Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Andrew Poulsen, who launched his business after recognizing the need to tackle the opaque and convoluted process around how meat was sold. Here’s how Bespoke Butchers is changing the game is healthier, more sustainable way…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I run a small startup butcher shop that focuses on sourcing completely traceable and sustainably raised products. I am in charge of sourcing & ordering product, recipe development, relationship building, and staff training. The key to my job is putting the systems in place to make the shop run smoothly; a big part of that means empowering my co-workers to continue operations at their highest level while I continue to develop more advanced projects.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Starting Bespoke Butchers was a natural progression. Having worked the retail side of a sustainable seafood shop, I felt it was important to build a business with the same transparency of production and regulation towards meat. The more I learned about the way meat was being sold, the more uncomfortable I became with how opaque and convoluted the conversation had become. Looking at micro aspects of any industry tends to lead to solutions that solve one problem but rarely realizes underlying causes. Our goal is to look at the food industry as a whole to try to understand how we ended up where we are and find new, sustainable, healthy solutions to the problems in our supply chains.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Everything changes day-to-day – I don’t really have a routine beyond arriving at work at 9:30am and leaving around 8:00pm. Between those hours there isn’t much that stays the same. That in itself is probably the most challenging part of the way we operate. I frequently talk about how much easier running a butcher shop could be if we used large distributors and all I had to do was pick up the phone and order exactly what my computer told me we needed. I could let other companies source everything and handle distribution, but we can’t operate that way and maintain the standards we’ve set for ourselves at the same time. That said, maintaining those standards is the best and most important part of my day-to-day.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
Does the fact that my girlfriend tells me I work too much three times a week count?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably just advancing the way the business operates and fine-tuning the tasks I currently manage but on a larger scale. It’s likely the position I occupy at Bespoke will just expand outward and will become a job more suited for two or more people.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I’d say the biggest challenge to overcome was myself. I needed to become more self-reflective. I worked away for years in kitchens, trying to be a line cook, trying to be a great chef. Truthfully, I thought I should be the best. Then I realized that even though I’m a good cook, there are greater talents around me. Accepting that meant that I had to reflect on where I could better fit in the food industry. That is when I started to became smarter and began to recognize how I could put my fairly unique understanding of food to work on a day to day basis.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
[Laughs] I’m in the wrong industry if money made me happy.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
The only real thing I can advise would be to spend more time listening than talking. You’d be surprised how rare that is.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
There is a pretty well known restaurant here in Toronto called ‘Woodlot’ that has to be my most visited restaurant. I don’t get to go a lot, but if I’ve had a long day at work and don’t feel much like cooking I’m always game for sitting at the bar. I’ve yet to have anything there that isn’t just a really great meal. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s five minutes from my house.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
‘Me’ time seems hard to come by in the last little while, but I’m trying to carve more time for that. Reading is my go to. I always carry a book. If I even have 5 minutes of waiting, my natural tendency is to pull out my book and read. I love reading—I feel guilty when I don’t think I’m reading enough.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I don’t travel nearly enough to have a favourite. I’m still trying to visit all the places I’d like. Mostly I dream of going to Haafell Goat Farm in Iceland.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Easy by Deer Tick
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Given what I know now, I don’t think I could really do anything outside of working with food systems. However, when I first finished high school I was prepared to spend my time as a graphic designer.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
As a business, we work a lot with the Stop Community Food Centre here in Toronto, supplying locally, responsibly raised meats to their cause. They have an incredibly diverse and innovative mandate aimed at tackling issues of poverty and hunger in our city and surrounding communities. The Stop is an incredible bridge between those of us who have the ability to provide quality, nutrient dense food and those whom may not necessarily have access to it otherwise.
On a more personal level, I am also a big supporter of CAMH. Mental health has and will affect everyone in their lifetime whether we choose to recognize it or not.
What to you is notable?
For me, it’s the story. Everybody has a cause to support, successes to share, failures to overcome, and mishaps to laugh about along the way – all that makes for one hell of a story.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
I own an iPhone.