Welcome to “How I Made My First Million,” Fortune’s newest series in which we interview today’s most powerful people about how they amassed their wealth. You’ll hear from founders, entrepreneurs, investors, and creatives across the globe on how they joined the seven-figure-club, what they’d do differently, and their best piece of advice for building wealth.
- Age: 42
- Career highlights: Created direct-to-consumer subscription meat delivery company ButcherBox, worth an estimated $500 million
- Approximate net worth: $375 million
Mike Salguero knows quality when he sees it.
The Paraguay-born, Western Massachusetts-raised businessman knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur from the beginning. He got his start as a paperboy and worked many jobs along he way, from selling peanuts at Fenway Park to working in real estate and getting fired—something he was glad about, so he could start working for himself.
But the thing is, he wasn’t even really working for himself his first time as a founder, after raising “a bunch of capital” from the likes of Google and First Round Capital. Three days after his first startup folded in 2015, Salguero started ButcherBox. It’s made him a millionaire hundreds of times over, he has no intention to sell, and his biggest advice is counterintuitive: don’t raise outside funding.
Salguero’s idea came from his network. The father-in-law of a friend was a farmer who would drive trash bags full of meat into Boston to sell once a quarter. Salguero liked the high-quality, grass-fed product so much, he kept buying more and even re-selling it to friends, and within months he decided to go all in, cold-calling the CEO of Omaha Steaks with a LinkedIn message. Then, with a little help from Kickstarter, he launched ButcherBox.
Salguero remains in awe of the company he’s built. Back in 2015, he only intended to raise $25,000, but he blew past that to raise $215,000 within 30 days. As of 2023, the company—which has a policy (born of an accident) of giving out free bacon with each box—is bringing in $500 million in sales, and Salguero’s 75% ownership puts his net worth at roughly $375 million. In an interview with Fortune, he explained how he built the brand, why he’s cool with hybrid and remote work, why hustle culture is a “lie,” and other major lessons he’s learned along the way.
The following transcript is lightly edited for clarity.
Can you tell us where you grew up and what your parents did for a living?
I was born in Paraguay, the youngest of four. My parents got divorced when I was four months old, and [we] moved up with my mom to a really small farming community in Western Massachusetts.
Growing up, my mom—aside from being a single mom and having to chase four of us around—didn’t work a full-time job. We largely lived off of her parents. She did some substitute teaching. I grew up in a very small town [of] 2,000 people—not a lot of guidance. But [we were] in a very loving household.
Can you give us any insight of how things were for you financially, growing up?
I had a really interesting upbringing as it related to money. My grandfather was a very successful businessman. He was from the foothills of Colombia, came up to the United States and became successful in international business.
I had this upbringing where I would go home with my mom and my siblings, and we didn’t really have a lot of money, but my grandparents would take us on these trips. We went to Spain every summer, and we did all these things that were beyond our own family’s means. That gave me this really interesting [realization that] I wanted a life that wasn’t the life I was living. The small community I was in was pretty poor, and I saw this other path, or this other lifestyle, that was very appealing to me, and [it was] something that I really wanted to strive to accomplish.
What was your first job?
I was a paperboy. I got a job at the age of 10 delivering a newspaper called The Daily Hampshire Gazette to about 32 households, including the famous author Tracy Kidder, whose pet poodle actually bit me. I used to, rain or shine or snow, walk a mile and a half and deliver these newspapers around town.
What did that first job, and your experience growing up in a poor community, teach you about money?
One of the biggest lessons I learned about money really early was the idea of saving.
The first time I was able to buy an 8-bit Nintendo, I saved up like $95. I remember that as a big conquest. I always had this dream of buying a pair of Air Jordans—most people who are 42 probably had a dream of buying the $120 shoes. I never actually got them. But my mom was a really good role model in helping me to desire to save and to think about planning for the future, rather than just living in the present and blowing through money.
Let’s fast forward to your teenage years. Did you go to college? And if so, did you have any idea while you were there that you wanted to be an entrepreneur and you wanted to find your own company and have your own business? What was your thought process?
I always knew I wanted to run my own business. Even at an early age, I had an uncle who was in his own business, and I had a grandfather who was doing things in his own business. That lifestyle and the potential financial windfall was really attractive to me.
