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Building a 7-Figure Meat Snacks Company and Forming a Perfect Partnership

The BiggerPockets Business Podcast
62 min read
Building a 7-Figure Meat Snacks Company and Forming a Perfect Partnership

How do you launch a profitable business without taking on a ton of employees or dealing with brick-and-mortar retailers? Peter Awad, co-founder of Mission Meats, breaks it all down in this episode.

You’ll love hearing about Peter’s upbringing in a family of first-generation immigrant entrepreneurs. He also discusses how he got his start hustling in the early days of e-commerce (remember Mail Boxes Etc.?).

You’ll also learn how Peter wound up miserable when he realized his job didn’t match his natural strengths and how interviewing other entrepreneurs shifted his perspective and inspired him to change careers.

Peter offers useful insight into what makes a great (and terrible) partnership, how he and his partner came up with the same company name and logo independently(!), how he overcame his inability to focus, and why the person is more important than the idea. He goes on to explain the concept of a “slow hustle”—and how it may just help you navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

Plus, Peter describes how Mission Meats is able to test products without a big upfront investment, how he gets instant customer feedback, why ego is the enemy of a profitable business, and how philanthropy motivates him to succeed. And be sure to listen until the end to hear a conversation about passing down business knowledge to the next generation.

Download this episode today, and subscribe so you won’t miss the next!

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Jay:                             So without any further ado let’s welcome to the show, Mr. Peter Awad. How are you doing, Peter?

Peter Awad:            I’m doing great, man. Thanks for having me.

Carol:                         Hey, Peter.

Peter Awad:            Hey, Carol. How are you?

Carol:                         Awesome.

Jay:                             So Peter, this is an honor to get to talk to you today. Big fan of Mission Meats. I was actually a fan of a podcast you did a couple years ago called the Slow Hustle as well. So I’d love to hear some of your back story then maybe you can discuss a little bit about the Slow Hustle before we get into your current project.

Peter Awad:            Yeah, absolutely man. Real quick origin on the Slow Hustle is that it started during the most stressful time of my life, and I was running a startup. It wasn’t going well. I had a bunch of other projects going on, came home one day, decided I’d start this podcast. My wife looked at me and said, “You’re the most stressed out I’ve ever seen you. You’re going to start another project?” And the reason why is I wanted to get an idea of what people’s life was like specifically entrepreneurs after they went home, after they closed up shop because I felt like I was super stressed out, things weren’t going well, and I thought this can’t be what my life was supposed to be. This can’t be the entrepreneur life.

So the interviews and the ideas were trying to peel back the layers and have an understanding of the whole life story. So somebody in the surface may look like they’re super successful, things are going really well for them, but what’s that life really like? What do the kids say about them? What does the wife say or her husband say about them? Are they happy? Do they feel fulfilled? All these different things. So that’s what the show was about.

It was really interesting because in the end I find that regardless if its first time founder, someone is getting ready to start their own company or someone who’s invested in Fortune 100 companies which was one of the people we interviewed. It didn’t matter. They were all struggling with the same stuff. They were all going through the same things. They were all trying to learn the same lessons. So that was really foundational for me because it felt like we’re all going through at the same stuff. You really don’t overcome a lot of the things like the imposter syndrome, and all these other things that happen as a founder whether you’re a first time founder or 20th time founder.

So that’s what the show was about. And also what was interesting is that I grew up an immigrant family, and I remember my dad coming home… We ran a grocery store, and he came home one day dancing in the kitchen literally because he’s so excited how great the business is doing. It could be like a day or two later he’d have his head in his hands, and he would be talking about how he doesn’t know how they’re going to make it. I thought this guy’s crazy like there’s no way that you could have this massive swing of emotions until I started going through the same exact things as a founder. All it takes is you’re going to have 20 positive reviews and one negative, and what happens? You start questioning everything.

You start wondering, am I doing it right? Am I really the person that’s cut out to do this type of business? So finding those things and finding those supports through Slow Hustle and the people that we’ve talked to through the couple hundred episodes it was just interesting. Everybody goes through that. Everybody questions. Everybody feels like an impostor at some point.

Jay:                             So a lot of great stuff in there. So I want to hear more about your ideas behind Slow Hustle, and I’m sure we’ll talk about that as we get into the business that you’re currently building. Also, obviously, you talked about the struggles as an entrepreneur, but you also touched on your parents were immigrants, they were entrepreneurs. So I imagine you got your first taste of being an entrepreneur and being in business for yourself early on. Can you take us back to when you were a kid and your first experiences in your own business or your parents business?

Peter Awad:            No doubt. So I started at the age of seven, getting paid about $5 a day, and I was happy to get paid that little amount. I remember begging my parents to work there. I loved the whole idea of like peddling products. As soon as I figured out like, “Oh you buy a can of, whatever it was, for 40 cents, sell it for a dollar. This is like magic.” To me it was like just creating money.

Carol:                         I apologize for interrupting, but even at age seven you were able to see the value of that. You bought it for 40 cents, could resell it for more. So even at that young age, it struck you, and it was just magical?

Peter Awad:            Yes, it was totally magical and the thing is like as a parent of four kids, you start to realize there’s some nature, there’s some nurture. I have an older brother, younger sister, and they grew up in the store too, and they thought it was interesting, but I found it really, really interesting. So it’s almost like there was something inherent in my DNA, something that was in my personality that just really latched on to that. I can still distinctly remember begging them to stay. My mom would work in the morning, my dad would work at night.

I would sometimes be there for the exchange. So my dad would drive there to change shifts, and then I would ride home with my parents, with my mom, and I remember in that exchange being like, “No, I want to stay. I want to work here. I want to do this thing.

Carol:                         You’re obsessed.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. I just totally loved it. So from a very young age, earlier than legal, I would be selling beer, making sandwiches, filling the cooler, mopping the floor. I mean, anything that needed to happen. This is like true country store, I could make it happen. So from that early age, I found that transaction really interesting which looking back now it makes sense that I’m so interested in e-commerce because it’s the same thing. It’s just peddling product. It’s on the internet, it’s not in person in the middle of nowhere in Florida, but it’s really all the same. I find someone who’s interested in this product that I bought at wholesale, sell it at retail and that’s just kind of it, right?

Carol:                         Yeah. And talking about your venture now is doing the same thing, but on the internet. You mentioned earlier you had some struggles, and that there were some things that didn’t go so well. I think I read a story maybe about something you were doing on the internet almost 20 years ago that didn’t go so well, or that might have been a struggle or a challenge. Do you want to share some of that?

Peter Awad:            So I did start peddling products on the internet back in 2000. So 19 years ago which seems like very long time ago. I don’t know specifically the story that you’re referring to, but I will tell you a little bit about kind of how that whole thing happened if that’s what you’re wondering.

Carol:                         That’s great. I would love to hear about it.

Peter Awad:            So I grew up in a small business owner really family, and then going through college I’m studying to be an engineer. I’m broke. I’m just doing what I need to do as a college student. I meet a guy, and fast forward, I start buying products from him wholesale. And their automotive products to sell to friends of mine.The problem was I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any money at all. So what I would do is I would sell stuff on eBay or sell stuff to friends, and I would collect the cash first, and then I would rush over in between classes to his house, pick up the products, pay for them, and then rush over to mailboxes, et cetera which is not a UPS store.

Carol:                         Love it.

Peter Awad:            I would package these boxes in the parking lot. I’d have boxes, and packing peanuts, and a tape gun, and I would pack these shipments, and have my shipping labels printed out. That’s how that started until I had enough cash to actually stock product like a real business.

Carol:                         When did this happen?

Jay:                             And the funny thing is, I mean, that’s not an uncommon story. These days a lot of people talk about how they were a few years ago that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, that’s basically how he got started. He started a bookstore online, but he didn’t own any books. Basically, he would take orders online and when somebody ordered a book he’d go out, he’d try and buy it for as cheap as possible, and then he’d resell it. A lot of times at a loss. But his strategy was this is how I need to get started. This is how I pay my dues, and a lot of entrepreneurship was just this type of bootstrapping, figuring out how you can start making money without spending money first, and that’s a big challenge we face.

Carol:                         Totally. And even before online, I remember a million years ago when catalogs came in the mail, and that’s how you bought clothes, and that’s how you bought books, and that’s how you bought school supplies, and that’s how you bought, whatever. Founders would tell stories all the time about how they would go and they would find some print company that would print this catalog, and they would do a prototype of a product, and they would put it in this catalog, and it would arrive in your mailbox, and then when someone would call the 1-800 number to order it, the operator would be like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. We’re about two weeks backordered because it is so popular. But we’re going to give you 10% off for your patience.”

