All posts by Mike Salguero


Choose the right stakeholders: Why we never took outside investment

There are lots of different stakeholders involved in ButcherBox that play crucial roles in bringing delicious steaks or pasture-raised bacon to your plate.

There’s the farmer.

There are the facilities that are cutting the meat into individual steaks.

There is our growing number of employees, and there are all our members — whom we consider to be the vital part of our community.

The ecosystem involved in getting our boxes to the doorsteps of our members is quite robust.

From the start, we wanted to make sure that everyone in that ecosystem was getting an amazing experience. For some, like the farmers, we wanted to make sure that they can run a business and that they view our relationship as having high-value beyond that of a standard business partnership.

For instance, it is vital that the farmers we work with are well-supported. We want them to have the opportunity to invite their children to take part in the same vocation and be confident that they can pass down their farm to the next generations. We want young farmers to be able to grow a business utilizing humane and environmentally beneficial techniques.

More than anything, we want our members to receive a great product at an amazing value. A key to that is also making sure that they can trust that we have done everything possible to source the highest-quality meat.

The ability to continue to do all the above is made possible by a decision my co-founder, Mike Filbey, and I made in the early days of ButcherBox.

Even before the success of our Kickstarter campaign, we wanted those mentioned above — farmers, the supply chain, employees, and ButcherBox members — to be the only stakeholders to whom we answer.

Because of that belief, we haven’t raised money from outside investors. It is quite amazing, in the current climate, what we’ve been able to accomplish without money from outside institutions, even as we hit a new phase of growth for the company or face some unexpected challenges.

In the past ten years, startups have become trendy. Entrepreneurship is now the number one concentration at many business schools. People really want to get into startups and build a company. And that’s really great.

I think the uptick in entrepreneurship is going to spur innovation in this country, help the industry in the nation grow in unimagined and positive ways, and bring incredible new services to lots of folks.

The challenge in the startup world right now, unfortunately, is that everyone who is building these companies is obsessed with raising money from venture capitalists.

I continually talk with people interested in starting their own business, seeking my advice, and, generally, all they want to know is how to go out and raise venture capital. I’ve found that there are very few people focused on actually building a company that is interesting, enduring, and profitable.

In the current climate, too many founders and executive teams have their focus on trying to figure out how to get the next round of funding from venture capitalists.

This is something pervasive in startup world. If you look at the major tech news outlets right now, almost every single article about early-stage companies is about how much money somebody sold a company for or how much somebody took from a VC. There’s no real depth, no exploration of companies doing cool things; no one is interested in companies that are actually making money.

ButcherBox started with a Kickstarter campaign and $10,000 that I took out of my personal investment account. At the time, I thought that if this venture doesn’t work out, it would be a great experience and that I’d hopefully learn some valuable lessons, things that couldn’t be taught at business school.

I was willing to risk that money to create ButcherBox, and that’s all we’ve done. We’ve never raised money. We don’t plan on raising money.

I like to tell people that we are building ButcherBox the old-fashioned way. But the reality is that we want to build this company our way. That means that we aren’t beholden to stakeholders that are only concerned about a return on their investment.

There might be — I should say — a couple of instances when getting money from a VC is a necessity. The only two examples I can think of are if you have cheaply and efficiently found product/market fit and need some money to scale, or if you are building a very tech-focused company that requires funds up-front to help you build your innovative product. Otherwise, I believe venture investments can be not only quite bad for a business, but also a massive waste of time for the team who should be focused on building a great business.

And while good investors can help, they could also try to change the vision of what ButcherBox can be. The minute you get venture backing, you also get an investor that has his or her own motivations.

That person might want want to focus on when and how you will make more money or have some concern about a trendy metric, and suddenly the idea of building an amazing company for our employees, for our members, and for our farmers could change.

The only way to build ButcherBox the right way — that we could keep total control, have an incredible product, and deliver an awesome experience — was not to raise money and to just make a go at this ourselves.

And so far, so good.

To this day, we only answer to our employees, to our farmers, and most importantly, to our community of ButcherBox members.


Photo by Dylan Collette on Unsplash.