I actually went to boarding school for high school. That was the first time that I confronted real wealth. I would be there with these kids who had tons of money and we would go to New York and just take a hotel room and spend all this money, and I couldn’t keep up. And that drove this hunger of wanting to make money, wanting to do my own thing.
I went to Boston University, which I chose because I wanted to go to a big-city school. I started in the business school, but within a few months of being there. I was pretty bored with school. I thought it was pretty easy. So I decided to make the city my education and for the next four years, I worked full-time while going to school.
I had a ton of different odd jobs, everything from working at a magic shop as a magician, to working at all the stadiums. I was a peanut vendor at Fenway Park. I worked as a chef. I worked as a server. I ended up, after a year, deciding that the business school wasn’t right for me. They were very focused on grooming us to get an internship.
I was always interested in being an entrepreneur. And so after my freshman year, I decided to just take the classes I wanted to take that piqued my curiosity, and I did a whole bunch of stuff that was more towards what I was curious about, rather than trying to set myself up for a job, because I didn’t think I was going to get a job when I got out of school.
Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for ButcherBox?
Before ButcherBox, I started a company called Custommade.com. And I ran that for eight years. We were venture-funded. We raised a bunch of capital from Google and First Round Capital, but that didn’t end well. And while the business was falling apart, and my cofounder stepped into the CEO role, I was wondering, what’s next? What am I going to do after this?
A friend of mine had a father-in-law who was a farmer, and he would, on a quarterly basis, drive trash bags full of meat into Boston and sell them. I bought some from him, and it was amazing, but it filled up our freezer—we didn’t have any more space. So I decided to take some of those steaks and sell them to people at work. And then a quarter later, I decided to buy more, because the people at work were like, “Hey, next time you get that, get me more.”
I ended up directly talking to this farmer and buying an entire cow, a cow share, which is like two or three trash bags full of meat, and bringing it to work and selling it to people. And one of those guys said it would be so much easier if it were delivered to his house. And that began the question around how would you deliver meat to somebody’s house? But more importantly, the type of meat that we were sourcing was called grass-fed beef, and I just got really obsessed with finding the best quality grass-fed beef. My wife and I were following these elimination diets that suggested that you should eat grass-fed beef because it’s healthier. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma had just come out saying grass-fed beef is healthier. But I just couldn’t find it. So I had this obsession of, one: how do you source the best possible grass-fed beef? And two: how do you deliver beef or any meat to a customer’s door? Like, how does that work?
I spent a good four to six months just poking around. Then I met the former head of operations of Omaha Steaks—a big meat-in-the-mail company—and he said he could help me.
I’d reached out to him on LinkedIn. He said his non-compete was over and he’d be glad to help. And he opened some doors that then just opened the business. So by the time that my first business, Custom Made, went under, where we literally locked the door, and we were done, I took a long weekend off, and on Tuesday morning, I started ButcherBox.
Can you talk us through your original aspirations at that company, Custom Made, and kind of how you felt when we realized it was going under? Did it ever reach making its first million dollars before you realized it wasn’t working out?
My co-founder Seth and I were best friends. We were both working in real estate jobs and both wanted to do our own thing. Custom Made was a listing service for woodworkers to put up their portfolio of work and find customers. And [Seth] bought this beautiful coffee table from this guy, and the guy was like, I get all my business from that website, and I pay $35 a year for my subscription. And a light bulb went off in Seth’s head: We should just buy this, we could rehab it and turn it into a website that looked a little bit better than the website that was built in 1996.
I actually was sleeping on Seth’s couch when I got an email back from the guy who owned CustomMade.com, saying he’d be willing to sell to us.
We did 60 days of due diligence, which is where you’re supposed to go find out about the company. We put down a $5,000 deposit to go into due diligence. Then we were going to buy the website for $140,000, so we basically spent the next 60 days running around town with a logo on a Blackberry trying to convince anybody to give us money. We took checks as small as $5,000 and checks as big as $50,000 and raised $500,000 to buy this website. A year later, we had gotten the business to about $500,000 in revenue, and raised a little bit more—another like $1.1 million. And then a year after that, we really got enamored with raising venture capital. It seemed like everyone was raising venture capital, and that it was the only way to build a tech company.
We went to about 75 different meetings to raise venture capital, and everyone said no to us. And there was a moment where we were pitching, like, the 76th person, and I use the word marketplace. Literally, as soon as I said the word marketplace, everything changed.