That became their test marketing too. They would see how many calls came in for different products, and then they would actually go and physically create the product that never existed in the first place. So it’s just a really great way that entrepreneurs who are willing to make it happen just go out there and figure out a way to make it happen. So I love that you’re doing the same thing. So you didn’t have the money. So you were getting these orders on eBay, you were working in mailboxes, et cetera to fulfill them and so on. That sounds like super simple. How easy is that? Obviously, I’m being entirely facetious there. That is a lot of work. How long did that venture last?

Peter Awad:            Well, I’m still running that business actually.

Carol:                         You’re still running that business. Check it out.

Peter Awad:            Well, it’s interesting. It runs in the background, and it has been for several years. It’s just a very small company now, but it’s my baby. It’s like I can’t [crosstalk 00:09:49].

Carol:                         Still have it.

Peter Awad:            Right, yeah.

Jay:                             Are you still working with that same supplier for parts?

Peter Awad:            We still work with the same one. Yes, we do.

Carol:                         Come on.

Peter Awad:            Yeah, we still do.

Carol:                         Two decades later.

Peter Awad:            Yes.

Carol:                         That is amazing. That’s absolutely amazing.

Jay:                             Okay. So that was your first foray into business? What was the next thing that came along?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. That business has kind of been the thread. So after that we started… We moved from Florida to Iowa, start having a bunch of kids. That’s all happening in the background, real easy. That’s not a big deal right.

Carol:                         No, not at all.

Peter Awad:            So I started teaching classes on online business related things just locally here in the state. And then had an opportunity to co-found the business as a content marketing software that we built and went through the whole patent process, and all that with someone here locally. And that was a five-year venture. That’s right around the time, near the end of that when I started Slow Hustle. That was the kind of impetus for that because it was incredibly stressful. I went from a guy who was running a team of like a couple of people with the automotive company and a bunch of contractors to running a team of 12 to 14 folks, and trying to build some software. Just totally out of my league, out of my realm. So that was that was really the next venture during the time that I’ll still running that e-commerce company.

Carol:                         For our listeners who aren’t sure, what exactly is content marketing software?

Peter Awad:            Well, this one was very, very complicated. So if you don’t know what content marketing is which I think we all do is developing some content around the topic that you’re trying to draw traffic in through. So we were able to create some software, develop a community so that anybody in any space could get content created very quickly on any topic they wanted. So we had like a trailer manufacturer that sold horse trailers. We were able to spin up a site very quickly that would then begin to generate through the community a lot of horse related content.

So then you would be able to get horse related eyeballs via Google, and those people would eventually be in the market for what a horse trailer. So that’s just one example. We were selling the software in the community to be able to spin those types of content sites up.

Carol:                         Interesting. So you mentioned I think somewhere in the back story of that, that you had to go through the whole patent registration process. Did I capture that accurately?

Peter Awad:            Yeah.

Carol:                         What’s that all about? How do you make that happen? How do you say… Let me back up and say, how did you even realize there was a need to put a patent on it?

Peter Awad:            Well, it’s one of these things where you’re trying to protect the software that you’re building, protect this concept of yours. So whether it’s a piece of software or an innovative product that you’re putting together, if you are first-mover and you feel like you’ve got something that’s going to give you a strategic advantage, then you have to try to protect it. I say try, because you’re not always going to be successful. Like this one, we went through three years of it, several submissions. It was never accepted.

You have that, you have trademarks. I mean, like with Mission Meats we have the name trademarks. We have some of our flavors trademarked. So if you have something where you feel like it’s going to give you a strategic advantage, you owe it to yourself to go through that submission process.

Carol:                         Got it. What is that submission process? Do you need to hire a patent attorney? Is it an online process? Do you have to physically go to an office somewhere in Washington DC? How do you actually physically go about making that happen?

Peter Awad:            Just like anything legal. You can go anywhere from doing it yourself, the whole LegalZoom type of thing. All the way up to having someone who is specially trained in trademarks or specially trained in patents. I typically don’t recommend doing the cheapest version because typically we don’t know what we’re doing. I mean, most of the people listening you’ve never done this before. Let’s not try to learn it, and try to jump through all the hoops.

You also probably don’t need the Ferrari. You don’t need someone who’s doing trademarks all day long, but someone may be in the middle. Same thing goes with any sort of legal representation. So we hired someone who’s been trained a lawyer attorney, that’s been trained in doing patent submissions or Mission Meats example trademark submissions, and we had that person do all the paperwork and fill it out, and give us some guidance on exactly how to do it. So that’s what I’d recommend.

Carol:                         Great, great. Thank you for those tips. Go ahead Jay.

Jay:                             So I was going to say, so you start off your career, your entrepreneurial career basically reselling somebody else’s product. Then you move on to creating your own product, but it’s a software product. So essentially the actual goods that you’re selling are virtual, they’re not a physical product. So you’re kind of making this transition from wholesaling to product creator, but virtual product creator, and then I think your next step is you actually get into physical products, and that gets us a little bit closer to where we are today. Can you tell us what kind of drove that evolution in your mind from one type of business to the next?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. Just kind of a side note here real quick. I recently went through an assessment test called Caliper which we should talk about probably. I am the type of person who loves to ideate. I can do it all day long. I can talk ideas with you all day long, and we can flush out all of the details. But in the end, I’ve also got maybe a little bit of a focus problem. So through all these years and all of these projects, and there’s a lot of other things we probably won’t even touch on because there’s too many details, I come to find out that because of my nature and because I like to ideate, and I’m also a little bit scattered, it causes some problems.

So you just talked about how I’m peddling, and I’m wholesaling, and then I’m doing software, and now I’m getting into physical goods. One of the things I found out along the way was that I needed to pare down, and to focus, and to really take a step back and think just because this is a good idea, is this actually for me? And it’s become such a thing in my mind that when someone comes to me with an idea the first thing I usually ask is why you? Why are you the person to do this? So I’m bringing this up because through this process it’s been very formative for me because I’ve finally been able to hone in on what do I like to do, and what am I actually good at, and where do those things crossover?

Every other good idea that comes up, I will tell myself, good idea but not for you. There’s something for the listener to think about as they’re going through some of the ideas is to make sure that they know that what they’re pursuing is something that overlaps with their strengths. Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t really mean a whole lot of anything. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Carol:                         That’s a really great tip. That makes me think of when I was living in Atlanta, I had a really good friend and her husband had been the number two person in a relatively sizable company there. He started in that company right out of high school. I believe if I remember correctly the owner. The story went something like the owner just… He was working… It was a retail location, and he was working there as a cashier or something. The owner meets the guy, and just kind of adopts him as the son that he never had, and brought him up through the organization. He did really, really well, and he had been there for 20-some years.

Well, after those 20 some years, as much as he loved it, he was just like I’m just burnt out. I’ve learned so much in this business. I want to venture out, and do my own business, but he didn’t want to full-on develop a product or develop something totally new. So they decided to go down the line of franchising. So they wanted to buy a franchise. They went through this six or 12-month process talking about all of these different types of franchises, and ultimately narrowed it down to three different ones. The three that they landed on were a yogurt shop because the whole make-your-own yogurt was really popular at the time. The number two was a build-your-own sandwich type of scenario, and the third one was some specialty type of gym.

It was fascinating because the numbers on the two food ones were just explosive. When you just looked at the numbers component of it, it was head over heels either the yogurt or the sandwiches were the way to go. That said he was like where do I want to spend my time every day? A, I don’t like yogurt. So that’s like we’re just ditching that one. B, sandwiches are fine, but they’re sandwiches. But you know what, I love working out and I love being around people who are really health minded and who are really conscious about a wellness type of lifestyle. So they ultimately ended up going with the gym franchise because he knew he would just pour his heart and soul into it so much more because it was something that he was good at, and something that he understood.

So I think that is a really good tip just like you said for our listeners realize what you’re good at, realize where your strengths are, and focus your efforts in your business on that. Would you agree?

Peter Awad:            Critically important. Critically important because in the end ideas are great, you get super excited, and then what happens? The reality sets in. There’s all this work to do. Man, if you don’t like the topic or you don’t like the product, you’re not interested in the market or you don’t like your customer base, it is not going to work. If you get it to work, you’re lucky enough to get it to work, you’re going to be miserable.

Carol:                         Totally. Get over it.

Peter Awad:            You got to be into it. You really got into it. Now, does it have to be your passion. Maybe not, but you got to at least have some sort of interest because that’s going to shine through all your marketing, all your copywriting, all your messaging. People are going to be able to tell, this person is having fun or this person is really, really miserable. They’re not enjoying what they’re doing. They’re just doing it because there’s transaction, there’s money on the table, but it’s not everything.

