What has changed since Portland Meat Collective was named an American Made winner?
I've launched a nonprofit to help spread my meat education business model to other communities and I'm writing a book.
How did you find your passion? When did you know it was time to turn it into a business?
I was a magazine editor for ten years, mostly working on food and drink coverage. I lost my job in the 2009 recession, and decided I wanted to do something more hands-on. I traveled all the way to France to learn old world-style whole animal butchery and utilization from a family of pig farmers and butchers who owns every part of the process of getting humane, sustainable pork to people's tables. Learning from them changed the entire way I thought about eating meat. When I came home, I knew I wanted to build a business that brought this sort of transparent, hands-on meat education straight to the people of my community, so that I could encourage them to buy from local, small, sustainable, humane farmers and to use the whole animal.
What was the hardest part about starting your own business?
I didn't know anything about running my own business. So everything felt like a challenge at first. But I was lucky to have family members and friends who helped me to learn the legal and accounting aspects very quickly. And I had a lot of support from people in the community who wanted to see this business happen. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me was thinking about it in terms of making a living and not just in terms of something I felt passionate about.
How do you keep a work/life balance? This is something that a lot of budding entrepreneurs worry about.
It's been difficult. Eventually you just get tired, and start putting limits on yourself. You learn to delegate and to let go. This has not come easy for me. I'm still working on it. My business feels like a child. And I'm a bit like an overprotective mother. But that is not a sustainable model as the business grows.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve gotten — in regards to creating/starting your own business?
The kind of business I started really succeeded because I was the face of it. I was, in many ways, part of the brand. Every time I try to hide in the wings, it's clear to me that my brain, body, and soul are what make this business so unique and so great. People are always telling me: Your story is the business. Sometimes I don't want it to be. But in the end, I realize that my business has succeeded because it is so personal to my experience and my story and that I should never underestimate the power of my own story. Story is what drives good and unique businesses. That's some of the best advice I've ever gotten.
What resources, organizations, groups do you turn to for support?
I turn to other friends who own their own businesses. We're all going through the same thing even if our businesses are very different. I sought out many mentors early on, and I have kept them as mentors.
What has been the biggest surprise since you started your business?
That so many people wanted to take the classes we offered. That I wasn't the only person in the world interested in finding out, in a hands-out, transparent way, how I might go about sourcing better meat and eating it in a more sustainable and economic way.
What keeps you going when you want to give up?
So many of our students tell us that we have changed their lives with our classes and that we have changed the way they eat. This, above all else, is what keeps me going. One mentor calls this "social capital." Social capital is as important as financial capital. If I was just doing this for financial capital, I would have quit a long time ago.
What is the one thing you would tell somebody trying to start their own business?
Tell your story. Seek out mentors, and don't ever stop seeking out mentors. Keep learning.