plan and helped secure $75,000 in funding from Energy Excelerator. Eventually, his Kunoa Cattle clients invited him to join the company as CEO.
By January 2015, he had made the career move.
The reason that cattle were customarily shipped out of Hawaii is that there isn’t enough infrastructure to process the cattle, and the energy costs to do so are higher than they are on the mainland. Because of these problems, Kunoa Cattle is involved in the entire value chain, from the rancher to the butcher to the marketer.
Luckily, one of the Kunoa Cattle partners is a rancher, and the team found and bought an underutilized manufacturing plant on Oahu in November 2016.
The company has raised $2.225 million total and is still raising money with a goal of $3 million. It is also just seeing sales start to take off and landed a deal with one of the largest supermarket chains in Hawaii.
Kunoa Cattle will initially produce ground beef and a shelf-stable Hawaii-grown “beef bar.” But once upgrades to the meat manufacturing plant are complete, the company will be able to produce other cuts of meat, from T-bones to tenderloins.
To learn more about Kunoa Cattle, visit its website.
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