From CustomMade to ButcherBox: A Serial Entrepreneur’s Journey
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face to face, not in front of a computer or phone. Eike and Riley are now equity partners in ButcherBox, and each is instrumental to its chances of success.
Now the startup faces the big challenge of building a customer base. As Salguero puts it, “The business is pretty sexy at 1,000 boxes a month.” That assumes he keeps costs low and staffs the business at the level of a “two-man shop,” he says.
And it speaks to a key lesson he learned from his previous company: keep things tight and focused. At CustomMade, he says, “we raised a lot of money. At the time, we thought it was good, and we could turn the corner. But you start making decisions you wouldn’t otherwise.” He adds, “You end up doing so much stuff that’s not mission critical. We grew and got product-market fit, but not mass-market fit.”
So the goal with ButcherBox is to see if the team can get traction with the right product. They’re not looking for a mass market, just a dedicated one. And they’re not raising venture capital—at least, not yet.
Salguero shares a couple of other lessons from CustomMade: “If you don’t establish a brand upfront, it’s hard to establish it later. So we wanted to start at ground zero with brand being a big focal point.” (Hence Riley’s help.) Also, he says, “make sure you build the culture you want. We lost time in the beginning. There’s a lot of money out there right now. But you need to align your fundraising with your business.”
For ButcherBox, that means bootstrapping until now and raising a small amount from Kickstarter. It also means going after an elite customer base of foodies—people willing to shell out money every month for high-quality meat.
The business is “technologically not that complicated,” Salguero says. The most important thing is getting orders—something he understands from CustomMade’s early days of being a subscription business—and “making sure the experience is amazing.”
That’s really the key to ButcherBox’s chances in a noisy sector. It doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate, but it does need to adapt. “There are two kisses of death—one is they open the box and say, ‘There’s not enough meat in here.’ And two is they say, ‘There’s too much meat.’ We have to dial in to the exact amount.” (The current goal is to include meat for 15 to 20 meals in each box. Next up will be to expand into chicken and pork.)
Salguero sums it up as an entrepreneur would: “We need to give people what they are looking for.” And that will mean focusing on “continuous improvement of the boxes,” he says. “We’ll figure it out incrementally.”