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Bootstrapping a Perishable Meat Business To Significant Scale: ButcherBox CEO Mike Salguero (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Mar 26th 2020

This is a fascinating story of a subscription service for high-quality meat being delivered to consumer homes.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Mike Salguero: I was born in Paraguay. I’m the youngest of four kids. My parents divorced when I was six months old, and my mom moved up to western Massachusetts with her four children.

Sramana Mitra: I went to Smith College, so I lived in North Hampton.

Mike Salguero: I actually grew up in Williamsburg.

Sramana Mitra: Why did she move there?

Mike Salguero: Her father was Colombian. Her mother was from western Massachusetts. When she got divorced, the only place where she had any sort of family was her mother’s parents. 

Sramana Mitra: Then what happened? How was your upbringing? What kind of things did you do that leads up to this story?

Mike Salguero: I always had hard work instilled in me. I didn’t really have an allowance. I had a paper route when I was 10 years old. I was always taught the value of working hard and thinking creatively.

I went to boarding school for high school. Then I came to Boston for school and have never left. In college, I studied in Mongolia. It was my first foray into people who pasture-raise animals.

From there, I got into some entrepreneurial stuff right away. I started selling these anti-George Bush t-shirts in 2004. We sold 17,000 T-shirts in four months. I just had this amazing experience of creating this idea from scratch and breathing life into the brand and growing it.

That one experience just completely changed my goals and what I wanted to accomplish in my life. I always assumed that the entrepreneurial path will be the way to go. That experience of watching people consume what I created was so cool. I focused on being an entrepreneur.

I did take a short detour. I spent three years working for the man in a real estate company. I was getting my MBA at night. I was just waiting and preparing for the moment when I could go out on my own.

I left the real estate gig in 2008 and started my first company which was called custommade.com. It was a marketplace that connected crafts people, mostly jewelers and furniture makers, to consumers. People would go on and say, “I’m looking for a custom engagement ring.” They would get bids from various makers and craftspeople. Then they would hire through the platform.

Sramana Mitra: How did you get that started? Was that bootstrapped?

Mike Salguero: My co-founder and I bought the website off of the owner for $140,000. At that time, we fronted $5,000 as a deposit to go into due diligence. Then we ran around town with a logo and cellphone and raised money to be able to purchase the website. Right away, we were non-bootstrapped.

Sramana Mitra: How much did you raise?

Mike Salguero: In that round, we raised $500,000. A year later, we raised $1.2 million. Another year later, we raised $1.9 million.

Sramana Mitra: Who were these people who gave you $500,000 to buy this website? Why did they give that money to you?

Mike Salguero: The initial group of people were mostly clients of my co-founder. They were wealthy real estate people. 

Sramana Mitra: These were people who knew you.

Mike Salguero: Yes, this was right around the time when the economy was collapsing and Bernie Madoff had just run off with a bunch of people’s money. Our pitch was something like, “You can either leave your money in the stock market and lose 40%, or you can give it to us.” A year later, we raised some more. After we had done two rounds, then we had the real venture round.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping a Perishable Meat Business To Significant Scale: ButcherBox CEO Mike Salguero
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