Carol:                         Right. That’s only such a small piece of the puzzle, such a small piece of it all.

Jay:                             Okay. So-

Peter Awad:            Sorry for the side note.

Jay:                             That’s okay.

Carol:                         Oh, no. I’m the queen of side notes. I’m going to side note this all over the place.

Peter Awad:            Okay.

Jay:                             Take us to the next step. So you started your content marketing business or content marketing software business, and how did that go?

Peter Awad:            It went very, very poorly. It was horrible actually.

Jay:                             What happened?

Peter Awad:            Not to get into too many of the details, because it didn’t end well. But I had partner and we come to find out that we don’t see eye to eye on some of the basics. Our moral code was different. The way that we saw the world was different. The way that we saw the business was different. Just a lot of the things, the way that we saw things just we’re not seeing things eye-to-eye. We also did not have a complementary skill set. So between those things and also just not… I was not interested in content marketing. I didn’t care about it. There was a huge market opportunity. So I did exactly opposite of everything I just preached.

So all those things came together to be some of the most miserable years of my life. I didn’t really necessarily want to manage a massive team. I didn’t want to be doing HR. All the things that I ended up doing in the end, I was just completely miserable. So start Slow Hustle, but at the same time I’ve got four kids, and we travel a lot, and we started traveling even more. I remember I’m walking down PCH, Pacific Coast Highway, I’m reading a book called Bold by Peter Diamandis. In that book, there’s something about having a mission focused baked into your organization, and I thought that’s cool. We’re tied to our church. We’re a giving family. But I never had it really baked into like the ethos of a business. I never even thought about it.

So I thought that’s cool, put it in my back pocket. Fast forward a little bit, we have an opportunity to just start in Mission Meats, and then I meet someone who also wanted to have a mission kind of baked into their company. So that was kind of like the beginning days of Mission Meats. But to step back into this content marketing company, in the end I come to this realization kind of on the beginning of what I… Everything I just preached earlier, and it’s that I don’t really care what the market opportunity was. It didn’t matter anymore.

Carol:                         You just had to do it.

Peter Awad:            I started to realize like I don’t like what I’m doing, and I don’t I don’t like the way that my life’s going. And learning through all these interviews that I was having, it’s like this stuff doesn’t even matter. In the end as my mentor always says, he’s like, “Two blinks, and your kids are going to be out of college.” Before you know it, that’s going to be over.

Carol:                         So true.

Peter Awad:            Do I want to look back and say, when my kids were growing up, those were the most miserable years of my life because I stuck with this company that I wasn’t interested in. So I made a deliberate, not super like no rash or anything, but I made a deliberate decision that I’m going to kind of venture away from it. I’m not trying to crush the company or anything, but just kind of step back slowly, and then started working on something [inaudible 00:23:19].

Jay:                             [inaudible 00:23:28] in your software company was the lack of cohesiveness you had with your partner, just partner issues. Then you turn around and jump into your next venture with another partner. Can you talk a little bit about what you learned from the bad experience, how you translated that into the good experience. What kind of due diligence did you do before you jumped in with your next partner? I assume at that point you, you looked at things differently, and you’re a little bit more careful before jumping into bed with a new business partner.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. Very, very much different. Now, I will tell you too, what’s interesting about extremely bad experiences is that you at least get to learn from them, and what’s most interesting to me is that your body, your mind almost like it files it away. It mostly files the feelings away. Here’s what I mean by that is that when you find yourself in a position… This happens to me anyways. I find my body saying this feels like that other thing. You know that other thing that went bad, Peter? This feels a lot like that one. So it’s almost like alarm bells start going off, and you’re able to check yourself and say, “Oh, yeah. You can see this maybe bad decision or bad situation about to happen again, and you can kind of screw around it which I find really interesting. So it’s almost like my way of saying you know what, it was worth going through that because now I can identify those situations going forward.

Jay:                             So what are some of the questions or the more quantitative things you thought about when deciding do I want to enter into a new partnership? What were some of the concrete things that went through your head before you made that decision?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. So I think what’s critically important is a complementary skill set. Especially if you’re starting out, you’re both going to be doing kind of everything. You don’t have any employees yet or any of this stuff. So you got to be able to say, “Here are my roles. This is what I’m good at. Here are the things that I’m not good at. Who’s going to cover those things?” Hopefully there’s some overlap there. You’re not going to be able to fill all the holes, but you want to be able to fill most of them. At least the critical ones.

So Nick is my partner in Mission Meats. He’s got all this offline food distribution experience. I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how to… He started like a whole food hub where he was distributing making deals with vendors and then actually making sure that they made the last mile and I should get delivered to these partners and making the sales and all that. I don’t even know where to start with that stuff. So he’s able to do that. He’s got a degree, and not necessarily meat science, but related to meat science. I didn’t know that was a degree.

Carol:                         Right, meat science. What a thought.

Peter Awad:            I’m like… What’s that?

Carol:                         Who ever thought-

Peter Awad:            Who would have thought, right?

Carol:                         … I’m going to school for meat science.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. He’s worked in plants, and he knows how to do production. He knows what the machines are called, and how they work, and all this. I don’t know any of that stuff. So for me I was like okay, this is incredible because I don’t know how the supply chain works or any of that. I do know how to sell a lot of stuff on the internet. I’ve been doing it for a long time. He doesn’t know anything about it. So for us it was like match made in heaven. So to me, I’m like, holy crap, this is going to work. But I’m learning from my past experience that was not enough. But beneath all of that which really supports everything else that we worked on, and everything else that we talked about is that we have the same moral code.

So he’s got three kids, I have four. Family is first for both of us. We’re not going to work ourselves to death at the expense of our family. Not going to happen. Money is important to both of us, but it’s not everything. We both live very minimally. We like to be comfortable, but we don’t need a Ferrari. That’s not that important to us. We both like to give back. We both spend a lot of time doing mission work. We have this serious common bond. Do we vote the same? Probably not. Do we have the same outlook on certain things? No, we argue a lot. But in the end like we have this foundation that is pivotal. Because it informs all the decisions that we make.

Everything we make is based on that. We were just joking the other day, we were saying, “Man, if we wanted to blow this company up,” and we’re already growing very quickly like, “Man, if we wanted to 10x in the next two years, we could.”

Carol:                         You could totally do it.

Peter Awad:            We could.

Carol:                         And you realized it.

Peter Awad:            We would kill ourselves. We would like lose our family and lose sight of everything so we’re like, “Wait, we will not do that.”

Carol:                         You won’t, and you’re both on the same page with that which is the nice thing. You mentioned earlier kind of an opportunity presented itself to start this company, did I capture that correctly? What does that mean, the opportunity presented itself? I can’t imagine a big stash of meat just fell out of the sky and landed in the middle of your living room? Tell us more because I’m so curious how does this opportunity, quote-unquote, “presents itself.” That’s a fascinating term to use.

Peter Awad:            The meat sticks fell out of the ceiling.

Carol:                         Boom, there they were.

Peter Awad:            No. So we live in Iowa. There’s a lot of farming here, if you didn’t know that. I had a friend of mine, he was in the grass-fed beef business, and during the same time that I’m reading Bold, he calls me, he’s like, “Hey, I just entered into a deal. I’m getting ready to enter into a deal, selling the company.” I thought, “Man, congratulations. That’s awesome.” But I also knew that he had some e-commerce components because I had helped him with a little bit of that. And through that conversation, I thought, “Man, it would be cool to do something similar like that again. We can work together or something like that.” He said, “Well, I can’t do it. I’ve got a non-compete. I’m going to be working with the company for a long time. But you know what, you really had a knack for it. You should probably do something.” I thought that’s weird.

Carol:                         There it is.

Peter Awad:            Meat? No. He actually called me while I’m reading this book, Bold about the whole mission thing. So I thought I found this weird meat thing, related thing away in my pocket. So this is when we were traveling. We get back home and I ended up having this conversation with my wife’s friend’s husband, Nick.

Carol:                         Wife’s friend’s husband is Nick. I’m sorry you. So you were friendly with Nick already. You knew, Nick?

Peter Awad:            Yeah.

Carol:                         You were buddies. So you knew you had the same moral code. You had the same values especially we’ve both got kids you know that you kind of think the same way, operate the same way. So you had some kind of background and relationship there already.

Peter Awad:            Totally. Yup. I already knew him in that feeling level.

Carol:                         Okay. Cool.

