November 15, 2011
This is a multi-day article about the road a new food entrepreneur has taken to get his food truck started. Click here to read this article from the beginning.
Ian left Portland and headed back to Seattle where his family is from and found a job as a butcher at Whole Foods. This was the first official culinary position he’d ever held and as a butcher he was basically making a third of what his financial advisor paycheck had been. “The money wasn’t the important thing,” Ian says. “I needed to see if I really liked working with food as much as I enjoyed cooking with it at home.” Regardless of the pay differential, Ian was immediately smitten with what is a very physical position. “I wanted to work with my hands,” Ian recalls and his parents were incredibly supportive of his decision. “I followed my heart and they were just as supportive of me being a butcher as a financial advisor. They just wanted me to work hard.”
Work hard he did; Ian threw himself into his Whole Foods position trying to learn everything he possibly could not only about butchering but also any other department they’d let him try his hand at. “Whole Foods is an excellent organization in that they train their staff to be able to answer customer questions intelligently. We can not only tell you that this cut of meat is a certain price, but why a certain cut of meat might be better than another for your recipe, as well as information on how the rancher that supplies Whole Foods raises their animals. They really work hard to educate their staff.”
Not long out of college himself, Ian looked at his time at Whole Foods as just another facet of his education. “If you’d asked me as a child what I wanted to grow up to be, I would have told you that I wanted to own a restaurant,” Ian says. The more time he spent at Whole Foods the more that desire returned so Ian tried to file away every piece of information he learned while working at Whole Foods.
“I knew that if you start with good ingredients the rest would take care of itself,” Ian says, “but Whole Foods taught me more about the logistics side of the food business than I ever could have imagined.” Not to mention that as a butcher for Whole Foods, Ian now understood how to break down an animal and how to use all the pieces of that animal. In a day and age where meat costs are rising precipitously, that would prove to be a major factor in his future business (more on that later). “I worked every shift and not just in meat but also in beer, in cheese, in wherever they’d let me work,” Ian remembers. “I couldn’t do what I’m doing now without my experience at Whole Foods.”
One of the most critical components of his Whole Foods experience was learning about Whole Foods’ minimum standards for their vendors. Whole Foods sets standards that their producers must meet and, in some cases, it was Whole Foods standards in things like animal welfare that actually helped guide the national regulations. That concept so impacted Ian that when he first drafted out his thoughts for his mobile food business he chose to not put together a financial analysis (as you might think a former financial advisor would do) but to lay down what he called his “Rules” for how he will run his business. Whether you call them Rules, Mission Statement, or Company Values, these are the core of Ian’s business and all business decisions are evaluated to determine if they are in line with the Rules. In Ian’s case, his rules are:
- No Cages
- No Antibiotics
- No added Hormones
- No Garbage (everything from his business will be 100% compostable)
- No Coins (more on this later too!)