This Farm-to-Front-Door Subscription Startup Delivers Superb Meat

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Porter Road/Facebook

As a 14-year-old, James Peisker, cofounder of meat delivery service Porter Road, knew he wanted to be a chef. He started his culinary career as a busboy in the diner across the street from his childhood home in St. Louis, Missouri. Since then, he trained at the top culinary schools in America and China, returned to St. Louis’ culinary scene and established one of the most vertically integrated, ethical meat companies around.

In 2010, Peisker met his soon-to-be cofounder, Chris Carter, in the kitchen of downtown Nashville’s buzzy Hermitage Hotel. The two guys hit it off and quickly established a catering business together. In servicing their catering customers, a major pain point emerged: It was near impossible to get quality, local meat from sources that were using ethical practices and delivering high-quality cuts of never-frozen product. To rectify, the pair opened a butcher shop in Nashville, working with local farms to source the best possible meats and hand-cutting every slice in the store.

When word spread and demand for their product outgrew downtown Nashville, Peisker and Carter launched Porter Road, an online meat delivery business, in 2017, making the world’s best meat available nationwide.

We spoke to Peisker, a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient in the food and wine category, about his hypothetical Shark Tank pitch, the most important lesson he has learned as a founder and his top advice for anyone looking to start a business.

Describe your brand-building strategy in one sentence.

James Peisker: Porter Road is built on quality.

If you were pitching your business on Shark Tank, what would you say?

Peisker: The meat industry as a whole is broken, and Porter Road’s goal is to fix it through your taste buds. No one is going to sign on to save the world if your product doesn’t taste good. Pasture-raised meat just tastes better.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a founder?

Peisker: Business is not a straight line, but it’s important how you handle the detours and bumps along the way. You will fail in business and there will be mistakes, but as long as you learn and as long as you grow, you will be unstoppable.

What’s one aspect of your job that you knew nothing about? How did you adapt?

Peisker: There are many aspects of my job that were unfamiliar. As an entrepreneur starting out, you wear many hats. As you continue to grow, the goal is to take off that hat and hire someone you trust to execute the job better than you can. Digital marketing is an example of an area I was unfamiliar with. As a small business operator, you do what you have to do to keep the train on the track. Eventually, we were able to hire an expert and someone we trusted to take over.

Tell us about the time in your career when you felt the most stuck.

Peisker: One time 70 percent of our refrigerator units broke down in a two-week time span. We relied on our partners to help us get through it. We were able to come together and figure out what was best to do. That’s why developing great relationships with the people you work with is key. There are times when things go right, there are times when things work out and there are times when everything in the world goes wrong. That’s when you are in the freefall and you rely on the people you trust to catch you.  

What do you consider your greatest failure to date? What did it teach you?

Peisker: I don’t consider my mistakes failures because I have always used them as an opportunity to learn something. Three years ago, over Christmas, I over-ordered on beef. Cuts went to waste, we didn’t make all the money back and we took a loss. I have made plenty of missteps, but I don’t consider them failures.

How do you take your coffee?

Peisker: Black.

What is your number one way to inspire positive company morale?

Peisker: I consider myself a motivational speaker type of guy. My favorite way to inspire positive morale is to be upbeat and exemplify positivity in every situation. I believe that happiness spreads but misery spreads five times as fast. I try to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud.

How can a candidate impress you in an interview?

Peisker: It all depends on what position we are interviewing for. Every job in your business requires a different mindset and a different set of skills. If you have specific expectations, you may close your mind off to something new. But I do think the best thing you can do for an interview is to show up early.

How do you balance your career and your family life?

Peisker: I have an amazing wife who is very understanding about my craziness. The best way to balance work and home life is to build a team I can trust and who can make decisions on their own without approval from me.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to launch a business?


  1. Plan, plan and plan some more. You can never overplan. Once the plan is in effect, be prepared to pivot and adjust. With any plan, there are always going to be some adjustments.  
  2. Always make sure to build a good team of people around you.
  3. Communication is the key to life. If we can correctly communicate our wants and needs, you can get whatever you want.
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