Peter Awad:            We had talked shop before, and I thought, “Man, this guy’s really… He is really intelligent.” He understands the workings of a business. So I talking with him. We were talking about somebody. He had mentioned something like, “Yeah, I’d like to start this mission related business.” And I thought really? That’s interesting. I tell him this story, this conversation I had. And then long story short, what’s crazy is that we started thinking about what maybe what we would do. I said, “Well, what would be the name of the business be? Do you have any ideas? He’s like, “I think I would like to call it Mission Meats.”

I had already written Mission Meats down. It’s like Google Docs had Quip. It’s called Quip. In my Quip, I had all these names and Mission Meats was at the top. And then we started ideating on logos and stuff like that, and we already had drawn up this very similar logos which is the triangular knot which is what we used. It was very, very weird. Just all these things coming together I thought, man, maybe somebody is trying to tell me something. Maybe this is what we should do. So that’s kind of how the idea happens.

Now, from there to getting product on the shelf was another story. That was quite a bit of work, and we could talk about that, but that’s how we got together, and that’s how it started to happen.

Carol:                         Excellent. Thanks. I want to ask one more question about that. So you knew each other, you had the relationship, you had the same moral code, the same ethics. You had already both thought of this name together. You had already separately butt together. You had the logo that was similar, all of those things. We talked a little bit earlier about how there were things you were good at, things he was good at. Did the two of you sit down together in full-on, map out, I’m going to be responsible for A, B, C and D. You are going to be responsible for E, F, and G, or did it naturally happen? And I ask that because we have so many listeners who do talk about partnerships, and I’m wondering how critical it is to very solidly map those things out rather than letting them organically happen or is there a type of balance there somewhere?

Peter Awad:            There’s a definitely a balance there. I think that we did not clearly map it out. It did happen organically, but I will say that we did have lots of conversations on who was going to be responsible for what as far as like talking through marketing ideas. It was very clear once we started talking through, “Oh, we’re talking through logistics. Well, Nick has got all the ideas on logistics. I don’t know squat about the logistics. Clearly, he’s going to be handling that. I’m talking marketing and he has no interest in marketing. Now, I think that we’re very fortunate because we have very little overlap.

He doesn’t care about the copy I’m writing. He doesn’t want to look at it like, “Dude, you do it. I don’t want to look at it. I have no interest.” Not every partnership is going to be like that. And the more overlap there is the more potential for conflicts because maybe somebody wants to be attached to something that you’re doing versus the other person. And I think in those situations it’s critical to have it all written down.

One other tid bit which is very difficult to, I think, to overcome for some folks is that you want to make sure there isn’t any ego involved. I don’t really know exactly how to describe that except for that Nick and I, we always say, we’re like, “I don’t really care who’s right or wrong. We just want to have some more sales. We want more revenue.

Carol:                         Yeah. You want results.

Peter Awad:            If I have to be wrong for him to be right, and we can make more revenue, I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me one bit at all. I don’t need to be right all the time. So to get ego out of the way for us was fairly natural because I had already been in a very egotistical kind of partnership where we both were butting heads all the time. We always wanted to be right. But if you haven’t had that life experience. Just to understand that, you’ve got to get ego out of the way otherwise there’s going to be an immense amount of conflict when you’re kind of attached to an idea, and you want to kind of push your agenda forward even though it may not be the best idea.

Jay:                             Awesome. Okay. So you and Nick have decided you’re going to move forward with this business, you have a name, you have an idea, you know what the product is going to be. To what degree did you sit down and say, “Okay, here’s our business plan. Here’s how we’re going to grow the business. Here’s where we want to be in a year or five years or 10 years.” Did you have a discussion about what the growth of the company would look like, and what your goals were, because I know a lot of people, they form a partnership and they don’t sit down, and have that discussion. Then they get three years in, and one of them realizes they wanted to build a lifestyle business. The other one wants to be a billionaire.

So it starts to cause tension then. Did you have these discussions with Nick about what the goal of the business, what the size of the business? Are you going to hire employees? All these types of questions that will ultimately drive where the business goes, how quickly it goes, and what your ultimate responsibilities are going to be with respect to the business?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. We absolutely had conversations with where we wanted the business to go, and what we want it to look like. We want it to be our primary businesses. We want it to be our focus. We both were not interested in going through like some sort of merger or acquisition like that was not of interest to us at all. We did leave that open. So say five years down the road or three years down the road if that opportunity presented itself then we would entertain it. We weren’t like totally close to it. With that said, I am the of the mind that you don’t know what you don’t know.

So I’ve never been a business plan guy in that regards because I’m like I can put together a forecast, and I could tell you how lofty and how amazing this business is going to be, but if it’s my first foray in meat for example, I have no idea. So for us and for me specifically constantly trying to mitigate against some sort of major failure. So just to give you an example like we started this company with a very, very, very small order. We found a meat plant that would produce for us in an absurdly low quantity. And the reason we did that was because, hey, Nick and I we feel like we agree everything on paper seems great, the relationship is awesome, but I haven’t proven this out. I don’t know that I can actually create a market for this or that I can tap into the current market that’s there.

I don’t know that just because I had good shops in automotive that I can actually make this thing work. And then we don’t know exactly how we work together because we haven’t worked together yet. That’s still how we operate the company. Not that we place small orders anymore, we don’t. But anytime we’re going into an uncharted territory, we’re going to test, and we’re going to test and test, and test, and we’re going to validate whether this opportunity is actually going to present itself, whether it’s actually going to work, and then will scale accordingly.

So I don’t know if that answered your question, Jay, but I feel like anybody, the person that’s listening that’s got a partnership or they’ve got an opportunity, they’ve got to test small and test quickly. And then that way, hey, if it fails, you learn a little bit, you lost a little bit of money, but it’s not the end of the world. Instead of ordering a truckload of meat sticks. You know what I mean?

Jay:                             That’s great. Okay. So then let’s talk about that because I find this fascinating, coming up with new products and testing those products, and actually figuring out what’s going to work to whatever degree you can do that before you actually start spending a lot of money, and a lot of time, and a lot of effort trying to get that product in people’s hands. So what was the methodology that you and Nick used to decide this is going to be our first product or our first two products, or our first three products? How did you validate that customers would want those products, and then we can get into how we actually start getting those products into people’s hands.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. I am a firm believer of paying attention to the information that’s already out there. Paying attention to what is in plain sight. So there are plenty of tools that you can scrub either Amazon or websites, or wherever, and you can see flavors that are out there. You can see what’s being sold. You can validate kind of like reading reviews, reading comments, going on Google, doing all these things, and to see kind of what people have voted for with their wallets already. You can do that with consumer packaged goods, but you can do that really with anything. Whether you’re going on Yelp or TripAdvisor, whatever business you’re looking to start, you can see what consumer interest has already been. It’s very simple.

And then not trying to be too far afield, not trying to get too cute as an excess, to cute with it. Let’s just do what people are doing. Let’s get our feet wet. Let’s try to do in the very lowest risk way possible, and just see. Just because this is a good market, and it aligns with my interest that we talked about earlier, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be good at it. So let’s validate that we’re actually going to be good at it. Let’s actually validate that we can develop our own market for this stuff. And then you can get farther afield, right?

Jay:                             Got it. So you’re basically using information that’s already out there, and I love this by the way. So basically you’re saying there are competitors out there, there’s always going to be competitors so if you can’t find competitors then you’re in the wrong business.

Peter Awad:            That’s right.

Jay:                             Or you’re lying to yourself. So there are competitors out there. They’ve got products that are presumably already selling. We can kind of do what they’re doing, but presumably you have an idea for how you, as a company are going to have a competitive advantage. You’re going to do something better than they are. Maybe you’re going to sell somewhat the same product. Maybe you’re going to market the same sales channels. Maybe you’re going to sell for the same price. Maybe not. So what at this point did you decide is your competitive advantage going to be.

Peter Awad:            So there’s a number of things that we are always trying to do differently, or better, and it’s that we want to make clean food accessible to everyone through as many people as possible anyways. So we’re doing that through philanthropy and giving stuff away, but we can also do that through providing the product, the lowest cost possible. We don’t want to be like the lowest priced product out there necessarily, but we definitely want to be the most affordable, most accessible to people. We also want to make it as clean as possible. We’re formulating a new product right now in a complementary space that will be the cleanest product ever produced in the history. So it’s never been made before.

Now, do we know that people already are interested in this product? Yes, we’ve already validated it through sales velocity and reviews on Amazon and through a website, and all that stuff like I just talked about. But, yeah. We’re going to have a strategic advantage. But you could even not start there. Let’s say it’s going to be too costly for you to innovate the very first round. Maybe there’s manufacturing. Maybe there’s molds. Maybe there’s some sort of tooling or whatever it is depending on your industry that is associated with you being innovative.