The rickety bus hits an unexpected bump – Dealing with a startup’s first, major problem

There is an analogy that I tend to use to describe to people what it’s like to build startups. For those who haven’t been involved in early-stage businesses, I explain the experience by comparing it to an uncharted adventure.
I start by telling the story of how when you start a company, it’s like you just got dropped into a dense jungle, and you don’t know how to get out.
In the analogy, you first need to hack your way through, and all you have is a machete. You get others to join along — building out the team — and tend to bring in people who will swing a machete as hard as you will. You all are working toward a common goal, and, even if you don’t have a sense of what’s exactly next, you develop trust, camaraderie, and each person finds their ideal role. Eventually, you find a path and you follow it, hoping that it will lead to a road.  
You also need to plan for what may be next. Along the way, you’ve hopefully added some people on the team who can wield a machete and also know how to drive.
When you clear the jungle and hit the dirt road, that’s when things get really interesting.
The business is now at a new stage, and everything is going to get a lot more complicated; you can’t shoot from the hip as much as you once did. You need structure. You need systems. You need security. You need process.
Getting back to the analogy, at this point, you need to learn how to drive a rickety bus you just found. You’ve just realized that the object now is to take that bus and drive it down the dirt road. The road is bumpy and has many rough patches, but it can also be fun and thrilling. You just hope and pray that bus can make it to a major road without falling apart. 
And then it happens: You go from a dirt road to one that is paved. There are still a ton of potholes, so you aren’t driving smoothly yet. At this new phase, there is lots of traffic, tons of bad drivers, and, at times, what I’ll call of “squirrels in the road” (i.e., the unforeseen disasters) that can jump out at you at any moment. Because you are beyond the dirt road, you can go faster. You start to stress test the bus, see how fast it can go.
At this phase in the company’s growth, you still really need all the things you built into the business when you were on the “dirt road” —systems, processes, security, structure. And if you didn’t actually fix the bus while it was on the dirt road, things start to shake and quake as you start really putting the pedal to the metal. 
This is where we are now with ButcherBox.

Let me explain to you how one small change can cascade into a massive problem for a young company. 

On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we did a major promotion. Actually, it was the largest promotion we had ever done.
The way it worked is that we offered a “steak sampler” of six steaks to anyone who signed up for a subscription. If you are already a member, you could purchase the steak sampler for a low price. We anticipated a lot of orders, so we had prepped our distribution facilities and had made sure we cut and stored enough steaks for 40% more people than our wildest predictions.
By Thanksgiving night, we knew we had a winner as new signups kept rolling in and current subscribers added the six steak offering to their monthly order. It was exciting and exhilarating.
But in all our excitement, we didn’t realize that we had made a critical error that was not picked up by our normally stringent oversight. You see, we clicked the wrong button when setting up the order and fulfillment process, and a major problem was about to hit.
We had inadvertently hit a button that doubled the order for everyone who signed up to get the steak sampler. This meant that every order was getting twice as many steaks, 12 steaks instead of six.
By the time we figured out something was wrong, half of the orders had already gone out. Unfortunately, the steaks that should have been going out with the second half of the orders had been sent out with the first. In no time at all, we had a huge problem: We had no steaks to send for orders, no inventory, and no idea of when we would get more steaks. 
As we approach New Years Day, we are still digging ourselves from this mistake. We are hustling crazier than ever; it is almost as if we are back in the jungle with our machetes — we’ve got a lot more team members working to clear the way, and, worst of all, we’ve  let down some in our great community of ButcherBox members.
There are hundreds of customers who have yet to receive a box — we’ve subsequently sent refunds for their purchases. Due to this small error, the company has also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to refunds and extra product sent.
Worst, we’ve made a very bad brand impression on hundreds of customers. (I don’t think we can ever fully express our regrets for not meeting their expectations.)
The transmission dropped out of the rickety bus as we’ve approached the on-ramp to a new highway because we forgot to check a bolt or two. We’re working feverously to get the bus improved and back on the road we’ve been on and beyond. 
Here is where we go from here:
- We need to stay humble, and we fix what’s broken. We work as a team to figure out where our issues are, and we focus on them to fix them. 
- We operationalize checks and balances across the company so that we can catch a mistake like this in the future. 
- We embrace the issues and problems because we know they will make us better, smarter, and faster.
At this moment, we are already turning things around. Luckily, we still have the passionate machete-wielders, experienced drivers, and, as we’ve discovered, a few people who know how to fix a transmission.
Grunge watercolour painting of cows grazing in a field with rura

The stories we tell: Foundational motivations can evolve with a company

A little more than two years ago, we started ButcherBox in the offices of a friend’s Cambridge creative agency. We have grown exponentially since then — we now have more than 25 employees in Harvard Square and elsewhere across the country. Proudly, we still haven’t had to take any money from venture capitalists or other institutional investors.