This was 2011, so Airbnb was heating up. Uber was starting. There was a marketplace pattern that venture capitalists were looking for. Within a few months, we attracted Google and First Round Capital. My best friend Seth announced at my wedding rehearsal dinner that Google had signed that day. So he closed the deal as I was getting married, which is really cool, and we ended up raising about $2 million from them.
We started the marketplace, [and] it was working really well. All told, we raised about $28 million over five rounds of financing. But the fundamentals of the business didn’t work the way that we had hoped they would and the way that we sold our investors on. We ended up having to do multiple rounds of layoffs. But ultimately there’s about 35 people left at the company, and we had to say, “Hey, today’s the last day.”
Ultimately, the business model wasn’t right, and because we had raised money and convinced people that this marketplace was really the right approach, we had a really hard time unwinding that. All told, we got the business to about $3 million from revenue. My cofounder actually pivoted the business to a custom jewelry site, Customer.com, and that business works really well. Customers are delighted that business is working well. I advise him and invested in his Custom Made version 2.0. But our [original] model didn’t work.
I think one of the things that that taught me was, sometimes when you raise money, you put yourself at odds with the business itself and what the business needs, because you have to honor the investors and what the investors need. And in our case, our investors were only interested in us because we told them we could build a marketplace. And then when that didn’t deliver, we were stuck.
And a lot of the troubles of Custom Made then caused me to say, you know, if I do this, again, with ButcherBox, I’m not going to raise a dime of outside funding, I don’t care how small the company is, it has to be a hobby business, I don’t care. I don’t think we’d be here today, not nearly as successful, if we had just raised money.
How much of your own savings did you use to fund ButcherBox in the beginning?
At the very beginning of ButcherBox, I put in $10,000 of my own money. The idea was that I was going to prove to myself and others that you could start a company with $10,000.
So Custom Made didn’t work out for you. You learned valuable lessons, you moved on, founding ButcherBox. But when did you solidify in your mind that ButcherBox would be a success, that it would work out? And did you ever expect it to grow to its current size?
I did not expect ButcherBox to be what it is today. I was planning on building a hobby business. I thought if we had 1000 subscribers buying a box of meat once a month, and we made a little bit of profit off them, that would be enough for me to have an income, and we could have a customer service person and a few other people.
We started in May. We spent the summer learning from people, and one of the big lessons we learned was, people wouldn’t eat that much beef. So we knew we had to do chicken and pork as well. And we launched our Kickstarter on September 9, 2015.
We went out to raise $25,000, and we ended up raising $215,000 in 30 days. The first day, I think we brought in $40,000, and it was like, “Oh boy, I think we might be onto something here.” It went beyond family and friends. Then we launched our website, and right away, people were signing up, subscribing to be on ButcherBox.com.
I like to equate it to parents of professional athletes. If you’re Simone Biles’ parents, and she’s 3 years old and doing backflips, you’re like, “I guess we should get her into gymnastics, seems like she’s pretty gifted in that.” And having started ButcherBox while also raising three young kids myself, you realize as a parent that you have no say over who your kid is going to be. You build some guardrails, you keep them safe, but you don’t really have a lot of say in what they want to become. And I believe the same thing with companies.
I believe with ButcherBox, I was able to create the company, but the company wants to be what the company wants to be. That’s really cool and very humbling. A lot of the success of ButcherBox is because ButcherBox wanted to be successful. It’s not because I had it in my head that this was going to be some big successful thing. I’m still incredibly in awe of the positive impact it wants to have on the world.
Meat is one of the most broken food systems. Food in general is rife with a lot of issues that need to be disrupted. Early on, it started with wanting grass fed beef because we want to eat healthier. I had no idea as a consumer how broken the food system actually is.
This is one of the largest meat-eating economies in the world. And the way that we treat animals, the environment, the farmer—all of that needs to be disrupted. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
The movement of ButcherBox is one where we believe that you can provide meat to people in a way that’s better for the animal, the farmer, the workers in the factories, the environment, and ultimately the end-consumer.
What ButcherBox does as a company is obsess over the details of the meat we’re providing to our customers. I go to the farms, I go to the plants. We’re talking all the time, holding people accountable. We have a third-party certification for humane standards. We’re constantly trying to deliver a better and better and better product, because that’s what’s needed in order to change meat in this country.
What was it like realizing you’d made your first million dollars?
