064: Boston Speaks Up with ButcherBox CEO Mike Salguero
Mike Salguero is the founder and CEO of ButcherBox, a Boston-based meat brand that delivers high quality, humanely raised meat to consumers across the country. He founded ButcherBox in 2015 as a hobby, but quickly solved the need to increase access to high-quality, humanely raised protein.
Prior to ButcherBox, Salguero founded CustomMade, a marketplace for consumers to commission custom made items such as furniture and jewelry. His serial entrepreneurship gives him an interesting perspective to share on the different financing options for startups. For example, CustomMade was VC-backed whereas ButcherBox was bootstrapped and still has taken no outside capital.
ButcherBox also became B Corp certified in 2020, and Salguero is focused on making his company a force for good. On the podcast, we chat about how he’s built a supply chain that considers the animal, the farmer, and the planet in all decisions – a unique approach for the meat industry.
Enjoy an abridged written version of our interview with Salguero below.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
Born in Paraguay, raised in Western, MA by a single mother of four.
What’s the first job you ever had? Any good stories?
Entrepreneur from the start, always hustling -- paper route as a kid, printing t-shirts in college, etc.
What’s the first career you remember wanting to pursue?
When I was a kid I wanted to run my own company. My uncle was an entrepreneur and his lifestyle seemed so cool.
Who’s been the biggest influence and/or mentor in your life and why?
Quite a few that have helped in various areas of the mind and business – uncles who are successful businessmen, various CEO mentors.
What is the biggest lesson you took away from building your first startup CustomMade?
Hustle Culture is a lie and therefore my leadership philosophy has evolved into this servant leadership mentality. The philosophy around servant leadership is that I do not look at employees working at ButcherBox as “I’m going to get the most out of this person as fast as possible (chew them up and spit them out)”, my goals are did we help meaningfully impact an employee's career trajectory and were we able to meaningfully impact their life, whether that is helping them figure themselves out, helping them financially, or with healthy habits.
How did your idea for ButcherBox come to fruition?
ButcherBox was supposed to be a hobby business, something I worked on for a bit, sell, and never have to work again. That is quite literally the opposite of what happened.
Why was ButcherBox becoming a B Corp important to you?
My core belief is that I could build a mission focused company that is profitable and the B Corp certification bakes into the DNA of the company that you have to be solving for social and environmental responsibility in addition to building a for profit enterprise. If I died tomorrow, my successor would HAVE to lead with that mentality, the legal documents are written like that in accordance with the B Corp certification.
What are the biggest hurdles to ButcherBox looking out for the best interest of animals, farmers and the planet moving forward?
Currently it’s price. And framing. Company really changed our thinking when I started talking about a 100 year hold.
Have you already or would you ever consider adding plant-based “meat” to your product line?
Yes. Nothing yet. We are more interested in blended options (1/2 meat ½ veggie) and would do plant based if we can find a good clean label one.
What’s it’s been like building a startup in Boston?
Massachusetts and Boston has amazing people. World class brands. Great access to capital And lots of great stuff going for it. On the negative. It’s a transitory city. So young people tend to leave to travel. Massachusetts is a tough business environment. Like recent unemployment, insurance increase.
Why have you chosen to go non-VC, bootstrapped route with ButcherBox’s financing? Has it limited your growth at all?
I got jaded by the VC experience with CustomMade, so I was skeptical when I started ButcherBox, to raise money. I had some meetings at the very beginning but something in my head told me to stay private. As we launched, I learned from the meat industry side of things that to grow ButcherBox into an industry leader and change the food system, was going to take time to do it the right way. That decision not to take outside capital has put us at an interesting point because we’ve been able to be patient, take our time, do the right things, and that has probably helped our growth significantly more than if we had taken outside capital. We would have likely had to change the way we do things, sacrificed the wellbeing of the farmers, the treatment of the animals, etc. if we had taken outside capital.
Fathers of daughters unite (I’m a father of one daughter). What’s it been like raising your three daughters during the pandemic? Perhaps you can share your silver linings playbook?
If you had told me in a year I would be home for every dinner, 25lbs lighter, and never in the office while the business was booming, I’d tell you it was impossible. COVID has helped reset my clock for sure.
Where do you want ButcherBox to be in 10 years?
When I think of the opportunity for ButcherBox, I think about our ability to cut through this noise, and be THE brand in meat. A brand that stands for claims, and doing things right, and thinking through the tradeoffs, and trying to clean up as much of the ethical and environmental wake that we create; and doing it on our terms in service of a member that we are totally dedicated to serving.
What would you like to see change about the Boston startup scene?
More focus on long term profitable holds with minimal or no VC. Too many start ups think investment capital is needed to be successful.
What’s the biggest challenge in the world you’d like to see solved and why?
My current one. The way meat is raised and consumed has to change. And we are here to do that!