‘A good pairing:' execMBA alum's specialized beef company finds larger pastures in retail growth
Patrick Montgomery finished the execMBA program at Trulaske in the spring of 2019 — only a few months before his business, the Kansas City Cattle Company, would achieve national acclaim for its American Wagyu beef products.
By Stephen Schmidt
When Patrick Montgomery BS ’16, MBA ’19, began the execMBA program at the Trulaske College of Business in the fall of 2017, he was a recent college graduate who had a promising business plan and a small amount of funding for an agricultural-based startup company. But he needed the business acumen to allow it to grow to its full potential.
“It was a good pairing to have the chance to go to Mizzou for a weekend every eight weeks and really hone in my skills and learn how to speak the language of business,” Montgomery said of the weekly routine of the program. “I graduated with my MBA in the spring of 2019. The company had its big break in the fall of 2019 — and it's been a crazy run ever since.”
Montgomery’s KC Cattle Company, based out of Weston, Missouri, has been steadily accumulating national clout as one of the top suppliers of American Wagyu beef, a Japanese breed of cattle known for its tenderness and marbling.
Although KC Cattle Co. produces a wide range of Wagyu beef products, it is perhaps most known for its Wagyu gourmet hot dogs, deemed by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the best in the country in August 2019 under the title of “We Found a Hot Dog That Tastes Like Steak — Grilling Season Will Never Be the Same.” The company has been featured by the likes of The New York Times and NBC’s “TODAY Show.”
Montgomery estimates that he sells approximately 20,000 packages of hot dogs in a given year. After starting to ship orders in 2018, the company successfully reached all 50 states by 2020 and even reached the Canadian market by the end of 2021.
“It’s been a wild ride, and I wouldn't change a thing about it,” Montgomery said. “But I could have never imagined that we would have been as blessed as we have been in the last five years.”
The 250 head of cattle — both Wagyu and a Wagyu hybrid (50 percent Wagyu, 50 percent angus) — that are located on the 420-acre grounds of KC Cattle Co. are all raised by veterans just like Montgomery. He served in two tours in Afghanistan as a member of the 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, in the U.S. Army from 2010-14. Currently, Montgomery employs seven veterans, with plans to hire more this year.
The call to serve
Montgomery recently signed a lease on a retail building in his hometown of Parkville, Missouri, about a half-hour drive from his current location in Weston. The hope is that in about two years, the company will be able to move into a new larger facility that will house order-fulfillments, office and retail spaces, a butcher shop and a barbecue restaurant.
After graduating from Parkville South High School in 2008 he did a year of ROTC at Northwest Missouri State University before transferring to Mizzou for his sophomore year in the spring of 2010 — and ultimately deciding to put his college career on hold to enlist full-time in the Army.
“I decided that the war was there to fight now and I knew college would always be there for me if I decided to do that,” he said.
When he returned to the Mizzou campus in 2014 through the help of the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the animal science department within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources with the initial thought that he wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. That eventually changed, and he found himself being inspired by an entrepreneurship course to dream of starting his own business.
At one point while working on his undergraduate degree, Montgomery met with a fellow veteran and U.S. Ranger, Josh Eilers, to discuss how Eilers began raising American Wagyu cattle for his company, Ranger Cattle, in the Austin, Texas, area. Montgomery felt confident that a similar business model could thrive in the Kansas City area.
By deciding to join the execMBA program at Trulaske a year after getting KC Cattle Co. off the ground, he took the advice that he offers to students: “Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Admitting in this world that you don't know everything is crucial for continued growth and learning.”
Barbara Peterson, the director of the execMBA program, said that Montgomery’s story stands out to her given the timing of launching his company and pursuing a business degree.
“He was gaining new business knowledge and tools in real time, which helped him speed up the learning curve faced by every entrepreneur,” Peterson said. “He found a way to work smarter, by combining hands-on experience with an immersive business education experience. I have great respect for how he handled all of that at once.”
One memory of the execMBA program that stands out to Montgomery the most is a time that he and his classmates toured a manufacturing plant in Columbia that belonged to a billion-dollar company. Even though at the time, he was the founder of a company that was still below a half-million in sales, he was able to glean ideas to improve its overall efficiencies.
“I came back to my company and applied those principles to our operations,” Montgomery said. “Maintaining that mindset of doing things the most efficient way has really paid dividends as we've grown over the years.”
Driven by a purpose
Montgomery built his company on the philosophy of avoiding the easy way out — or to use the words from a former officer in his ROTC program: “Hard right over easy wrong.”
"I have made a lot of mistakes in my 32 years,” Montgomery said. “They have taught me that the hard decision is not always the easy decision. A lot of times when you don't take that path and you go the easy route, it just creates regret in your life. So even if it's not the easiest path, I've tried to do what I think is right in my heart. "
For KC Cattle Co., the less-taken path starts with the care they give to the cattle. In the overall interest of taste, Montgomery and his team aim to maintain a relatively stress-free environment for the cattle. This means not using cattle prods, lassos or steroids — for the higher the cortisol levels of the cattle due to stress, the tougher the meat will become.
Furthermore, he chose to employ a staff composed entirely of veterans partly to pay tribute to his brother-in-law, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Katzenberger, a fellow member of the U.S. Rangers who was killed in combat in Afghanistan in June 2011, when Montgomery was still deployed. Montgomery and Katzenberger had always talked about one day starting a business together, albeit a private contracting company and not his current ag-centered enterprise.
Montgomery and his wife, Kaleigh (Turner) Montgomery BHS ’13, named their first child Jeremy in Katzenberger’s honor. The couple, who first met in Spanish class during their junior year of high school, now have three children — most recently welcoming a baby daughter in February.
When Katzenberger passed, Montgomery made the trip back to the Kansas City area “to bring him home” back to Katzenberger’s wife, and Montgomery’s sister Colleen. Montgomery is not a fan of the phrase “things happen for a reason,” when it comes to the young lives lost of those who served in battle such as Katzenberger and other soldiers he knew personally — but he is appreciative of the insight they provide when reflecting several years later.
“They give you perspective on just how fortunate you are to be on this planet, and specifically within this country, and enjoy the freedoms that we do,” he said. “It’s just being thankful for everything.”