I think one place entrepreneurs often fail is if you go and raise money, which many do, you’re not really thinking about yourself, and you’re not thinking about de-risking things for yourself. So in our case, the last round of funding that we did, my co-founder and I each took about $1million off the table. And I’m really glad we did, because that was really the only money I saw from this thing. I was a millionaire well before, when I raised money on a $5 million, or $7 million valuation. And my stake was worth that.
But there’s a difference between that and actually putting money into a bank account. And that can change how you look at the world in a way that can be beneficial to the company. You’re willing to take a little bit more risk, you’re willing to just feel a little more comfortable. Oftentimes, too often, I see entrepreneurs raise money, and then continue to take a bad salary, continue to personally guarantee loans, putting more risk on their side, doing things like mortgaging their house for a loan or making riskier moves. If you’re going to raise money, which I think is pretty risky already, you should make sure you’re limiting the risk you have.
Which company were you at when you made your first million dollars?
Custom Made. It was after we did our round of funding.
What’s your current net worth?
That’s a super hard question. The vast majority of my net worth is ButcherBox. I own about 75% of the company, and the rest is owned by employees and former employees. We don’t have any outside shareholders, and we’re a private company. So it’s really hard to value us. There’s no actual value for the company. I don’t actually need to know my net worth is; I don’t really care.
I’m not looking to exit, I’m not looking to go public, I’m looking to actually transform a broken system, which is meat in this country, and build a company that we can be proud of.When people ask me for my net worth, I don’t know what you think ButcherBox is worth. We’re a $500 million-plus business. Who knows what that’s worth? I suppose we could go out and value it. But that’s a big question. In order to get my net worth, you’d have to figure out what that’s worth.
Do you have total revenue for 2023?
Yes, $500 million. We were at $560 million in 2022.
You’ve been so successful. After you founded these companies, did you ever splurge on something you never expected to buy?
I have a saying around what I’ll allow myself to splurge on: time, travel and toilet paper. Those are the three areas in life that I think you need to splurge on. Anything that saves you time, that trip if you’re taking the trip, and there’s like the extra thing to do, like, just do it. And then toilet paper. I mean, I don’t know why you’d ever go with one-ply, it’s just not worth it.
My one big splurge was buying a Rolex. Interestingly, growing up, my grandfather always wore a Rolex. And he always bought Rolexes for all of his kids, and all of the granddaughters when they graduated from high school. And I always wanted a Rolex—I wanted one of his Rolexes.
Very quickly I realized that the real lesson that my grandfather gave me was when you buy that for yourself, it’s like, “Oh, I earned this.” That’s a completely different feeling than if somebody just hands you one. And it was this moment where I felt super-connected to my grandfather, who had passed away before I bought it.
Are you going to keep that tradition going for your children?
That’s a great question. Am I gonna get my kids Rolexes? Probably not. They’re even bigger savers than I am.
One thing that they do love spending money on—something that I love spending money on too—is charitable gifts. Philanthropy has become really, really important to me. It’s almost like a superstition. In many religions, there’s this idea of tithing—giving your money away. That money is energy. It’s not like something to hold on to. It’s something to just pass through you. I believe that the more open-handed I am with money, like the more I let it flow through me, the more I give it away, the more I help people.
Let’s talk about this free bacon for life. How did you come up with that idea? And are there any other fun promotions in the works?
We like to say that we built this company on bacon. Really early on with our Kickstarter campaign, we told our backers that if we got to $100,000 in sales, everyone would get free bacon in their box. And so people started pushing to get us to the 100,000 sales. And then when we shipped out those Kickstarter boxes, we put a pack of bacon into every single box. And then we switched to our website, because Kickstarter was done, and started selling subscriptions.
About two weeks in, my engineer calls me with a problem. He said it turns out that we’ve been giving everybody free bacon, not just the Kickstarter people, but everyone who signed up. It’s a problem. And I was like, okay, can we fix it? And he said, “I don’t think so. I built the code in a way that is just going to send people bacon.” This marketing guy, Mike, who was working with me, said, “why don’t we just tell people: sign up and get free bacon?” And that was it.
Right away, we changed because of this technical thing. We changed it to: sign up for ButcherBox and get free bacon in your first box. And that worked really well. That seemed to be a good hook to get people in. Somebody suggested putting bacon in every box you ever get from us. That’d be cool. So we call it bacon for life.
