Happy Foodie Friday! This is the final installment of our series on successful female food entrepreneurs. If you missed them, check out our previous interviews with Nella Pasta, Cowgirl Creamery, BabyCakes Bakery, and Coolhaus Ice Cream.
The Trailblazers: Lindy & Grundy—Local, Pastured, & Organic Meats
Amelia Posada (a.k.a. Shop Mama) and Erika Nakamura (a.k.a. Meat Maven) aren’t the faces you’d think would be fronting an “old-fashioned, custom-cut neighborhood butcher shop” in Los Angeles. First off, they’re female, they each measure about five feet tall, and they’re happily married. Oh, and they used to be vegetarians.
But with a few twists of food fate, the floral designer and journalist (Posada) and chef (Nakamura) landed at Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, NY as apprentices. They left after learning the virtues of whole animal “nose-to-tail” butchery (no parts are wasted) and car-tripped back to California, tweeting all the way plans for their butcher shop, which opened last spring.
Now, as co-owners of Lindy & Grundy, they’re the toast of the town (um, just Google them), selling pork kimchi sausages, lamb bacon, maple-glazed pecan smoked chicken, and local prime grass-fed beef (raised just north of Santa Barbara) to a populus once deprived of delicious meat done right.
We asked the butcherettes to give us a bird’s eye view of entrepreneurship and what life is like when you’re running the most notorious chop shop on the block.
What obstacles were unique to getting your store up and running?
AP: Not only are we in the food industry, we’re in the meat industry. We didn’t just have to go through the usual city plans—the bureaucratic requirements—we also had to get licensed as meat and poultry inspectors through the California Department of Food and Agriculture. So at the same time that our building and construction plans were being evaluated, we were glued to our books studying agriculture law and meat industry regulations. There were a lot of hoops for us to jump through to get our doors open.
Can you speak to using Twitter as a business tool?
AP: Erika and I were in New York, and needed a vehicle to reach out to LA without us being there. I started following food writers, bloggers, chefs, and restaurateurs. We started tweeting, and people started reaching out and were curious about us. Nine months before our opening, we had our very first press—a blog post in the LA Weekly. It was all because an intern found us on Twitter.
People aren’t walking up and down Fairfax, they’re at work on their computers. Almost every day we get people that saw something [we posted] on Twitter that they want to sample—“Oh my God, I saw your tweet and am so excited you have another lamb in this week!” It’s important to engage customers and make each experience personal—like answering a question or taking an order from Twitter.
What’s one stand-out lesson you’ve learned so far?
AP: Erika and I are protective of our shop and our brand—anyone that’s ever come in for a tour can see the pride we take. We don’t allow a drop of blood to splash on our cases without it being wiped up [immediately].
I have that crazy drive for perfection. But, I’ve had to step back and trust my crew. You get to the point where you have to give up a little control and trust the people that you hired and trained from scratch. Trust your instincts and trust your employees.
Anything you’d do differently if you could go back to opening day?
AP: As much as we were blessed with all the press—as it’s done nothing but help us—there was a huge amount of anticipation. “Who are these two five-foot women opening the first whole animal butcher shop in years in Los Angeles?” We were terrified. There was a huge group of people waiting for us—the LA Times food reviewer was there. We were just figuring it out—I had even forgotten to get change for the register!
You’re a couple—but how did you decide on taking the entrepreneurial plunge as a team?
EN: It always seemed perfectly natural for us to go into business together. We are respectful of each other’s boundaries and don’t take things personally. It’s important to have a clear boundary between the way we are at work and the way we are at home. As long as we are committed to trusting one another, it will continue to be a very successful working relationship.
How has being female in the male-dominated meat industry worked in your favor?
AP: We are encouraging other women—female chefs from all over the country want to learn with us.
And, our shop is immaculate—from the placement of every lemon [we sell] to the rosemary and thyme that line my roasts—it has a feminine vibe when you walk in. It’s welcoming, never intimidating. That’s a woman’s touch.
And a take-away message for aspiring entrepreneurs?
EN & AP: For all the young women out there working the line, or in culinary school, or behind a butcher block: Don’t ever take no for an answer. Don’t ever be satisfied or settle—you can always grow, you can always learn, and you can always be better.