From molding plastic furniture, to ostrich farms, Roger Gerber has one eclectic resume. Roger and his wife Beth are the owners of Blackwing Meats in Antioch, IL. Blackwing is one of North America's leading providers of healthy red and poultry meats to consumers, retailers, and food service industries. Their inventory includes specialty and exotic meats like bison, elk, boar, and ostrich. Blackwing Meats switched IT services to LeadingIT at the beginning of this year.
With 53 years as an inventor and entrepreneur under his belt, Gerber had quite a story to tell. I sat down with him to learn more about his vision for Blackwing and how LeadingIT will play a role.
How did you get into the rare and exotic meat business?
My daughter approached me wanting to live on a farm. At the time I was in the manufacturing business. I thought to myself “What new food could we bring to the US?” Originally, I wanted to sell ostrich eggs to bakeries. They were so large bakers wouldn’t need to break 20 chicken eggs but just a few ostrich eggs for pastries. I researched it and miraculously found a presence in the Southwest. The “Meat, Leather, and Feather” industry, as it was coined, was booming in the 80s’. There was even a magazine. It was difficult to find a pair (male and female), as con-artists often sold pairs of males.
The industry was so new there was a learning curve. I went to Africa. I learned how to properly raise and kill ostriches from the locals. Then, I brought back my knowledge to the US. Eventually, I had ostrich farms in Florida and Ohio. I sold them in 1996 to focus on Blackwing.
What is Blackwing’s mission?
Our mission is to be able to ship our product in three days or less within the US. We have some interesting places we’ve supplied…including the Signature Room in Chicago. We ship internationally as well. We also want to provide our area local, healthy food, more reasonably priced than big box stores like Whole Foods.
Is it hard to compete with places like Whole Foods?
No it’s not. (Roger grabs honey from a nearby display) The man who makes this honey came to me to sell it here in the store. I asked him “Why should I buy this?” and he said it was the best honey. Well- everyone has the best honey. He then started to talk about the wildflower fields his bees pollinate and then produce the honey. I looked at him and said, “That’s your story: talk about those fields.”
Blackwing wants to be a business that promotes other’s passions. That’s why we have so many local vendors in our store.
What’s the most challenging part of your business?
Sourcing! The organic and specialty meat industry grows 20% a year- the supply line doesn’t. Demand is so great for these animals, especially bison, a bidding war breaks out.
What product are customers resilient to buy?
Believe it or not…ostrich! I sell less of it now.
What type of technology does Blackwing use daily?
We have an office in the back that works as Blackwing’s communication hub with several workstations. We have POS systems in the front for our store. We also have several programs we use including QuickBooks.
How does technology affect your business?
If our tech isn’t working, it makes it hard for us to. We are reliant on it. The only thing we do by hand is inventory. Soon, with the help of LeadingIT, that will be changing.
We are very self sufficient here. We cut our own meat, pack, ship, and even sell our product right out front in our store. We even make our own refrigerated boxes to ship. We made a machine to help make that process quicker. We are a totally vertically integrated company. We wanted to team up with an IT company that makes us feel independent and eliminate issues, so we can increase productivity.
Is it safe to say you’re happy with LeadingIT?
Yes, you guys are awesome! We’re blown away by how quickly things get done. Before it would take our old provider days, sometimes weeks to complete a project. It takes LeadingIT hours if not less!
LeadingIT will soon help Blackwing Meats implement inventory software. Look out for our case study about business productivity achieved through technology solutions. Since being established in 1996, Blackwing's vision has been to offer healthy organic and all-natural meats to health-conscious American consumers. You can visit their location at 19588 W. IL Rte. 173 Antioch, IL 60002 or their website www.blackwing.com.
LeadingIT understands the technology needs of your business and offers technology, computer, network and security support to help you get the most out of your technology. Our vision is to help your Chicagoland company become more capable, more efficient, and more profitable by implementing great technology. Our goal is to offer the next generation of computer support with friendly, knowledgeable staff at the most affordable price. We support local businesses with 10-200 staff in industries including government, non-profits, manufacturers, construction, and more. Visit our website https://www.goleadingit.com/ or give us a call (815) 799-4368.