The idea with bacon for life is that any box that you got from us, we’re gonna put bacon in it. So keep getting boxes. And we saw this massive spike in sign-ups. And we thought, oh my god, we’re onto something. And so bacon for life became a thing, followed by chicken wings for life, ground beef for life, steaks for life. We’ve done a whole bunch of for-life campaigns.
The idea behind them is: we’re a subscription business. So we want you to get more than one box. And we found that customers really love when they have these additional deals in their box, and we keep them for a much longer time. It’s a much better value for them: they’re getting free products. And they sign up much more frequently, so we have built a whole bunch of for-life offers around our business.
How many subscribers did you have last year?
About 400,000 subscribers, and we have shipped a box to 1.6 million households in this country.
Subscription companies like HelloFresh have seen a slowdown in recent years. To what do you attribute ButcherBox’s success? What sets you apart from other companies?
One of the big reasons why we’ve been successful is that we didn’t raise money. We started in 2015. If you wind the clock back to 2015, that’s when Blue Apron was doing amazingly well. And there were 25 different local versions of Blue Apron who all had gotten funding and they were all building a business and all fighting against each other. And we didn’t raise any money: we were the only company that hadn’t raised money.
Blue Apron went public in July of 2017, a year and a half after we started. And it did not go well, within 30 days, their stock price cratered. The entire market for direct-to-consumer foods and subscription businesses dried up immediately. So everyone sold. Plated sold, Green Chef sold, the only ones left were Blue Apron—but their valuation went from like $2 billion to $100 million—and HelloFresh.
Because we didn’t raise money, and because that meant we had to build a profitable marketing engine and needed to find ways to acquire subscribers, that didn’t cost more than the money we were going to make in the first box. We did that through interesting things on Facebook, we did that through using influencers. We built a marketing mix so we could sell a box and make enough profit that we then could sell more of those boxes. And because we didn’t raise money, we had to build the muscle memory of doing things in a way that was profitable from day one, versus what most of these box subscription companies did, which was lose money and hope that they’d make it back sometime in the future.
This idea that I’m not going to raise money, because that didn’t work out last time, actually helped us build the company that we have today. And I truly believe that if we had raised money, we would probably have been out looking for money, right when Blue Apron was tanking. And we probably would not be in business right now. I just thank my lucky stars for my traumatic experience with the venture capitalists, because it made me decide against raising money.
How much does a custom box cost?
What are your hopes for ButcherBox in the future? Are you willing to expand?
I have several hopes for ButcherBox. One is, our purpose is helping people eat better. That’s very broad. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. One piece of that is helping people to make healthier choices, helping them to find better meat. One piece of that is empowering them in the kitchen.
We find a lot of people who are not successful with ButcherBox don’t know how to cook, or they’re afraid of cooking. And if we can get you over the hump, whether that’s a cooking class, or whether that’s a recipe, if we can get you like, ‘Oh, I just cooked that pork butt and it is incredible.’ That’s all we need, then you’re in, you’re like, ‘oh my god, I would never do anything else.’ And so we are constantly innovating to find ways to help you in the kitchen to be as successful as possible.
We are also looking at our customers’ other needs. Something we’ve heard loud and clear: about 75% of our customers have told us that they’re interested in pet food, because they believe in the quality of the meat we’re putting into our box. And they’re wondering how to get this quality for their pet, because most people now believe the pet is like part of their household or part of their family and want to feed them just as well as they’re feeding themselves. So we’re launching pet food. We launched treats last year, we’re launching kibble this year, and we’re going to launch cat food. We’re really excited about pet food in general and think it’s a pretty interesting space.
Another thing that I’m super excited about is we have, for a long time, been sourcing humanely raised animals. We are now 100% sourced humanely raised or MSC certified which is the seafood equivalent to humane treatment. That took about two years of pushing on vendors and really working the system to get that ready.
The next frontier, the thing that I’m personally very passionate about, is workers in the supply chain. Workers in meat plants right now are incredibly vulnerable. We want to bring standards to the plants that go well beyond OSHA standards. There’s nobody who’s looking at this vulnerable population and trying to figure out a better way to do things.
I believe the industry has lost its way and I want to change that.
Where do you get your meat?
We work with a variety of different farms, that then go to a processing plant, and then generally to a cutting facility. So depending on where you are in the country, we’re working with different firms, different processing plants, and different cutting facilities.
Do you ship internationally?
No, we only ship in the 48 states.
