Mario Fiorucci and Tara Longo are the co-owners of The Healthy Butcher and RealFoodToronto.com. They sell gourmet and organic foods with a specialty in locally and organically raised meat. With 3 retail stores in Ontario and an online grocery delivery business, they've been successful entrepreneurs for more than 7 years. I caught up with them to find out how they left the corporate world behind and what advice they would offer new entrepreneurs.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I am a lawyer and was practicing law on Bay St. Tara was an investment banker. We were both vegetarian for a period of time. Not because we didn't want to eat meat, but we were disgusted at the meat that was generally available after having read some reports, watched documentaries, etc. When we started looking for meat from local organic farms, we realized that there was a growing number of farmers raising organic but they had a very limited market to sell into. So, we took the plunge and decided to create that market.
Did people think you were completely crazy?
The transition from big pay cheque to no pay cheque isn't an easy one. We had saved up a little cushion for ourselves which kept us going. Yes, absolutely, everyone thought we had lost our minds.
What advice can you provide on starting a business in an industry where you had no experience?
You can be an excellent trades person in a specific area, let's say an electrician, does that mean you'd be good at running an electrical company? No, you still have to run the business... and that's probably the bigger challenge to be learned. What we had was a grasp of business, and learned the rest.
What is your number one hot marketing tip for fellow entrepreneurs?
Stay on top of your game, know your product inside and out, and PR will follow. Nothing beats word of mouth. If you offer the best product, and the best service, then your business will grow. If you cut corners, you'll only be hurting your own business.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Starting a business is tough. Very tough. Don't go into business to get rich. Go into a business to follow a passion you have. Then no matter what, you'll gain from the experience.
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