Tag Archives: Startups

Mike Filbey (left) and Mike Salguero (right).

6 things I’ve learned by being a co-founder twice by age 26

I usually like to keep my business life separate from my personal life, but for some reason, I recently felt compelled to share a quick update on life and work on Facebook. The response has been great, so I thought I’d share with the ButcherBox family as well.

In the last four years, I’ve experienced a great deal.

I have started a company, dropped out of college, closed down a company, started another company, and read a lot of books. My hope is that sharing the key things I’ve learned may be valuable. 

Knowledge is worthless unless shared.

You can divide my 26 years on this earth into two periods. The time before I dropped out of college and that after I dropped out. I dropped out after my junior year; I was 22 and it was summer. I had just turned down an internship with Ford because I wanted to focus on growing my startup.

Instead, I moved from Wisconsin to Boston and brought my two co-founders with me. We were at a stage where we had hacked through the jungle for two years without success. It was a humbling experience. We were pushing a boulder uphill and I was too naïve to admit it; the business we were hoping to build could not work.

Eventually, they moved on from the startup — as they should have — and I was back to where I was when this all started at age 19. Except, this time, I had nothing in a bank account and was now 24-years-old.

At this point, I had to decide whether to go back to school and get my degree or to continue in the startup world. Everyone I talked to agreed that I should get my degree, after all, I only had one year remaining. So I re-enrolled and chose some classes. About a month before school was going to begin, there was something that just didn’t feel right. I felt like I was going backward not forwards.

The thing was, I wasn’t ready to go back.

So I shopped myself around the job market and got a few offers. One was a way to help cancer patients, one was a startup hoping to disrupt the airline industry, and another was this radical idea to sell grass-fed beef through the mail.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I eventually decided to sell grass-fed beef in the mail at ButcherBox.

Why? Because of the company’s founder, Mike Salguero.

Mike was someone I knew and trusted. He was my go-to advisor with my first company. I was confident that I would learn a ton from working with Mike, and, even if the business went nowhere, it would be a valuable experience.

There’s a key lesson here: Don’t make decisions around money, make decisions around opportunities to learn. I never got into ButcherBox thinking I’d one day make a bunch of money, far from it.

Fast forward nearly two years to today and I am happier than ever. I haven’t made a bunch of money, but I have learned a lot, a lot a lot. This business could collapse tomorrow and I’d be fine, I’d be happy; because it’s been one hell of a ride so far.

And so, here are the six more valuable lessons that I have learned up til now, having grown a lot since dropping out and being a co-founder twice:

1.  Life is all about how we treat each other.

2.  When it comes to work, follow the advice Bill Belichick got from his dad Steve, “Keep your head down, work hard, keep your mouth shut.” Be humble. Nobody likes a show-off.

3. Self-care is extremely important. To be your best you need to feel your best. This means taking care of yourself. Make time to work out, eat healthily, and spend time with friends. You are doing your friends, family, and work a disservice if you don’t first take care of yourself first.

4. There is only one YOU. You are unique. Only you know what makes you happy. Not your parents, not your friends, not your boss, YOU. So make your own decisions and believe in yourself.

5. Read books. They open new worlds and can teach you how to live a better life. I attribute a lot of my recent success to two books, Traction by Justin Mares and Guide To the Good Life by William Irvine. The former is about marketing; the latter about philosophy.

6. Talk less, listen more. By listening, you show respect, learn, and become more likable.

So on that note, I’d love to hear from you. What do you feel compelled to share? Thanks for reading. 


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.