From the beginning, ButcherBox has been a project of passion. I will get into that more a bit below, but basically, two forces — family and health — led the groundwork for what has become the company that our amazingly loyal customers have grown to know and love.

Initially, it was a health problem my wife developed that drove me to learn more about the potential benefits of more humanely-raised meats — grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork, free-range chicken. A few years back, she developed a thyroid issue. One of the suggestions to improve her health was to look into adding cleaner foods to our diets. Over and over again, we kept discovering grass-fed beef popping up on lists of foods it was suggested we add to our diets. We did more research on the topic and soon started eating grass-fed beef.

The other major influence that led to ButcherBox’s founding was the birth of my children. Knowing we wanted them to eat healthier from the start, I set out to find ways get quality, humanely-raised meat in a way that was affordable for a family. This led to my first involvement in a cow share and eventually to the realization that a lot of people wanted grass-fed beef and similar meats but didn’t have access to them.

These experiences are why ButcherBox exists today.

To be clear, the reasons my co-founder, Mike Filbey, and I founded ButcherBox haven’t changed. This fundamental part of our story remains solid. It is, after all, our foundation.

However, as we have grown, I have been thinking more deeply about the story that is ButcherBox, and, strangely, I have discovered that it was quite inevitable — more than I had realized — that I’d spearhead an endeavor promoting healthy, humanely-raised meat.

First, and I don’t know how better to explain this, but I have been surrounded by cattle — smiling, grazing in fields, peaceful — my entire life.

On a recent visit to my mother’s house, something struck me that I had never thought about before. You see, my mother’s home is — and has been for as far back as I can remember — decorated, floor to ceiling, with cows. There are cows on kitchen decorations, pictures of cows, and more.

I believe our home has been this way since my mother immigrated —  with my three siblings and me — from Uraguay to the United States when I was a mere six-months-old. Uruguay is one of the grass-fed beef capitals of the world, and, quite possibly, this is the inspiration for my mother’s decorative leanings. My father still lives in Uruguay, and that country has always called to me.

In some way, this has subconsciously impacted a lot of my choices. Believe it or not, I have a large painting of a cow displayed in my bedroom. It has been there since well before ButcherBox was a thing.

While the overall influence of cow-laden aesthetical decisions of my family may not be as personal as the two reasons mentioned above, I can’t deny that being surrounded by calming cattle art didn’t somehow serve as a bias towards being an advocate for more humane cattle industry practices.

This idea that there is a better way, for consumers and cattle, is also something that I have been thinking about for a lot longer than I realized.

Trying to find healthier meats for my wife and children was, without a doubt, the main catalyst for the birth of ButcherBox. But it has also been part of my business ethos, whether I realized it or not, that there is something fundamentally incorrect with how specific industries treat their products, and then how this impacts consumers relationship with those products and industries. This too is part of the founding story of ButcherBox.

Recently, I was looking over a slide deck from when I pitched my former company, CustomMade, to investors. One of the slides quickly caught my eye. I had completely forgotten about the slide, but it featured two cows. One was a cow on a feedlot; the other was a cow grazing in an open field.

We had used this slide as a way to explain what we thought about the marketplace for creatives and craftspeople. For CustomMade, we wanted to highlight how consumers in the digital age wanted to know the story behind what they were purchasing. This shift was occurring in the food industry well before ButcherBox’s founding, and we highlighted the parallels to the craft industry for CustomMade.

As we saw it, more consumers better understood that the state of feedlots was a miserable existence for the products they were purchasing, when it comes down to it, for the pleasurable experience of eating a steak. The happier cattle on the range was more in line with the overall story that makes consumers feel better about the meat they are buying.

