Paul Shapiro, CEO of the Better Meat Co., A DotCom Magazine Exclusive Interview.
Paul Shapiro, CEO of the Better Meat Co. is author of the book, Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World and Host of Business for Good Podcast
Paul Shapiro has fused humanitarian goals, a love of animals and a business on the cutting edge of technology in ways few others can claim. He has long been concerned about the ethical treatment of animals and the way that humanity is feeding itself. His company, The Better Meat Co., answers this societal issue in a novel way, by developing and selling plant-based ingredients to meat producers to help lessen their reliance on animals. Shapiro lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife, Toni, and their rescue dog, Eddie.
THE DOTCOM MAGAZINE INTERVIEW:
- Let us start by telling us about your business.
We offer plant protein ingredients to major food companies. This allows them to use less animal protein by blending in more plant protein into their meat products. For example, Perdue Farms, which is a major chicken company, uses our ingredients to blend them into their Perdue Chicken Plus nuggets, tenders and patties, so they can use fewer chickens and more plants. This creates a product that enables the customer to get a better product with less saturated fat, less cholesterol, and fewer calories, all while having a smaller footprint on the planet.
- Please tell us how you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
Our customers are food companies. The benefits that we provide to them are the ability to make better products: products that taste better, are better for the planet, and have a better nutritional profile for their end consumer. Chris Perdue even said in a recent interview that their products that are blended with our ingredients fare better in taste tests than the ones that are made solely with chicken. In fact, The Food Network rated those blended chicken nuggets as the best-tasting frozen chicken nuggets in America. By helping food taste better while also improving the sustainability of our clients, we can’t help but create fans.
- Please tell us the one thing that separates your business from the competition.
We have a relentless focus on keeping prices low. In an industry where plant protein is often viewed as being an expensive and niche ingredient, something that’s more expensive than conventional animal proteins, we try to compete not just on taste and nutrition but also on cost. What separates us from other solutions in this space is we are competing on cost with conventional proteins like beef. If you were going to blend our product into a beef hamburger, you end up getting better nutrition and you’re also going to have lower expenses.
- And to finish this section, please tell us what the one major key to your company’s success is?
It really is in the team members that we have. The reason our company has gone as far as it has is because we have team members who are very committed to not only their jobs but to the higher purpose of our company. This isn’t a business that is merely trying to make money. We do have to make money, of course; we won’t exist if we don’t. But we have a higher purpose to reduce humanity’s footprint on the planet while also feeding humanity sustainably into the future. Every day we come into work not just to try to build a successful business but to build a business that’s going to solve a serious world problem.
- For our readers just starting to build a company, what advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
First and foremost, just do it. It’s always toughest to go from zero to one, to create something from nothing. But you’ve just gotta do it. Too many people who are contemplating entering this space feel like maybe they’re not cut out for it, and I can assure you that many of the people who are actually doing it weren’t cut out for it either! You should just try.
The second thing is to surround yourself with people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you are. If you expect yourself to know how to do everything, it’s going to take you too long. Surrounding yourself with people with a stake in your company will serve you well. Give them ownership and stock options so that the company’s success is their success, too. That’s the way to success, rather than trying to learn everything yourself. No startup ever went out of business because their founder got too diluted in his or her equity holding in the business. They go out of business because they can’t make any money. Don’t hoard everything for yourself. Offer generous stock options to your members, and you will be sharing the company’s success and enabling your company to have a better chance of succeeding in the first place.
- For entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what big piece of advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
There are challenges each and every day and you have to continue to persevere through them. A funny thing is said that when you start your own company, you’ll sleep like a baby because you’re going to wake up every two hours and cry. In my experience, that’s not that far from the truth. You’ve got to build up a resilience and try to take time to celebrate the successes the company has, while resolutely addressing the challenges and overcoming them. To quote the very sage philosopher Rocky Balboa, “In life it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
- In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
I like to make very significant use of Google’s various products. I use Gmail, Google Calendar and an application called Google Tables, which is a task management program that Google offers. My life is run by Google essentially.
- What is your “Why”? In one sentence, why do you get up in the morning?
To make the world a better place where there’s less suffering and more happiness.
- In one sentence, what is the most important thing one has to do to be a great leader?
Have the humility to recognize that many people know a lot more than you do, surround yourselves with those people, and let them flourish.
- In one sentence, describe how important your customers are to your business?
No matter what I am doing or no matter how busy I am, I will always be happy to take a customer’s phone call.
- In one sentence, describe a positive way that technology can make the world a better place?
Novel protein production methods can help sustainably feed humanity into the future without destroying the planet and tormenting animals in the process.
- In one sentence, tell us something positive to motivate our readers?
Each one of us can accomplish a lot more than we believe that we can.
- In one sentence, tell us how you start your day to get ready?
I kiss my wife, kiss my dog, and then go running while they’re still both asleep.
- In one sentence, describe how you handle rejection and setback?
I get up off the ground and keep moving forward.
- In one sentence, describe what your hiring philosophy is?
Hire people who know a lot more than I do.
- In one sentence, describe how you keep your sanity in a competitive business environment?
I rely heavily on my wife and dog to enable me to remain sane in an often insane world.