Opening a butcher shop isn't one of the sexier small businesses one could open, but with the farm to table movement raging, a butcher shop from the old days is just what many American small towns want. But when the butcher was a former math teacher, who when asked why she opened a butcher shop answers: "I just didn't want to teach math anymore", one wonders how she opened the shop and cuts all of the meat to order.
SEE THE NEED - DELIVER THE SOLUTION
A gift of every successful small business owner is to see the need for a service or product, and fill that need in the way that those people want it today. Barb may not have dreamt of owning and running a butcher shop, but she lives in an artisinal part of upstate New York called Beacon, NY located in the heart of the Hudson Valley, which is known for its agriculture and direct access to farms for fresh produce and meat.
Trendy right now is to state what farm the burger came from, and that the cows and chickens are happy. Really and truly happy and raised right. Before jumping into the meat market, Barb sought out formal training with a top butcher in the area, Mark Elia. She spent months learning the trade and to see if she really liked the line of work.
BUILD EARLY BUZZ
As Barb was slicing and curing bacon, cutting filets, and stuffing sausages, she had a lot of meat on her hands. She had a lot of friends in the mommy-circuit, thanks to her two young daughters, so she pre-sold meat that she knew she would be working with in her training. Barb formed a Facebook group that got passed around quickly as moms visited the kitchens of other moms and saw delicious cuts of meat in refrigerators for that night's dinner.
GOT A LOAN - AFTER BEING DENIED 2x
Still liking the butchery business, Barb and her husband sought out a loan. But they were slapped down by two local banks and credit unions. The bankers' answers were "Come back after you've been in business for 2 or more years." Have you heard that one before? It's a bit of a Catch 22.
Knowing that there must be a way, Barb worked extensively with her local Small Business Association, which in her case was the Marist College Extension Small Business Development Center. Her contact there, Kathy, provided Barb with free business advice. The Development Center helped Barb build a business plan, and guided her through more loan options. If business owners can't secure funding, the Small Business Development Center will help business owners find a way to get locked in rates or a loan with the Small Business Association themselves because the banks can be so daunting.
Kathy was a free resource for Barb, who walked her through whatever she needed. Resources including getting direct access to actual projections of revenue based on credit card data collected by grocery stores, who collect it from discount cards they give to customers, and then sell it to organizations like the Small Business Association to add to the pool of market research for small business owners.
NOT ONE, BUT TWO LOANS!
Initially, Barb was looking for an "equipment loan". But she needed a place to store the equipment and have a shop. A credit union in Poughkeepsie, NY, TEG ended up giving her two loans: an equipment loan, and a loan to buy and build out a building to suit her needs. Real estate in Barb's town of Beacon was hot as New Yorkers have been moving to it frequently of late, so owning a building was also a tempting business move.
WHEELS ARE TURNING
To spot trends, Barb watches her customers like a hawk and tries to give them what they need. Only two months after opening, she noticed that the sausages were going over really well. So she started a Sausage Fest 2015 on Saturday to give a boost to her slow winter days and to let people try over 22 of her sausage varieties. The shop has a lot of space, so the same weekend as Sausage Fest, she opened the shop up to dinner from 5-7:30pm, a kid-friendly time for parents to swing by for a family meal with some hand cut beer battered onion rings and french fries and dash away. Soon she'll offer home-delivery in her new refrigerated truck she got to cut out the middle man of transporting meat from a farm to her shop.
TIME WILL TELL
As with any business, time will tell how this one fares. But so far, Barb seems to be right on the mark. For a more personal look at this back story, see "Barb's Butchery: The Back Story of the Butcher Who Sold You a Rump".