Rediscovering the slide again made me realize how the concept product storytelling — specifically, giving customers the products that align with their beliefs — has been a priority in my business life for a long time. It took the old pitch deck to help me make the connection.

Why do I tell these stories?

Businesses — the ones that people can get passionate about — aren’t borne out of thin air. The stories of how they came into existence tell a lot about the people that built them and where they are going.

For ButcherBox, the cornerstones of our mission are health and family. This permeates all we do, from how we hire to how we treat our customers. But there are other key values built into the foundation of the company. One is making others happy, bringing joy in some way. I was reminded of this by returning to my mother’s cow-filled home. The other is that we are on a mission to improve the world. The slide deck from CustomMade brought home this part of our story.

As we grow,  more and more people will contribute to the company and they too will add their own positive influences to the ButcherBox story. That’s the only way to build something that can truly resonate.


The difference having a product makes: What has surprised me most about building ButcherBox

Although this is my second time leading an early stage venture — the first go-around being at CustomMade — I’ve been surprised by some of the differences building and growing ButcherBox.

What has been most exciting is the realization that I really, really love selling a product.

CustomMade was, from when we started the company, a marketplace that allowed talented makers, tradespeople, and creatives to connect with customers in search of unique products. While various items were sold through the site, we were only an intermediary. (That has since changed, as the current iteration of CustomMade, still run by my co-founder Seth, is now focused solely on jewelry.)

The experience of selling an actual product with ButcherBox, being able to deliver high-quality meat directly to our customers’ doors, is so different. You just have so much control over what your customers receive — in both price and quality. More than that, it has been astounding to see the impact that a great team can have on a business when working with a product.

And that’s really awesome.

For example, it is empowering to have the ability to tweak how much chicken we send out in one month or to cut the beef in different ways. Having this type of control is so much better than relying on others to delight and meet the needs of customers.

Also, when you get up to a certain volume of sales, what is fun is figuring out how process improvements can impact the bottom line. There are tremendous savings that can be made just by looking at places where the customer gets no value, but where you are paying a lot. With a product, you can target those areas and try to figure out how to improve them.

Take, for example, a way we improved a process that we initially thought was the only way we could procure meat.

Before Michael Billings, our amazing meat expert, arrived at ButcherBox, we would buy meat from one part of the country and ship to another to get cut — at a cost of 57 cents — and then we would ship it somewhere else after that — which cost us 35 cents more. So that process would make each piece of meat have an additional 92 cents per pound cost attached to it.

So we found ways to improve this system, shifted how we buy our meat, and now we buy right in the same city that we have it cut. Now, a process that once cost close to a dollar costs us only 6 cents in shipping.

The customer received no benefit from the way we were operating before. It is just waste. No one was getting any benefit other than the companies getting paid to move the meat from one end of the country to the other. We have decided to focus on these areas where customers get no value, but we are paying a lot and to change them one by one. In the process, we are building a much better customer experience while focusing on driving the most value possible for our customers.

Now we are able to take that money saved and put it back into the Box; we can give customers better value, give them more product. We can do this by being more efficient with operations related to the product.

And, whats more, having a product to work with has allowed for our teams’ creativity and operational excellence to flourish.

Whats cool about this company is that we have two types of people here. Our marketing team is like this really “blue sky” crew. For instance, one day recently, someone just chimed in during a meeting and said, “Let’s do a ‘Bacon Day.'” And everyone was immediately like, “Yeah, let’s do ‘Bacon Day.’”

And then we have this crew on the operations side that gets really fired up if they save a penny on the product. A penny!

But in reality, that makes an enormous difference. Saving penny per product on a trailer-load of our meat ends up resulting in $400 we don’t have to spend. So let’s say we do two trailers each week, saving that penny ends up as $800 a week, or about $40,000 we save per year; and that is a salary to add someone else excellent to the team right there.

I love that working with a specific product lets us get to be “blue sky” about some things, where the team has the mindset of “Let’s do this, this will be fun.” But I also love the operations side, who get thrilled figuring out how we can save 15 cents per pound. It is amazing.

What I’ve discovered with ButcherBox is that when you are in a product business, when you sell an actual product, and the volume of that increases, you can do things that just aren’t possible when working on a marketplace or app.