You need to just like sell a similar product that’s going to get you out there, and get some money in your pocket, and then you can innovate. That’s okay as long as that eventually you’re going to be able to get to a place where you’ve got the strategic advantage. Because it’s not just about products, it’s not just about price, the one thing that I think we do in an incredibly good job of is, we call it a customer delight and we just named our guy customer delight, the director of customer delight. But customer service for us, I mean I don’t know how many emails we’ve gotten from people that are like I cannot believe the experience we’re having with you. If they have a problem, we take care of it, period. Whether that’s a full refund, a free new product, it doesn’t really matter.1

We are there to make the situation correct. So we get countless emails from customers that are just espousing that. That’s the word. So there’s all these different angles where you can improve upon what’s already happened. Now, one other thing I’ll talk about, we talk about reviews or customer sentiment which is all over the internet. People talk about and review things probably maybe too much. You can see in there, there are hints in there of issues in that market. That could be your improvement. That could be your strategic advantage, like, wow, people have a serious issue with X, Y, & Z. Well, then you make that point for X, Y, & Z to be your one, two, and three goals to be better, to be improving upon that product in the market.

Jay:                             I love this because you’ve alluded to this a couple times. It used to be when we were starting businesses and running businesses 20, 30 years ago and yes, I’m old. We would have to do things like focus groups. If you wanted to know what a customer wanted, you’d have to have a focus group. If you wanted to know what customers hated about existing products, you did a different focus group. If you wanted to know what people thought about selling in certain quantities or certain price points, you’d have another focus group. There’s focus group after focus group, after focus group.

These days we have all this information. It’s all out there. It’s on review sites, it’s on Amazon. It’s all around us. Smart business owners are basically, they’re not spending money on focus groups. They’re not spending the time. They’re not spending the effort hiring these companies that are going to charge you a thousand or $3,000 a day to do a focus group and put one together. You can go out there and get all that information yourself just by reading review sites.

So you did this to determine what product you wanted to sell. You did this to determine presumably price points and now you’re doing this to determine what are the problems that customers in the space are trying to overcome, and what your competitors are trying to overcome. So basically you can you can cut them off. You can you can solve those problems before you ever put a product out there.

Carol:                         And differentiate yourself in the process. So after you were able to glean all that data, what were the first couple of products you ultimately decided to launch?

Peter Awad:            We launched with one flavor, and it was original, which is like the most basic flavor ever. Because I alluded earlier to just because you’ve got a goal of where you want to be, you may not be able to get there right in the beginning, right?

Carol:                         Sure.

Peter Awad:            So for us it was like easiest to go to market with this one flavor, one SKU, one pack size. It’s a 12-pack. That’s it, and that’s all we had.

Carol:                         12-pack of original.

Peter Awad:            12-pack original. I mean, how vanilla can you get? It’s boring. For me, it was like just because… So many experiences where it’s like this market is so easy like it’s easy, it’s just right for the taking. You think of all these things. It doesn’t mean you’re actually going to be able to execute.

Carol:                         Sure.

Peter Awad:            You just might not be the right guy or girl to do it. So for me I just want to know, can I actually execute? Can I put my money where my mouth is to make this thing happen? In worst case scenario, I can’t make it work. I sell product at cost and just say, “That was fun, didn’t work, try something else.”

Carol:                         We’ll find us something new.

Peter Awad:            So that’s what we launched with. We launched with one flavor. It was one pallet and it we didn’t make any money on it because we had to pay through the nose to produce such a small quantity, but it didn’t matter. We wanted a test. So if you can get in your mind of a way to just like continue to test that idea, you’ll be able to run through a lot of these maybe seemingly good ideas that don’t work out and try to get to that winner.

Carol:                         Right.

Jay:                             So I want to talk a little bit about what the actual process was to get that first batch out to test. We always talk in the business world about you should be making money before you’re spending money as much as possible. Don’t go out, and like you said buy huge orders and then sell them. But presumably you had to spend some money. So you had to source your product, you had to do your packaging, had to create a logo, perhaps was there FDA approvals involved? And then you actually had to do some marketing. So can you talk about like the actual process from the day you decided, okay, we’re going to sell an original beef snack, and we’re going to sell it, and we can talk about how you decide where to sell it? But from the day you decide this is what we’re going to sell, what was the process to actually get that first batch physically in your hand ready to get into a customer’s hands?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. I mean, so you got all the backend work. We get all the legal paperwork, and the splitting of ownership, but all that stuff which we did ahead of time. I learned that from the past experience. We let that go until later and it was really, really bad. So we got all the legal paperwork done. We got our name registered. We got our domain. We had to build a website. So we just did a really simple Shopify template. We had to make a visit to the plant and develop that relationship to go through some sample batches, develop a logo, develop a label, figure out how to do it. It’s not FDA but USDA approval process, and get all of that stuff going.

Jay:                             And when you say you had to go to a plant. So presumably there are companies out there that make these products, and basically allow you to what we call white label them, put your label on their products or are you custom designing a product that they’re going to make for you, specifically for you, formulated with your flavors and colors and size, and all that. How does that work?

Peter Awad:            Well, there are both in the industry, but we follow the second route. It’s considered a co-packer. There’s a number of co-packers all over the country developing anything that you want. So we had a co-packer relationship that we developed, that we went to go visit and with our recipe they’re able to deliver that product.

Jay:                             Awesome.

Carol:                         Great.

Peter Awad:            So you’ve got that, and then we got to get the raw material out to them which is the which is the beef in this case. So that’s a whole another relationship to develop, and to nurture, and logistics to manage. And then once that product is produced then they got shipped to us.

Carol:                         Great. For all of those other steps of the process you’re talking about, Peter, all of the logo development, the packaging, the working with the USDA, et cetera, did you use existing vendors for all of those? Did you bring people on board to do that? Did you hire contractors? Who were the relationships? Who are the people that you had to work with to make those parts of the process happen?

Peter Awad:            In the beginning for the first, jeez, I don’t know, 18 months, it was just Nick and.

Carol:                         Okay.

Peter Awad:            But through past business experience I had a designer that I’d worked with many times. He’s a good friend of mine. He did all of our design work. He had worked on consumer packaged goods before and so he understood kind of the rigmarole there, and what they needed, helped us figure out how to get UPC codes from GS1 and all that stuff like legitimate UPC codes. And then our co-packer helped us with the whole USDA submission process, reviewed our labels. He was able to say, “Hey. This outline is not thinking enough. You got to change it.” Like really nitpicky stuff like that as a reality, and help us get the submission, and all that process going. Nick had supply chain experience, which I mentioned several times. So he already had relationships with beef production, and so he was able to source that for us.

Carol:                         Oh, cool.

Jay:                             Go ahead.

Carol:                         I like to eat, so of course I have to ask, when you’re in the plant, and you’re physically working with these guys, how did your whole taste test process go? That sounds like so crazy much fun. Was it just you and Nick or did you give it to all your friends? How did you decide what was the tastiest?

Peter Awad:            Well, it’s funny because in the beginning it was that one flavor. So it wasn’t really that interesting, but it has gotten more and more fun. So Nick has all this meat lab experience. So we’ve actually worked in the meat lab like hair nets and all, and there was one day we when we developed 12 new flavors, and six of them were disgusting. But then we had six that were like wow, these are amazing innovative flavors that nobody’s ever done. We’re mixing in really weird ingredients. It’s a heck of a lot of fun. I will say though, saddest part is, when this stuff is around you all the time like I’ve got a drawer that I can never eat all these meats sticks. I’m getting tired of them.

And it’s like the saddest thing I’ve ever said because I always love beef jerky, and I’ve always loved stick. I love meat snacks, and I’m finally getting to a point where I’m like I think I’d rather eat an apple. Because I’m just eating them so much I can’t eat any more of them.

Jay:                             Okay. I do want to talk about the growth phase, but there’s one more step that we haven’t talked about here, and two tremendously simplify things. Basically, the first step in the process was you and your partner figured out all the legal issues between the two of you. Presumably you figured out the financial issues. You created a business entity, you got your website up. So that was part one. Part two was you actually got a physical product developed, and in your hands ready to go out to customers.

So let’s talk about part three which is the actual sales and marketing, and getting those products in the hands of customers. I don’t know if you want to talk about pricing, and all that. I think that might be more of your partner’s area of responsibility. But if you want to talk about pricing, I would love to hear about that as well. Basically, from the time you actually have product in your hands to getting that product out into the hands of your customers, what was that all about?