There’s been a big debate about whether workers can work for home. What’s your stance? Should there be any flexibility?
Before the pandemic, we had office culture. People came into the office every day, and I think we had like one or two people who lived out of state who would call in remotely for stuff, if we remember to call them.
During the pandemic, everyone obviously went home. And then we told our company, hey, look, you can go anywhere, we’ll just figure out the hybrid thing, no problem. And so lots of people were in Boston. We have a younger workforce, and a lot of the younger people spread out across the country. Some people settled down in Minneapolis, people settled down in Las Vegas, in Austin, Texas. And we are now about 40% out-of–state remote. We’ve kind of stumbled into being a hybrid company.
I love going to the office, I’m at the office four days a week. I love the interplay of the office—running into people, the collisions that happen when you run into somebody. But we are definitely embracing the hybrid culture, and making sure that people who are hybrid have the same opportunities as in-person workers have.
I think it’s really important as a business leader to really try to meet people with flexibility, because that really helps work-life balance. Flexibility is something that we continue to score really high on. We enable people to be flexible, do what you want, and get your work done, obviously, but like if you are a super early morning person, and then you want to spend some time with your kid or go do an appointment and then come back—I don’t care. What I care about is the work getting done.
If you build the right guardrails, and you build the right structure where the work’s getting done, I think you just let people be the people that they want to be. There’s this conversation around work-life balance. It’s a challenge for all of us. It’s a challenge for me. It’s especially challenging with our smartphones all the time. It’s hard to turn it off and you really need boundaries. You need to lock your phone in a box and be like, I’m not touching that for three hours. That’s kind of the only way where you get work-life balance.
Everything else, in my opinion, is a blur. It’s like work-life blur. How much is the life part? And how much is the work part? And really, it’s on all of us. It’s on my employees, it’s on us to build an environment where we’re talking about that and helping people think about that. But it’s on each of my employees to build boundaries for themselves around how much work you’re letting into your life. Oftentimes, you can be quote, unquote, working, but you’re really just distracting yourself from the life that’s going on around you.
What’s your best piece of advice for people who are looking to start or found their own company, or people who have started a company and maybe failed at it and want to try again?
Don’t raise money.
What’s your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who are ready to throw in the towel?
A lot of entrepreneurs, especially entrepreneurs who’ve raised money, believe that the company surviving is the only thing that’s important. I was talking to this woman who said she wanted to sell her company to mine because her lifestyle sucked. She asked me advice, and whether I could help her sell it or wanted to buy it.
I said, first of all, I don’t think we’re interested in buying a company. But secondly, I think you’re missing the point. I think the point of being a great entrepreneur is learning how to balance your life with the business you’re building. If you don’t like your life right now, change what’s happening within your company.
I tend to give people this exercise, which is a three-year picture. Envision your perfect day, three years from now. What does it look like? What time do you wake up? Are you getting a hard workout in? Are you meditating and drinking tea? What time do you get to the office? Is there an office? Does somebody greet you? Do they not? Do you have any meetings? Are you just sitting there? Like, what is your day? What do you want to do? Because oftentimes, we forget to do that. We think about our business plan, and how are we going to do marketing better? And how are we going to raise money? And what things do I need to do in order to go raise more venture capital? And we forgot to do this step, which is like, what kind of life do I want? Who do I want to be? And I just wish that more entrepreneurs would spend time first on that question.
What will my lifestyle look like in three years? What am I doing? Who am I with? What do I look like? How much time do I have? Where do I live? What are my hobbies? All the other things that make you you? And then think about the company. What you’ll find is that even if the company wants to be super big, like ButcherBox, you can mold to what you want.
My daughter Marley was born six months before I started ButcherBox, when my company was failing. And I wanted to be with her at least once a week, every week. And so when I started ButcherBox, I was like, I’m not working on Fridays. I want to take Fridays off. I’m not taking any meetings, and I’m just gonna be with Marley. And then my other two daughters were born, and I have not worked a Friday since I started the company. Now they’re in school, so it’s a little different. I’m doing mentoring calls, sometimes some calls sneak in and that’s not to say that there weren’t fires on Fridays that I got involved in.
I think that we believe as entrepreneurs that like, oh, we just have to, like, keep going and keep like 24/7 Hustle culture and all these things. They’re just lies. The reality is the most successful entrepreneurs honor themselves and their family and their health first and foremost. The business over there, if it’s not serving that, it’s not worth it.