What’s most exciting is that in the end, through these processes, we are able to delight our customers more.


The possibilities — good and bad — with Amazon’s entry into the grass-fed industry

A report from Reuters revealed that this past week, e-commerce giant Amazon met — somewhat secretly — with a collection of grass-fed and organic beef farmers to look into becoming a larger player in connecting the grass-fed industry with consumers.

According to New Food Economy, Amazon’s interest in meeting with a small group of the most prolific ranchers signifies that, in addition to its in-process acquisition of Whole Foods, the company “intends to forge new supply chains, finding novel ways to get food from farm to table.”

Our initial thoughts to this news and Amazon becoming a potential competitor: This is great news for consumers and a tremendous opportunity for ButcherBox.

First, our mission is to bring the world the healthiest, highest quality meat — from 100% grass-fed beef to organic free range chicken and heritage breed pork. What matters most to us is doing this while causing as little harm as we can to the environment, empowering people to make healthier eating choices, and overall, influencing a cultural imperative to eat well.

Having one of the most important companies in the world signal that they want to align their business with these same principles is encouraging to us because it means that the values we deem to be most vital are being accepted on a much larger scale than they have up to this point. Most encouraging is the potential benefit for some of the farmers we’ve met along our journey, many who have struggled to gain profitability in this industry, that could have their lives changed by Amazon’s entry into the grass-fed marketplace

We also believe that there is an equally important message that could be sent to consumers if, in fact, Amazon does start to be a player in the organic and grass-fed beef industry: Eating healthy is important and needs to be an option for a wider swath of the population.

That said, Amazon’s entry into this space does present an interesting opportunity for ButcherBox.

While we greatly admire many of the e-commerce and marketplace innovations made by Amazon since its inception, we know that the grass-fed industry is complex.

It is our firm belief that we are best equipped to handle the nuance needed to bring customers the highest-quality meat, free from antibiotics and hormones. We’ve created a unique system of standards — based on our experiences seeking the best meat from across the globe — so that our customers are getting the healthiest, most humanely-raised products with transparency into our process and our understanding of the industry.

There are a lot of opportunities in this industry to raise and distribute cattle, chicken, and pork in unethical and unhealthy ways. We attempt to positively influence farmers and companies, both big and small, to do the right thing every day, whether or not they are a partner.

This seems like a subtle nuance, but it is one that we’ve discovered is a central issue for a large number of our customers.

Doing things right or wrong in this industry can come down to how products are marketed, how compelled farmers are to go beyond the simple industry standards, making difficult decisions in order to get the highest-quality meat to consumers, or, in some cases, avoiding the shortcuts that can deceive consumers into thinking they are getting a product they actually are not.

The last point is one that worries us a bit as Amazon gets into this marketplace. Because we are a growing, nimble company, we have had to hustle to get a solid understanding of the grass-fed beef world. Along the way, we’ve observed farmers doing things the right way, and others doing the bare minimum — and sometimes even less — to be able to sell their product as “grass-fed.”

We have a lot of concern about that increased demand from Amazon/Whole Foods could cause a rise in some of the trickery that occurs in the surprisingly loophole-filled U.S. grass-fed industry beyond the current state where a few bad actors are mostly outliers. Just take a look at this breakdown of some of the practices in a blog post from Primal Pastures a couple years ago for some insight into bad practices that could potentially grow if more pressure to deliver grass-fed beef is placed upon the market. These are real issues that will need to be figured out for the sake of the customer.

We know there are a number of challenges for U.S. grass-fed cattle ranchers to scale their operations. We would love if this wasn’t the case and we will work with any U.S. rancher who has the same aligned values as we do.

Our advantage arises from the close ties we have with our producers. We know our cattle ranchers here in the U.S. and abroad, as well as our chicken and pork farmers. We have strong relationships with them and have been to their farms. We know they have the same aligned interests as ButcherBox and don’t have any desire to play with the lack of regulations in the U.S. that could result in inferior products being delivered to consumers.

