James Lau of Meatme tells us about ethically-raised meat sourced directly from local family farmers.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
James Lau: We’re pulling through – trying our best to stay safe but also managing our anxiety. I think when COVID started, everyone was super anxious (especially my mom), which led to even more stress and worry. Now that it’s been going on for a while, I think we are adapting and staying safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Meatme.
James Lau: Meatme was founded by Victor Straatman in 2016 when he realized that he could not easily access local farmers. His first interaction trying to buy healthier, more sustainable meat from an online marketplace ended up with a meeting at a random parking lot. I was born and raised in Malaysia. I graduated with a Marketing & Psychology major and joined Meatme back in July 2019. Six months after joining, Victor had to move back home to Holland for personal reasons, and I became the Managing Director/Acting CEO of the company leading the operations in BC. Prior to Meatme, I’ve been working in the marketing field for several other startups, and I also coach students on the side in personal development through my startup Apologue.
How does Meatme innovate?
James Lau: We really try to be a central place connecting local farmers to families here in BC. We want to provide the highest quality meats while staying sustainable and working with ethical producers. All of our farmers practice some form of regenerative farming that combats climate change – I think this is awesome, especially with all the negative connotations to meat consumption/production.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
James Lau: It’s definitely tough as our marketing avenues have reduced. The funny thing is that when the pandemic began, we had a surge in sales as everyone was trying to shop online. I remember calling literally every farmer in BC to ask if they had a cow to spare, haha!
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
James Lau: For sure – we had to bring on some part-time workers really quickly, which affected the quality of our screening and hiring process. This ended up badly as when things settled down, we realized that the motivations were different – and had to lay off + repeat the hiring cycle.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
James Lau: Just being more in touch with the customers – actually hopping on calls with them, doing surveys. Really trying to understand their needs, especially during this crazy time, was key to our growth.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
James Lau: Yes, we did – we took on some loans to help us out.
Your final thoughts?
James Lau: We are living in some crazy times, but the future seems bright. I just wanted to urge everyone, entrepreneurs or not – to keep that chin up and learn from this experience. The pandemic taught me personally to think about what we really value in life, business and relationships. I hope to take these learnings with me long after the pandemic is over.
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