How do you start a business with $20 in an unfinished basement with two young children? Tim and Jamie Haas, co-founders and husband and wife team of Premier Proteins and its brand, Red Top Farms®, boil it down to hard work, industry knowledge, and faith. In 2005 the couple, then in their mid-thirties, lived in a small ranch style home on the outskirts of a town, in the suburbs of Kansas City, renowned for a nineteenth century outlaw. Everything changed when Tim was laid off; but it might help to start from the beginning.
Tim’s career began in the Federal Bureau of Prisons—no not as a prisoner—as a buyer. He stocked the prison with everything from pens to back-up generators. This exposed him to many different markets and allowed him to see ebbs and flows that would later contribute to his ability to forecast cattle and hog markets. At the same time, Jamie was working for the casinos (we swear this is not a family of vice) in human resources as a staffer. She learned to quickly see an individual’s character and potential because she interviewed countless people a day.
Tim transferred to Chicago and became disenchanted with the federal government. He found a job as a meat buyer for a large food company in the Windy City. “I had bought meat at the prisons, so I had a little experience,” recounts Tim. This experience provided in depth knowledge of the beef business, which is truly different than the cattle market. Jamie again worked in human resources but switched paths when the couple’s oldest child was born. In order to stay at home, Jamie ran a childcare business from their house.
Chicago quickly became too expensive, and the couple wanted out. Tim found a job in a somewhat infamous meat packing plant, and the now family of four packed up for a move to rural Iowa. During this time, Tim found the connection between the cattle and the meat industry and learned the art of butchery. He also learned how not to run a business, so when a meat sales position in Kansas City opened, the family packed up once again. A few short years later, things get interesting when a customer of Tim’s wanted to hire him to become a beef trader. Tim came across American Wagyu, a fairly new concept in the early 2000s. After some discussions with Jamie, who had been a full-time stay at home mom since moving to Iowa, Tim began working remotely in the small ranch home at the dining room table.
Contacts, program development, and farm relationships were cornerstones of this new gig. It all stopped when Tim was laid off. Interviews commenced across the country when an idea formed. Tim called his mother-in-law and her response confirmed the family’s path: “You’ve always wanted to work for yourself, and you’re young enough you can come back from it. However, figure out how to dissolve the partnership while it’s good.” After a rocky partnership ended peacefully from that advice, Tim and Jamie took $20 to the bank to make a minimum balance deposit to open a new bank account for Premier Proteins, LLC. Embarking from the local bank to their unfinished basement, complete with crates to keep their computers off the ground from the flooding that occurred every time it rained, Tim and Jamie got to work.
Utilitzing her human resources degree and experience, Jamie focused on customer service, orders, and all day-to-day operations. Tim alternately worked on sales and developing one of the best Wagyu programs in the United States. “I prayed a lot during that time,” Jamie remembers, “it had to work.” Within a year it became evident that the business had outgrown the old dining room table used as a desk. Packing up once again, the family moved into a home furnished with a basement office, this time complete with carpet and drywall. The first part-time employee was hired to help with orders. The phone constantly rang and the two frequently worked till midnight. Yet, they always picked up their kids from school and never missed a sports game.
A year or so later, the need to hire more employees led them to purchase an old automotive shop off Sam Barr Drive. Renovations and a cooler and freezer later, they hired additional part-time employees and eventually their first full time employee. Premier was growing, but that is not say there were times of being unprofitable or things were difficult. Retrieving the mail each day could either lead to cheers for a check or a deep breath and waiting for the next day.
The addition of Berkshire Pork saw large amounts of growth and more full-time employees. Eventually, in 2014, Jamie took a step back from the day-to-day operations to spend more time with the kids, as the oldest was headed off to college, and the youngest was beginning high school. Sales staff were added a few years later to help Tim and then the couple’s daughter was hired to work on marketing. Together, they developed the next generation of Premier Proteins and a brand called Red Top Farms to distinguish their premium offerings.
The fifteen-year journey has seen a husband and wife team grow to ten full-time employees; a leaky unfinished basement to an office and warehouse; and one program to five. Premier Proteins, and now Red Top Farms, is a byproduct of Tim and Jamie’s determination to never give up, even when it would have been simpler to, and trust in one another that this would better not only their family but their community. One of their favorite accomplishments was receiving an award from Harvesters, a regional food bank located in Kansas City. To date, Premier Proteins has donated over one million pounds of beef and pork, worth approximately three million dollars, and about four million meals of protein. “After fifteen years we’ve seen a lot of change and growth,” reflects Tim. “It’s been an adventure, that has allowed us many opportunities for our family, our employees, and our producers. With God’s help we will continue to give back and move forward,” Jamie finishes.