Peter Awad:            Here’s what’s interesting is I think that I at least I tend to rush, and I want to get through like let’s say label design or I want to get through packaging design, and I just want to get product out on the shelf, and I think that’s a big mistake. I think that through a lot of research that we talked about earlier, you can get a lot of hints for what people are looking for, and a lot of the problems you’re looking to solve that the market maybe is not solving as well as they should or not at all.

The reason that I bring that up is because it will inform your marketing. It’ll inform the way your pages are layout. It’ll inform the copy that you’re writing. It will inform essentially everything that you’re doing in order to harness that untapped need or better tap the need that’s there. So we did a lot of that research to find out kind of like who the communities are like the keto, the paleo, the whole 30, the AIP. All these different diets that are out there to find out kind of what it is that they’re interested in. Whether they’re interested in low sugar, no sugar, carb free, all the different terminologies that they’re using.

And then to use that to inform kind of how we’re building our copy, and our pages on the website, and how we’re writing advertising. For me, we use all that, built the pages. We also used Amazon. I use a lot of my CPG network of friends in order to get into some other large online retailers like thrive market, and some other ones. That was the way we started getting the product out there. That backed with Google Ads, Facebook Ads or Amazon ads. Any way that we could push traffic to those listings to get some interest.

In the beginning for us it was not about making any money. We luckily had other ventures that were filling that need so that we could really, truly vet this out as quickly as possible. So we were taking all that we could to drive traffic in order to vet that we could actually move this product, that people actually liked it, that we knew what we were talking about, that they came back for a reorder, all these different things. So for quite a while, well over a year, we didn’t draw a single dollar out of the business. We just continued to plow that back in, in order to create some velocity for ourselves, and really just to validate whether we liked running this business, and we were good at it, which I think we did okay.

Jay:                             That’s awesome. So do you have any employees?

Peter Awad:            We have one actual employee right now. We use a lot of contractors.

Jay:                             Got it. Okay.

Peter Awad:            So what the advantage there for your business using contractors or such employees? And I’d love to hear a little bit more about what that one employee. So it sounds like at least in one case contractors weren’t cutting it, so you hired an employee. Why was that?

Jay:                             So I’ll answer the first one first is for me it was about flexibility. And so if we were busier, and you’re using a contractor especially if they’re part of a larger agency, we can scale up much more quickly not have to worry about hiring people, and all sudden conversely if it’s slow then we of course we don’t have to pay them as much or at all. So I like the flexibility there. I also like being able to tap into a team of experts in certain areas that have different expertise. So that’s why we’ve used contractors. What’s interesting is what is part of our ethos is not only testing like crazy, and mitigating it, is also mitigating risk. So for me it’s like, well, I think I can probably use a full-time designer, but how do I know?

Well, I know because I create demands. So let me create a demand first. Let me utilize this person maybe up to half time or 3/4 time, and once I know that, “Damn, I got a lot of design work to do,” then I can bring up full-time designer on because it’s going to make sense. It’s not just financial sense, but there’s all this other headache associated as you guys know with employees, and having to keep people on when it’s slow, and all those different stuff. So I do it for flexibility. It suits my preferences. It suits my lifestyle. It’s not for everybody. We’re also completely virtual like all the contractors and everybody, I mean, we’re all truly remote. So that’s just the way that we’ve always operated.

Jay:                             That’s great. I think there are a lot of people out there who hear this have this idea of building a lifestyle business, but they can’t reconcile that with building a, quote-unquote, “real business.” They feel like a lifestyle business is kind of, and I hate this term, but I’m going to use it, a side hustle. A lifestyle business is something you don’t really focus too much time on, you just make some extra income. And I think what people don’t realize is, and this was I think a lot of the concept behind the Slow Hustle that you’ve pushed, and are pushing is that you can have a real business. You can have a business that is scalable, and that can grow as big as you want it to grow, but it doesn’t mean that you have to have a hundred employees in a building working 18 hours a day. You can have both.

Peter Awad:            That’s right.

Carol:                         Peter, I think you mentioned that your companies, how many years old now? Three, four?

Peter Awad:            She’s three and a half.

Carol:                         Three and a half years old, and you said you’ve obviously grown exponentially over those years. You said one of your major areas of expertise is the marketing, the branding, the sales, all of those things that go into building your brand, and retaining customers. Can you talk to us more about your branding decisions? I’d like to hear specifically about how your mission-based strategy has really helped you grow, and then as well as that other fun things that keep that surprise and delight going with your customer base to grow the company the way you have.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. I mean as far as the mission is concerned like for me it’s like if it helps with the marketing cool. I know that it does because you get a lot of good feedback there but for us it was just like non-negotiable. This business is going to be here in part to feed us, literally, and then in part to provide an excellent service, but also because we really want to give back. We want to make some sort of impact. If it works and it helps us market the company, that’s awesome. But to me that’s like the icing on the cake, so to speak. What was the second question? I forgot it.

Carol:                         The second question was what are some of the things, the conscious decisions you made about your branding. For example, you talked about copywriting before, and I love when you go onto your website, and to gather your email addresses, it says, “Deals I made,” in your email. That’s brilliant. That’s just brilliant copywriting. So how did that strategy as far as your branding, and the fun, and the surprise, and the delight come into play when you are building out your brand to maintain and grow your customers.

Peter Awad:            Carol, thank you for saying that. It’s really fun. I think that for me, it’s so painful to try to be all corporate, and formal, and inhuman when everybody on the other side, they’re all human beings. Last I checked there weren’t any aliens eating meat sticks, or animals I can say. I mean, not animals. Bad joke. They’re just people. Somebody’s visiting the website, and there’s some human being, and they might have a good day, maybe they’re having a bad day. I don’t know, but the best thing that I can do is just be a human being back.

You’re coming here to get some meat. You want a deal. Nick will say, “Dude how did you come up with this stuff sometimes?” I’m like, “I don’t know. It’s just what I would write. I would write that to you. I would say, hey, you want some deals with some meat? I don’t know.” That informs are copywriting, that informs the way that we email market. That informs some of these problems that you’re talking about. That informs like everything that we do. It’s just like I’m going to write to you like I would write to a friend. What’s crazy about it, and fun to me is that people are most receptive to that. It will create the most revenue. So it’s like, wait, I could be human, and have fun, and create more revenue than I ever would if I wanted to just be like all stodgy and serious about stuff. Well, that sounds like a triple win to me.

So that’s just the way that we operate. We were even talking about creating some really hilarious signature gifts in the office here because we’re just trying to have fun. Nick and I, we visit every month on… We visit every day on a lot of things, but once a month on financials, and one of the questions we always ask is are we still having fun?

Carol:                         Excellent.

Peter Awad:            Because if we’re not having any more fun, I’m done. I’m out of here.

Carol:                         There you go.

Peter Awad:            He’s the same way. He’s like, “If I’m not having any fun, I’m gone.” This needs to continue to be fun. And the only way that that’s going to happen is if we’re continuing to pay attention to what’s most important. We didn’t start… And I talked about this in Slow Hustle a lot. Nobody is starting a business, and thinking I can’t wait to work myself to death. I cannot wait until this business is so successful. I’m going to work myself to death. Nobody says that. But a lot of us do it. And the only reason we do it is because we’re not paying attention. It’s a slippery slope. It just happens very slowly. You don’t go from happy to unhappy, one day to the next. Not usually, just overtime work creeps in, and life creeps out, and before you know it, you’re unhappy. So you just got to continue to pay attention, and to measure the right things.

Jay:                             What’s the biggest challenge you have in your business right now?

Peter Awad:            Too many ideas. Too many stinking ideas. It’s from us, and then from customers. We talked about listening to reviews earlier, and the problem is like some people are very loud, and it’s only one person, and it’s only one person that actually wants that thing that they keep screaming about. So for us it’s like we have to, and we are doing a really good job of it so far. I think is paying attention to what really is most important for the business. Paying attention to what data is really telling us. Like this person saying, “Hey, I really wish you didn’t have this certain ingredient.” And then we look back, we’re like, “Nobody’s ever asked for that ever.”

We could put a poll out, and there’s crickets. Nobody cares about what this person asked about, but it seemed compelling. So I think that’s the issue for us now, there are too many opportunities, which is awesome. I’m not complaining about it at all, but it’s very difficult to parse out the good from the bad.

Jay:                             So I’ve noticed that over the past if I look at your website now, you’re up to about 15 different items, different variations of beef snack and jerky, and that sort of thing. So why 15 ? Why aren’t you at four now? Why aren’t you at 40 now? What’s the whole process you go through to decide it’s time to add another flavor or it’s time to add another product versus let’s slow down a notch? Where does that decision-making process come from?

