Vincent “Bo” Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner, a two-sport athlete and a businessman with more than two decades of experience, doesn’t take a half-hearted approach to anything if his track record is any indication.
And the zealousness that has defined his athletic career also characterizes his more recent business ventures, including VEJ Holdings LLC, a full-service distribution company Jackson founded in 2013. VEJ initially served foodservice customers but has since branched out into the retail side of the industry. Jackson told ROFDA (Retailer Owned Food Distributors & Associates) Spring Conference attendees that from the get-go, he wanted his product line, which includes steaks, burgers, chicken, pork and seafood, to be known for its quality and its affordability.
“I said, if I’m going to kick off the retail side of my business—I thought back (to) when I was a kid—I’m going to go back home, and I’m going to kick off my food retail side of my business in the Southeast. And I want it to be done right. So Piggly Wiggly was one of the first companies that I contacted, and they welcomed me with open arms,” he said. “We sat down with Piggly Wiggly (Alabama), and…I said if you buy my product because my name is on it, you’re an idiot. I said I want my name to open the door, but I want that product to sell itself. I want the quality and the taste and, most of all, the price point to fit your eye and fit that end-user’s eye, because we all know that if the end-users aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.”
It’s not only consumer satisfaction that’s on the line, but also Jackson’s reputation.
“The only thing I got is my name and my reputation. And it’s the same way with you all. The only thing you’ve got is your name and rep. And if you can’t stand on that, you can’t stand,” he said.
To maintain his reputation, Jackson says he selects only those purveyors who can consistently provide quality products.
“And when I see something’s not right, especially with my product, I’m going to speak out on it and let everybody know we need to fix it,” he said. “Because I don’t want somebody down the road to say, hey, Bo Jackson put a bad product (out there). They aren’t going to call my purveyors that made the product. It’s going to be on me. And I know that you all know what I’m speaking of.”
Looking for a sale at the Piggly Wiggly…
Jackson’s insistence that his products are sold at a reasonable price point stems from his childhood in Bessemer, Alabama. He was the eighth of 10 children.
“My mom would always look in the newspaper to see when their sale was. Because…at any given time, there were seven kids living in that house. We’d always catch the sales, take advantage of them…Shopping at the Piggly Wiggly was a weekly thing for us. And growing up, that’s probably one of the things that stands out in my mind as a child that we got to do. It was almost like going to the fair, because growing up poor, the only time you get to leave your neighborhood is either when we were going to walk to school, going to the doctor or going to the supermarket. That was a big treat for us.”