by Dan Klute, Nebraska Star Beef
This column is part of our ongoing series of op-eds this election season from small business owners working with The Marketplace by TheBlaze. We often hear politicians talk about what small business owners want, and if elected, what public officials could do to help these entrepreneurs. But we haven’t heard enough from small business owners themselves. This series will feature small business owners discussing their business, ‘how they built that,’ and what it has been like trying to sustain and grow their business over the last 4 years.
“For we come on the ship they call the Mayflower,
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.”
Like millions of other small businesses, Nebraska Star Beef has an American tune we’d love to share. It’s a song of faith, family and treating people the way you want to be treated. It‘s about being your brother’s keeper, having a vision with the courage to follow it and firmly relying upon the protection of Divine Providence. It’s about failure—and how you react to it.
This story is about my brother Dale Klute. He’s faced adversity. He’s been down, but never out. At one point in life, he literally had nothing but the shirt on his back, and then built something. Something on his own that had nothing to do with access to highways or bridges.
Dale and I grew up on a family farm in rural Nebraska. The two youngest of nine children, our parents taught us the importance of faith in God and hard work. Mom and Dad lived life in manner that: no matter what comes your way, if you have a strong relationship with God, things will work out. They knew what they were talking about.
The mid 1980′s were a rough time for many famers and cattlemen. Tough weather conditions, low commodity prices, and high costs forced many out of business. Dale was one of those. In a few months, everything he worked for all his life was gone. No one was to blame, Dale was just a victim of circumstance. So what did he do when all this happened, pity party or get to work? The latter was chosen.
Dale moved to Colorado, started working for a cattle operation, advanced in the company and educated himself in the commodities futures market—something most farmers and livestock producers are scared to death of. Dale and his wife Shawna started Klute Investment Services in 1995. Having the ability to protect investors from losses, and often times guarantee profits, Dale’s investment business grew. So did his desire to once again have his own cattle operation.
In 1998, Dale partnered with Elmo and Tony Mayes and purchased Phelps County Feeders in Holdrege, Nebraska. What started out as a 12,000 head feeding operation, soon blossomed into 35,000. Hard work, honesty and integrity were paying big dividends. In 2002, after only four short years back in Nebraska, Dale began an all-natural beef program for more than 40 Whole Foods Market locations in the southwest United States. This relationship lasted until 2010, when Whole Foods asked Dale to supply all their stores with all natural beef. All Dale had to do was to make sure Phelps County Feeders and the ranchers that provided calves would follow the guidelines set up by the Global Animal Partnership. Dale politely declined. The entrepreneur insides him said we can do this on our own. Let’s create something special. So, Nebraska Star Beef was born.
Dale, his son Joe and Tony Mayes started Nebraska Star Beef in 2010. Soon after, they brought on my nephew Steve Johnson to work with product development and marketing. These guys, along with my niece Kayla, have done a fabulous job with our steaks, Fusion burgers and beef jerky. Our business partners Custom Pack and C & C Processing are top of the line skilled artisans. Nebraska Cold Storage and Crystal Creek Logistics are two wonderful small businesses that provide storage and shipping services.
So, why am I here writing this piece? That’s where the firm reliance upon the protection of Divine Providence comes in. Late last year, Nebraska Star Beef reached the point where they were ready to sell their products. So Joe prayed to God, asking who they should bring on for sales. The answer he got was me. Trust me, I’m nothing special. I’d been in sales for a company based in Irving, Texas for almost thirteen years. We never had any conversations about me working for my brother, so, when Dale told me the story, I started chuckling. It had been on my heart for several months to be ready for a change in jobs. I told him I was interested and we would work on the details. On March 1, 2012 I became part of Nebraska Star Beef.
Hopefully, our American tune will be uplifting for all those small businesses who are struggling in these times. We’re struggling right along with you, but everything is going to be fine. We might not be sailing to a new land or exploring outer space, but we’re all here at this time and place for a reason. God has great things in store for each and everyone of us!