Peter Awad:            So we’re very deliberate on the flavors, and the variations that we put out. So there’s a very elaborate process, in going through kind of like determining what product is going to be released next. It’s actually incredibly tedious for me because I just want to like put stuff out. But at the same time there is a bandwidth issue. So it’s like we can’t… We would actually probably put out more, and here’s the reason for that. Back to testing quickly, failing quickly, all the stuff we talked about earlier, the more products that we can put out, the more quickly I can find the winners and the losers.

So if I can put out 20, and 15 of them lose, I don’t really care because that means I found five winners. So that’s kind of it for us. If it makes it through the first filter then we put it out, and then we measure, and if it’s not doing well, even though I love that flavor, I’m going to kill it, and then we’re going to support it anymore. So that’s been our process, and it’s worked for us so far.

Jay:                             That’s a great answer. So where do you see yourself in five years. Where’s this business going to be in five years if things go the way you want and expect it to?

Peter Awad:            It’s hard to say. I don’t know. Right now, Jay the business is growing so quickly that we never would have anticipated to even get to where we’re at right now quite frankly. So in three and a half years in to say five more years, I can’t even tell you. Maybe on the moon.

Carol:                         That’s so unfathomable at this point.

Jay:                             Do you see any major changes for the business? Any big new ideas or are you just going to keep doing what’s been successful the last three and a half years, and just keep growing that?

Peter Awad:            Yeah. I think what’s interesting for me is that I think there are plenty of complementary products, and complementary categories that are very, very interesting. So we definitely will be testing those, that’s to be sure. We actually talked about this earlier today with the team is that we’re never going to be stuck in one segment. So just because of what something worked last year, and it was great, and we loved it, if it’s not working anymore we will not persevere. We will we will pivot, and do something different. I’m always reminded of the story of Virgin Media, and Richard Branson saying that it wasn’t a big deal closing the stores now for him. He said, “It worked for a while. It was good while it lasted.”

Jay:                             Yep.

Peter Awad:            I always remember that because it’s like man, you really could look at it differently. You could say, “Gosh, let’s continue to innovate. Maybe we can make this work.” Well, nobody’s buying CDs in the store anymore. That’s dead. And for him it was a very simple, probably yet difficult decision that’s going to close their stores down. They did really well. They’re not doing well anymore. This is a one or a zero decision. Time for something different. We’re cutting it loose.

Jay:                             Funny enough, it goes back to your earlier comment about ego, and not having your ego wrapped up in the success or failure of your business, and being able to make good decisions.

Peter Awad:            Yes.

Jay:                             So one more question before we move on to the next segment. So you started your entrepreneur journey young. You were seven or eight years old, and you have four kids now who are between the ages of four, and eleven I believe it is.

Peter Awad:            That’s right.

Jay:                             So is there anything in particular you’re doing with your kids to kind of introduce them to their entrepreneur journey, and what can our listeners take away in terms of tips for how they might want to help their kids get introduced to entrepreneurship.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. We’re a little weird. So we homeschool, and I work from home currently. So the kids are intimately exposed to all aspects of the business. They come in when I’m having a meeting. If they’re at home right now, they’d be staring at me through the glass door. My daughter was just in earlier, and I was running through analytics with her, and she’s 11. I want them to understand like this is how the sausage is made which is a funny joke [inaudible 01:05:53]. I didn’t plan that. Still a bad joke. I want them to see it because it demystifies it.

I think if you go… And this is anything. It’s whether business or something else. If you go from not doing to doing, it seems very daunting. Whether it’s flipping a house or starting a business. it doesn’t matter. If you’re in the not doing category to going to doing it seems like, “Holy crap. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to get it done.” But if I can demystify it for them, and say, “Hey, it’s not a big deal. This is how I do a market analysis, and this is how we decide whether a new flavor is going to come out, and this is how I take it to market, and this is how I work with the team. It’s like, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Anybody can do that. This is all dad does. He’s just on the computer, and clicks couple buttons, and selling stuff. No big deal.”

That to me is like the biggest lesson you can give the kids because otherwise, I mean, they don’t know what adults are doing. It’s like, “Oh, mom dad, they go to work. They come home. They take their shoes off, they complain a little bit. Money shows in the bank account on Friday. I don’t know what happens there. I guess the reason I’m teaching my kids that is probably very much because that’s how I grew up. I mean, I grew up literally hands and feet in the store moving boxes around. That’s what I did.

Carol:                         And not wanting to leave. So you’re just introducing that to them from when they’re babies, and they grow up in it, and they know no different. I’m so curious that your 11-year-old is so into it. Is there some stuff you’re doing as early as with your four-year-old? I mean, are there some little things you can do even when the kids are that little?

Peter Awad:            I had the four-year-old putting UPC codes on auto parts.

Carol:                         There you go.

Peter Awad:            They know like this guy that I got it from, this is what he did, and this is how it ended up at our house, and this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. Then UPS is going to pick it up, and this is where it’s going to go. I mean, they can be part of the process even if it’s just like putting stickers on to be included in that whole system.

Carol:                         That’s awesome. It makes you even while you’re running a business that makes you even that much more present as a dad in that much more full circle in keeping with the mission that you set out to from the very beginning, right?

Peter Awad:            Here’s what’s real funny is that I was apologizing to them, because they already came UPC’ed, and they had screwed them up, and they weren’t UPC’ed properly. I’m like, “Sorry guys, this sucks.” The four-year-old, and the seven-year-old said, “No, dad. This is fun.

Carol:                         I love it.

Peter Awad:            Right? So I’m like, “Oh, they’re having fun. They’re helping me out. This is great.” I’m teaching them about business like this is a win.

Carol:                         Totally, all the way around. All the way around. So now, Peter, we’re going to move to the part of our show that we call Four More. So we’re going to start with four questions that we ask all of our guests, and then we’re going to jump into the more which is where we find out more about you, okay? You’re ready?

Peter Awad:            Yeah.

Carol:                         All right. Jay, take the first one.

Jay:                             Okay, question number one. So, Peter, we know what your first job was, but what was your worst job, and what were the lessons you learned from that job?

Peter Awad:            Worst is a tough one, but I’ll tell you weirdest and what I what I learned from it. So I sold balls at Disney, at Epcot which is like the worst part, to families. And my lesson learned there was that you had to engage the kids. So I had to bounce the ball to the kid, and then that would draw the whole family over, otherwise dads, dad or mom, they’re not coming over to buy this $30 self-inflating ball or whatever. Here’s what was interesting. I was number one in sales for all four parks for almost the whole time I was there, a couple years.

People would come over, and they’d say, “Dude, I don’t understand. How the heck are you selling so much.” And I would say, “Oh, it’s very simple.” We would have an hourly goal, and we had a tick sheet. There’s an honor system, and you would just ticked down how many balls you sold. And there’ll be all these other bonuses and stuff too. I said, “It’s very simple. I always know where I’m at. Let’s say I want to double the sales like let’s say the goal was $100 an hour, I would always say I want to double.” So I would say I’m shooting for 200 an hour. And at any time of the day you come up say, Peter where you’re at, and I say I’m at 183.” I was constantly doing math.

And the reason I did it is because you can never… If you don’t measure it there’s no way you’re going to meet it. There’s no way you’re never going to meet 200. It might be a miracle maybe on one day. You’re never going to meet it. And I would know it’s 9:30 park, closes at 10:00. I’m at 189. I need to sell 12 balls in the next 15 minutes or whatever the time was I just gave you. In order to make my goal I better hustle. I would almost always make it. It was like magic.

Jay:                             It’s a great lesson in all aspects of business. You got to know your numbers cold, and use them to drive your success. Awesome/

Carol:                         Very fine. Okay. My question is what is one, just one, Peter, pick one defining moment where you realize that you absolutely had this entrepreneurial itch?

Peter Awad:            This is a tough question. One moment I knew I had the entrepreneurial itch. Let me think for a minute here. I’m drawing a blank.

Jay:                             Take your time.

Peter Awad:            Okay. It would have to be when my dad allowed me to do what he called the paperwork for the previous day’s sales which was taking all the cash from the the night before from the register from the till, and I would have to separate the ones, and the fives, and the 10s, and then I would have to flatten them all out, and I count them, and write them all down. Actually, this picture just surfaced the other day in our house. I don’t know why because we’re getting ready to move, and packing some stuff, and it’s me sitting in my dad’s desk. I like barely reach the desk, and I’m like counting out the money. I don’t know that I was necessarily money hungry, but it went back to this like whole 40 cent can selling for a dollar.

It was just fascinating. It was like… Oh, and I do have one other example. I should cut all that out. I have one other example. I have one other example. Middle school, I’m selling blow pops. You guys remember blow pop star?

