SUMNER, Neb. — Ever since launching Sassy Sisters Swine last summer, Mattison and Mekenzie Beattie have been turning heads.
“Women usually start boutiques. People tell us, ‘I haven’t really seen two sisters starting a meat business,’” said Mattison, 16.
But sisters Mekenzie, 21, and Mattison aren’t really sassy. They’re young and determined to succeed with their consumer-direct pork sales business.
“We started our business because we wanted a way to share our story, to tell people how pork is produced safely and to explain what we do day-to-day on the farm,” Mattison said.
The sisters grew up 5 miles west of Sumner on the diversified Beattie Family Farm, owned by their parents, Bart and Shana, and grandparents Jeff and Nanette Beattie. The Beatties raise 10,000 sows in their wean-to-finish operation. They also run a cow-calf operation and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
“Being an entrepreneur means finding a problem and solving it. We found something we’re passionate about,” Mekenzie said.
After a year of investigation and nailing down details, the two sisters launched the business last summer.
“Our problem was just getting started,” said Mekenzie, a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We had to figure a lot of stuff out, but we decided to take a leap of faith and start really small and just grow.”
“Starting small” also meant serving only the Sumner-Eddyville-Miller community, basically a 50-mile radius between Kearney and Lexington.
They knew that with the COVID-19 pandemic, local markets have become more popular because many people want to know where their food comes from. Also, people wanted to keep their freezers full during the pandemic.
They also promoted the fact that they could deliver their meat after local processing.
As the sisters started out, they relied heavily on social media for such things, including finding a processor that’s certified by the U.S. Agriculture Department. They learned that many processors are not USDA-certified. Others were booked for months.
Every two months, the sisters take four or five hogs to the processor they found in Diller, west of Beatrice. It’s three hours from Sumner, “but their work is super good, and it’s USDA-certified,” Mekenzie said.
The processor gives them hams, bacon, sausage, ground pork, shoulder roasts and some half or whole cuts. They often deliver orders to customers on the way home.
“It’s a lot of labor driving that far. That’s the thing about having a small business. You never really know the true science of it. You figure it out as you go, but that’s been cool. We’re learning so much,” Mekenzie said.
One of their biggest challenges was naming their business. Because their father had always called them the “sassy sisters,” Mekenzie suggested Sassy Sisters Swine. “I like a play on words anyway,” she said.
But Mattison rebelled. “I said absolutely not. I hate that.”
The sisters bickered over that name and others for several months until Mattison finally gave in.
The sisters say their parents are “the backbone” of their business. Their father, Bart, sometimes helps deliver their orders, and their mother, Shana, currently the president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, has been a strong mentor.
As for marketing, it’s mostly word of mouth. They also use their Facebook page and Instagram.
So far, their pork is in great demand. The sisters say the timing for launching the business was “impeccable.”
“One of our biggest goals is to give people the best pork-eating experience they can have. We also want to help them know how to prepare their meat,” Mattison added.
Her sister added, “People want to know where their food comes from in this day and age. When people buy our product and eat their food, they feel good about it. On social media, we let people know how we take care of our animals.”
For now, they call the business “a side gig,” but they hope to launch a website. They want to someday deliver to the entire state and perhaps surrounding states.
“We had to figure a lot of stuff out, but we decided to take a leap of faith and start really small and just grow.” -- Mekenzie Beattie, UNL student