And so, we worry for consumers when we read comments like those made in the New Food Economy article by Don Davis, the Texas rancher who is also on the American Grassfed Association’s board of directors. In the article, he says that Amazon’s logistical superiority could be key to the industries growth and also reportedly says that he, “likes the idea of building huge, grass-based feedlots—though he doesn’t like that term. “

This view of large-scale U.S. grass-fed operations — a world imagined under Amazon’s influence —doesn’t sound like it would meet our standards here at ButcherBox. Not only are feedlots inhumane, in our opinion, but trying to scale the natural process of grazing cattle eating grass their entire lives worries us that ranchers might lead to other less ethical practices. These include things we are already hearing about such as farmers playing with the amount of grass and forage fed to cattle or the potential for feedlots where cattle are fed in the same manner they are today, but with processed grass to give them the “grass-fed” distinction.

When it comes down to it, the impact Amazon could have improving the lives of others, by getting them access to healthier grass-fed food excites us. However, we believe our industry knowledge and the standards we uphold separate us and give us an advantage to this incredible company joining the marketplace.

We are looking forward to the challenges ahead and will be more vigilant in upholding our mission to improve the environment, help people make healthier eating choices, and allow more people to eat well, in general.

The growing ButcherBox team.

Now comes the hard part: Developing hierarchy in a growth stage startup

One surprise that you discover when running a business is that success leads to new stages of growth. It is during these moments of scaling an organization that you realize that you need to completely rethink the strategies that got you there.

Often, companies need to be transformed into something wholly different from what they previously were. In most instances when as business needs to “scale,” as they say, the team is likely already behind where it should be in this growth process.

Take, for example, the transition from an early-stage startup to what’s called a growth stage business. This is the period when a small group of founders and early employees have done well enough to need to add more operational constraints on a business. Roles get more defined and holes in the company’s structure get filled.

Without anyone telling you, you need to evolve from a company that values hustling and hard work — all while trying to to find its market and customers — to an organization that needs to maximize both its people and its finances.

The best way to explain this evolution is through one of my favorite allegories to explain how we’ve built ButcherBox so far. The way I see it, building a startup is like a team of adventurers making its way through the jungle towards some group achievement. You have an idea where you are going, but more often than not, you are hacking your way through as best as you know how.

It’s great to work with incredible people at this stage. You are all in it together; someone takes a leadership role for various phases of the expedition, and there are no egos involved. You are all having fun, taking enormous risk together, knowing something great awaits whenever you reach whatever the destination may be.

(This is a little easier if you’ve already done the startup thing once before, as I have as a co-founder of another early-stage venture, CustomMade. But, it’s not a huge advantage if you are also in a vastly different industry. Getting back to the analogy above, it’s like before you have to go off hacking through the jungle, you’re allowed to climb an observation tower to give you a hint about which direction you should start trekking in. But the actual journey is still through new terrain, and, the challenges posed are just as unforgiving.)

And then you do it…You hack your way through the jungle, and you hit a dirt road. And then you realize that now you need a someone to lead those same machete hackers to drive cars to the next destination. You also now need a lot more cars and drivers on that road, and, oh yeah, you need someone to help you fill all these suddenly vital new roles.

While the idea of adding 10 to 20 new employees to an organization may not seem like that overwhelming a task — large corporations do this nearly every day — the implications for small businesses cannot only be disruptive, they can often cripple an organization.

And we’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Right now, we are currently undertaking the task of growing while bootstrapping. This is a dramatically different experience than scaling after taking institutional funding and having a board of directors interested in the day-to-day operations. For one, we are deciding on our own when and how to evolve as an organization; which is a great thing.

Here are a few key things we’ve done to survive to this point:

-We hire for experience. We’ve done this by bringing in key people for important roles as we’ve grown.

-We hire for cultural fit. To do this, the number one quality we screen for in new hires is humility.

-We hire opportunistically. Oftentimes, we take risks on people that others may have passed over.

So now we are at the point where we have been hacking through the jungle for two years, and then…Boom! Now we are on this road that we have to figure out how to navigate.

We need people with different skill sets for some of this growth, and we also need to figure out how to help the team while transitioning to the next level.

For me, the current challenge is adding more “hierarchy” to what has previously been quite successful without having had to focus too much on who stands where in the organization and what roles need to be changed.