Carol:                         Totally, yes. Delicious.

Peter Awad:            Yes. So I sold blow, and so my dad would get food from the wholesale house right before like Costco, and all this places were even around, and I had him pick me up a box of blow pops for three bucks, and I had him in a Gap… Remember the Gap bags used to be drawstring.

Carol:                         Oh, yeah, the blue.

Peter Awad:            Yeah. It’s a blue drawstring. Yep, okay. So I would go to school, and from the first bell to the second bell was 15 minutes. It’s in middle school, and I sold through the whole bag. I came home and I counted it, it was 15 bucks.

Carol:                         Whoa.

Peter Awad:            I thought oh my gosh $3 box. So I netted $12. Oh my gosh. So I go to my dad I said, “Dude, I need you to buy… ” I don’t know what was it like seven more case, seven more boxes. So he buys me seven more boxes, and every day… I ended up having one of those change counters where you have quarters nickels, and dimes because I sold it for a quarter, and I would like to make change for people, and every day I was selling a box. I remember coming home, a Gap back no blow pops in it anymore, it’s all change and dollars, and I dumped them on the kitchen counter. I remember thinking I’m rich. This is amazing.

Carol:                         That is amazing.

Peter Awad:            Until I got in trouble, and I couldn’t sell them anymore. But that to me-

Carol:                         No soliciting.

Peter Awad:            It was a very pivotal moment.

Jay:                             That’s awesome. I have this theory that when it comes to kids there’s this tactile response to money that really forms an emotional-

Carol:                         A bond.

Jay:                             A bond.

Carol:                         It totally does. I remember in the days of face painting when I used to face paint like at little fairs and stuff, I would just show up at the county fair, and it’s not like I got a permit. I was 12 years old, and I would have my little cash box, and at the end of the day I would obsess over, I would take all the dollar bills, and put them in serial number order. And my mother was like, “There is something so not right with you.” And I’m like, “Oh, you just wait and see.” So there really is something tactile about it.

Peter Awad:            It’s amazing, and the touch on that, and you guys feel free to cut this out, but to touch on it a little bit, I do the same thing with spending with the kids.

Jay:                             Oh, yeah.

Peter Awad:            Whether we want to go out to eat, like the kids want to go and eat, I’m going to say, “No problem. It’s 50 bucks.” They’ll say, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “50 bucks bare-minimum for us to eat out, even at the junkies place.” They’re like, “Really?” “Yeah, you want to go still?” They’ll say no.

Carol:                         No, not worth it.

Peter Awad:            Not worth it.

Carol:                         They get it.

Peter Awad:            The other thing I do with them is like if they’re spending their own money, let them put it on the counter. So it’s like, “You want to buy that?” “Sure.” “There’s four quarters. Just set it on the counter there.” They’ll look at the money and they’ll look at the stuff, and they’ll say, “No, I don’t like it much.” They have to see it. They have to feel it parting their hands.

Jay:                             I think that’s part of the reason why… And it’s not just kids. It’s part of the reason why I think a lot of adults have issues with credit cards because you don’t have that tactile response.

Carol:                         Not real.

Jay:                             It doesn’t feel real.

Peter Awad:            You don’t feel it.

Jay:                             Okay. Let’s jump into question number three. A lot of bad advice out there in the world, what’s the worst advice you’ve been given either in your industry or business in general? What did you do with that advice? How would you turn it around to make it good advice?

Peter Awad:            I won’t say who said this, but they might listen. They said it was for an experience that we were getting ready to have in travel, and the person said, “Listen, I don’t think your family should do it. I think that you’re doing a disservice to your family. As soon as you run into an obstacle, just turn around and go back. Just abandon it, go back, forget about it.” I told him, I said, “This is the worst advice I’ve ever gotten.” Because it’s always on the other side of some sort of obstacle, on the other side of some sort of like issue that there’s some gold. There’s something there. Whether it’s like still going to be truly a bad experience you’re going to learn from it, and you’re going to let that inform your future decisions or most people stop.

You say, “Oh, this is hard. This sucks. I’m turning around. Forget it. I’m dumb. This is not something I should have ever done,” and they quit. But it’s almost always on that other side where all the gold happens. So that’s my short answer.

Carol:                         Love it.

Jay:                             That’s great.

Carol:                         Okay. I have the fourth question, and I know you said that you’re not a materialistic dude, and you don’t want a whole lot. You just want to be there for your kids, and give back, and family first, et cetera. But I’m hoping that you can share that there’s something you’ve splurged on at some point that was totally, totally worth it.

Peter Awad:            A splurge. Let me think about this for a minute. Does it have to be a material thing?

Carol:                         Not at all. Whatever it is. You interpret however you want it.

Peter Awad:            This is simple then. Travel for me. We spend an absurd amount of money on travel because for me… And I’ll give the example. For our honeymoon we went to Maui which we were actually in Maui again for a month thanks to some common friends here.

Carol:                         Nice.

Peter Awad:            In Maui we went and we did the downhill bike tour down Haleakala, down the volcano, and you can’t necessarily do this anymore. Too many people got hurt, and we didn’t know that at the time. But you go up there for sunrise, and you ride down your bike, and you don’t even pedal because it’s all these switchbacks, and it’s 10,000 feet, and then you come down through the clouds. It’s amazing. I always tell people that trip, it’s better every year. Every year I think about it, we reminisce about it, we talk about it like remember that time. We see some pictures. It just gets sweeter. Now, you name a purchase that will do that for you. A material good. There is not one. I can’t even think of one thing that I bought, and it got better every year. It didn’t. After a while I was like this thing sucks or it broke, or whatever. I throw it away. So that’s why we splurge on travel because I think the kids will remember it, and they’ll smell it, they’ll feel it. And they’ll remember it.

Carol:                         It’s that experience that matters. It’s not the thing, it’s the experience.

Jay:                             No judgment here, whatsoever. But some people love things, and they just want to accumulate more things, and play with things, and that’s great. And then there are other people that just love experiences and memories, and that’s great as well.

Peter Awad:            Yes. So absolutely. Okay. So let’s jump into the more part of the Four More. Tell us a little bit about where we can find out more about you. If anybody wants to get in touch with you, find out more about you, find out more about Mission Meats, how can they do that?

Peter Awad:            Yeah, absolutely. So missionmeats.co. I’m still trying to get the dot com, so dot co. We have a very, very active Instagram. So @MissionMeats there. You can find us there Facebook as well. We’re still on there. There are still people on Facebook, believe or not. I’m just kidding. So we’re on Facebook. And then just personally, we started a new project called the Mission Family. It’s very, very, very new. We’re sharing some of our travel related items, homeschooling, et cetera. Just stuff we’re learning as a family that’s looking around four kids. So you can follow us on Instagram @missionfamily.

Jay:                             Awesome. Thank you so much. I’m ashamed to say I’ve yet to try any of your Mission Meat products, and that will be rectified very soon. But I also say that our good friend Brandon Turner is a big fan.

Peter Awad:            Yes, he is.

Jay:                             So hopefully we can get a discount code, and a URL on our show page for people that want to give Mission Meats a try. So jump down to the show page, take a look at that URL on the discount code, and we should have that up here.

Peter Awad:            Yup. It’ll be there. Free bag of bacon for you guys.

Carol:                         That is awesome.

Jay:                             Awesome.

Carol:                         Who doesn’t love bacon?

Jay:                             Everything’s better with bacon.

Carol:                         Yes, it is.

Jay:                             Peter, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on, and I feel like we can probably talk for another two hours if we had the time. This has been tremendously enlightening, and it’s great to hear your story. It’s great to hear your insights. Love the Slow Hustle motto, and idea, and we wish you the best of luck with Mission Meats. We look forward to having you back in the future so we can hear an update to the story.

Peter Awad:            Sounds good. Jay, Carol, thanks so much.

Carol:                         Thank you so much, Peter. See you soon.

Peter Awad:            See you. Bye.


Watch the Podcast Here

In This Episode We Cover:

  • How Mission Meats uses “lean startup” principles
  • How Peter overcame his “focus problem” by giving up on good ideas
  • Why he likes to ask, “OK, but why YOU?
  • The importance of partners checking their egos at the door
  • Why “slow hustle” sums up his approach to business
  • How starting a podcast affected his career choices
  • How to teach your kids about entrepreneurship
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in This Show

  • Bold by Peter Diamandis

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t really mean a whole lot of anything. Ideas are a dime a dozen.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Money is not everything.” (Tweet This!)
  • “I don’t need to be right all the time.” (Tweet This!)
  • “You don’t know what you don’t know.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Peter

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.