How would you characterize a successful entrepreneur?
Somebody who’s running a business and gets to control their own destiny. They might not know what that looks like, but they’re not like, ‘Oh, we’re out of money in six months.’ They control their own destiny and are balancing the other spinning plates outside of the company.
I always think about things like the circus. You’ve got the company, and you’re spinning that plate, and then you’ve got other hobbies, and you’re spinning those plates. And then over here, you’ve got these golden plates, your spouse, your children, your health, your friends and community. If those plates are spinning, while the business plate is spinning, that’s awesome. I think that makes you successful.
I don’t think it’s a number. I don’t think it’s revenue. I don’t think it’s profit. I think it’s: are you spinning the plates? And do you control the destiny of the plate that is your workplace?
Why did you start ButcherBox?
My wife has an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s, which is a thyroid condition that a lot of people have, I think it’s like 20% of women. There’s a way to medicate it, which is just taking medicine every single day. But we were looking at different ways to manage symptoms. And we were following these doctors who did a lot of anti-inflammatory diets.
You basically go on an elimination diet for six weeks, and then you introduce things and figure out what inflames your body. Each of these elimination diets that we looked at said, eat grass-fed beef. We lived in downtown Boston. We thought, great, let’s go buy some grass-fed beef. We went to the local grocery stores and there was no grass-fed beef. We thought, where do you find this stuff? And that began the journey.
Now my wife and I were eating grass-fed beef, and we were feeling like we were making a much healthier choice for her, for the animal, and for the environment. And I had a hunch that there were lots of other people like her who wanted to clean up their diet, and wanted to eat better meat, but didn’t know how to get started.
Do you have a favorite dish?
I love cooking a steak. We have these amazing Tomahawk steaks, and then the ribeye I love cooking on the grill. And I make a really killer meat sauce. My kids love it. I’m more of a functional cook. I want to cook something in under 30 minutes and just be done with it. And so I generally am looking for recipes where I can feel really good about what I cooked, but in a short amount of time, unless it’s like a slow-cooked item, which I also love, like the pork shoulder or the chuck roast that goes in in the morning and you just cook it all day and you can smell it every time you come in the house.
We have an amazing pork shoulder. Just put some spices on it, cook it all day long. make tacos out of it. It’s beautiful. It’s an amazing product.
Do you think that since starting ButcherBox, you’ve become a lot more adventurous when it comes to cooking and trying different types of meats?
Yeah, since starting ButcherBox, I’ve kind of become the meat guy. If there’s a party, it’s like, ‘Mike, I assume you want to bring meat.’ We have a freezer-full. We’re always sharing with our friends or cooking.
Before I started the company, I didn’t know how to cook steak. I remember the first grass fed beef sample I got, I totally overcooked it, and it tasted horrible. I was like, Oh, this is great. This is what we’re gonna sell. And I’ve learned how to cook a steak well, and yeah, I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous with the meat that we’ve cooked.
One of the things I love about my job and my kids love about my job is the samples. We’re always like, Oh, should we carry this sausage? Should we carry this meat pie? Should we carry this thing? And it’s like, Hey, girls, bad news. There’s like 10 different sausages to try. I love that part of my job. But just like it’s really fun to find new products and explore and be curious and go go to these farms and talk to these companies and try to find the right products for our customers.
What’s the best way to prepare a steak?
I think medium rare is the best way to prepare a steak. Sear it on one side for three to four minutes, flip it over, sear it on the other side for three to four minutes. If it’s thick, then you could put it in the oven, or you can put it on low and just let it come up to temperature.
When you’re testing out these new meats, what determines whether you’ll sell it?
How do we introduce new products? First and foremost, we ask our customers what they’re looking for. Our customers have a wish list, and we just try to knock off the wish list in the order in which people are asking for it.
For a product to be one of our staples that we sell in the custom box, we’re going to test it a few times just to make sure that the customer actually wants that.
Sometimes the customer is like, I really want spicy turkey, and we’re like, cool, we’re gonna do spicy turkey. And that product actually sells pretty well, but it’s not selling at the level that like, Okay, now this is going to be available everywhere. We continue to test, learn, iterate, and move forward,
Generally we try to have our products be available nationwide. Sometimes we run out of Cerrito in one facility, and then you won’t be able to get it for a bit. But generally our products are available to everybody.