There is a lot of nuance to doing this correctly, but I believe that the team we’ve built understands and is ready for this next stage of development for ButcherBox.

I know I’m ready to see where this road takes us from here.

Mike and Fam

Building a company and being a Dad

When I was running my first company, I believed that I knew what it meant to be a great business leader.

I thought it showed good leadership to “set the pace” by being the first one in the office and the last to leave. I also felt it was noble to make some very important things — my friends, my finances, my family — secondary to the business as a way to show employees and investors that I was all in for the company. And although my health deteriorated and my relationships suffered, I was content because I told myself that I could help change the world in some way through my efforts.

And then, my daughter Marley was born. Immediately, I had a realization that creating a more well-balanced life was a necessity. Focusing on the time spent at your desk is a fool’s errand and a poor way to spend the precious little amount of time we have in this world.


In the almost three years since Marley was born, I moved on from CustomMade and founded a new company, ButcherBox.

As we’ve built ButcherBox, we’ve tried to create a better working environment for everyone by taking the lessons learned from prior experiences in tension-filled startups (I say “we” because the entire ButcherBox team has been in similar situations and wants to do better in our approach with ButcherBox). Quite often, the intense pressure found within early-stage companies is borne out of the nothing more than the management missives passed down from one generation of MBA-trained leaders to another.

So we are doing something different with ButcherBox, and it allows me to put in more quality time with my family than I ever could have if I blindly continued to lead by the “rules” that were instilled in me in the early days of CustomMade.

And so, I have never worked a Friday and yet have been able to scale up a profitable e-commerce company with a team of more than 25 like-minded employees.

Which is also quite good since my wife and I recently added a pair of identical twin girls to the fold.

How am I doing it?

Here are a few things that I have learned while running a company and being a dad to young kids. They may not all work for you, but they’ve been helpful for me to achieve the quality of life that is rewarding both personally and in business.

Follow your passion — being away is hard enough, make it count.

The businesses I like to start are about more than making a living; they are mission-driven. For me, trying to make a small positive change to some entrenched global system makes the time I spend on work as valuable as time on the other important things in my life.

First I did this by creating a marketplace to connect craftspeople without any idea about how to find work in the Internet age with their ideal consumers. Now, I am trying to provide the healthiest, highest quality meat to the world — ranging from 100% grass-fed beef to organic free-range chicken and heritage breed pork.

Find a day a week not to work and spend it at home 

4-day workweeks force your team to step it up while forcing you to work on what matters.

This has been the hardest but most rewarding. I don’t work ButcherBox on Fridays, I hang out with my kids. If I need to, I will still occasionally do a lunch or a mentoring meeting for a window, but the main focus of the day is on my children, not work.

Find ME time (Which, for me, is from 4:30 AM to 6:00 AM).

With work, kids, relationships, and more, I think it’s important to still carve out some much needed time for myself. To do that, I wake up before the craziness of the day begins! I do my Headspace meditation, have a stretch, drink some great coffee, review my goals, and prepare for what the day holds.

Kids spell love T.I.M.E.

I learned this one from the great Jim Walsh when I asked him for the one piece of advice he would give about raising kids. It is super helpful to remind myself of this one time and time again.

Focus on the most important projects and be OK that the job is never done.

You will never find enough hours to do everything, so learn to give yourself a break every now and then. Utilize a task manager, make sure you are hitting the highest priority items, and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t finish everything you need to in a day.

Limit your downside.

In other words, don’t bet the farm. For us, before we dove in blind, we used a platform like Kickstarter to prove the model. And when we started ButcherBox, it was with an all-in investment of $10,000. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot to get your idea off the ground. Spend as little as possible to get the information you need. Adapt. Then, repeat.

Get your kids involved in the business.

And I don’t mean by teaching them how to code or putting them on fulfillment. Even doing the littlest things with the kids can go a long way. It also helps if you are able to laugh at yourselves a little.

This little video below has been viewed by more than 220,000 people and helped us sell a LOT of bacon!

Finally, take it easy and try to enjoy.

I’ve been told again and again that the time you get to spend with small children is so fleeting. Try to not “crank through tasks,” but to enjoy all the little small moments within your business and your personal life.



Borne out of a search for healthier meat and new experiences

Grass-fed beef — the loose classification for meat from cattle that eats grass instead of grains — has grown in popularity over the past decade.

It is not new. The meat our grandparents ate was most definitely “grass-fed” as grazing cattle was less expensive than feeding them grains, which, before the 1950s, were quite pricey.

The resurgence in popularity for meat from grass-fed cows began slowly in the 2000s, and didn’t fully pick up steam until around 2010 when WholeFoods made a big push to showcase the differences between grain-fed — the industry standard still to this day — and grass-fed offerings. In the same year, the organic, healthy food grocer also announced that grass-fed beef would be available in all its stores.

While this is one way many people have been introduced to grass-fed beef — most likely in the form of ground beef — a lot of people who seek out grass-fed meats in 2017 do so by way of some the most popular current diet trends.

I was first made aware of grass-fed beef, through programs such as the Whole30 and Precision Nutrition. Trying to follow those programs and reading more about the benefits of grass-fed beef from the likes of Michael Pollan, the author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, made me want to try to eat more of this meat that was healthier in a number of ways.

This is how I ended up in someone’s living room one night picking out my very own $400 pile of meat as part of a cow share.

I had found the farmer through church; he was actually the father of a friend. Every year, he would gather people together and share that cow that they would kill and truck to Boston. Basically, he’d put the whole cow out in his living room and sell the various parts.

I thought that was cool and loved the quality of the meat. It was also better knowing the life cycle of that animal, and knowing where it originated. I thought it was interesting to have the option to purchase from someone who was raising cattle in a better manner than most other farmers out there. I also enjoyed lots of different cuts of beef; Whole Foods has only a limited selection of cuts, so this gave me the chance to try a lot of other stuff.

Over the next year, I would rave about the meat and people would ask, if, the next time he did it, that they could get some of the meat.

So the next year, bought a half cow myself and sold the shares to friends. The following year I bought a whole cow and sold the shares.

I quickly realized that this was a completely inefficient way to get grass-fed meat. More challenging was the realization that there’s not a lot of open freezer space in and around Boston.

When I say inefficient, I mean the process. The quality and variety were far better than what you could find at WholeFoods.

The cow share experiences were very similar to doing a CSA, which my wife and I had done regularly. With the CSA, we loved the idea of getting a box of assorted vegetables and other food from which we’d have to create a meal. The discovery process was appealing, figuring out what we were going to do with the random rutabaga that we got. That was really fun for us. Also, the idea of supporting a farm.

So with ButcherBox, I combined the two ideas, CSA and cow share, to create an experience for our customers where they get interesting and healthier meat delivered to their homes, guides on how to cook their food, and the opportunity to try cuts they may not be familiar with.

It’s not just supplying quality food, but also expanding people’s horizons. That’s the ButcherBox mission, and what we strive to accomplish.



An invitation to Roam with ButcherBox

When I began the journey that is ButcherBox, I was trying to solve a very real problem for my family… sourcing amazing grass-fed beef that is shipped to my door at an affordable cost.  While this is the second company I’ve founded, I didn’t want to have any preconceived ideas on what I would discover and experience along the way. All I knew was that I had a big problem ahead of me, and we would get there, one way or another.

After starting as a novice in the meat industry, I’ve been lucky to both learn about the intricacies and proclivities of the worlds of cattle, poultry, and pork, and to meet some of the most outstanding folks who are working on the farms and ranges the world over.

And so we here at ButcherBox want to share the adventures, the tales of those working in the industry, the sometimes unusual — yet fascinating — minutiae of buying and selling meat, the tradeoffs in raising livestock, the delicious recipes passed down through generations, the wisdom shared by experts on how to best prepare grass-fed meats, the unique and passionate individuals we’ve met along the way, and so much more.

Which is why we are launching Roam, an online magazine of sorts aimed at bringing you the amazing stories and fascinating facets of our industry that we’ve only begun to uncover.

In a way, Roam is directionless — which isn’t quite necessarily a bad thing. What I mean is that we see Roam as an ongoing adventure that can go many different ways. And that’s what we aim to bring you: The authentic stories of those on the frontlines of the grass-fed meat industry.

Thanks for coming along. Explore, imbibe, and eat up all that you can.