The Lawyer Behind The Healthy Butcher

The Lawyer Behind The Healthy Butcher

Mario Fiorucci is the lawyer that started The Healthy Butcher, a Toronto based butcher shop offering high quality local meats. Along with his wife Tara, Mario built The Healthy Butcher from the ground up and on the values of only selling meat that is organically raised and treated ethically.

We spoke to Mario and learned about his experiences in law school, in practice, and in business.

The Road to Law School

Mario Fiorucci studied physics and computer science in his undergrad, however he was not very interested in pursuing a career in the sciences. He was looking for something else, and wanted to further his studies, which prompted his decision to apply to law school.

“When deciding to go to law school, you have very little knowledge of the real world. Once you’re there, you’re still gaining your footing and trying to understand what you’re good at and what you want to do.”

In law school, he was able to apply his science background in areas such as technology law. His mindset at the time was on graduating and practicing law and he had no idea that he would eventually be leaving to pursue something else.

Leaving Law

Mario articled and practiced corporate law for three years at McCarthy Tetrault in Toronto. He recognizes that year three was a good time to leave because by that point he had gained a ton of experience, but also was not so set in his place. He could clearly see where his career was going at the firm and had to decide whether he wanted to continue.

“I tried it out, I was doing well, and I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.”

At the time, Mario and his wife Tara were both vegetarians, not because they didn’t want to eat meat, but because they were disgusted with the meat available to them.

“I very much respect vegetarians that do it well, but very little do it well in terms of properly balancing their diet and being able to enjoy the food that they’re eating.”

They started looking for meat that they could feel good about eating, that is organically raised and ethically treated right. After going to countless shops and being dissatisfied with their knowledge on the meat they sell, they started going straight to farms to buy their meat. Of course, when living in a condo in downtown Toronto, that is not the most convenient thing to do. At that point, Mario and Tara realized that there was a market for a butcher shop that sells only high quality and organic meat.

Excited by this opportunity, Mario and Tara both left their busy Bay street jobs (her being an investment banker) and decided to open The Healthy Butcher.

Taking on a New Role

It took them about a year after they quit to have a plan in place. Unlike some other lawyers who quit practice, Mario does not advocate for working at a firm and trying to start a business simultaneously. He says that especially at the big corporate firms, you’re working a significant amount of hours and do not have the time to properly put in the work of planning your business.

“In order to do anything well, you have to focus and dedicate yourself.”

They started out with their Queen Street store and were there everyday during construction, with their hardhats on, making sure it was all going smoothly.

“We were bootstrapping it from the beginning. We washed dishes, helped customers, and did everything that had to be done. It was a great experience.”

Now, The Healthy butcher has three locations and an online store where they deliver throughout Toronto. Mario’s current role is very focused on growth and building the online store. He says that the next stage for them is to open a new location next year.

We asked Mario what the biggest factor was in his success. He immediately replied with his values.

“Our strength from day one is the fact that we had solid values and we’ve never bent our rules or done anything to compromise them. That’s why we’re still here over a decade later and still growing.”

The Transition

Mario attributes a lot of his knowledge of business from practicing corporate law. He worked closely with companies and got to learn how they are run and how they operate. His entire experience from law school to leaving practice taught him valuable skills used daily. Whether it’s legal specific or simple negotiations (from a long contract to just a handshake), the law background makes a difference.

“Lawyers do more than practice law. It’s a relationship businesses and those traits are carried over into anything you do.”

That being said, that doesn’t mean that Mario didn’t face challenges in his transition. First, being in his industry, there were some legislative challenges because regulations have been changing. They also had financial struggles, since they were funding themselves.

“It’s a strength and a weakness. It holds you back in some ways because you’re watching every penny making sure its being spent properly. Growth becomes somewhat limited.”

Another challenge Mario emphasized was hiring the right people. Over the years, they have learned to move away from hiring because of experience or educational background because those are not the most important qualities. He has found that it is difficult to find people that are motivated.

“If there is a positive attitude, a willingness to learn, and self-motivation, then that’s all we need.”

Not-So-Legal Advice

Mario’s story strongly emphasized learning and building on his existing knowledge. His legal education gave him a framework, but he advises everyone no matter who they are to constantly keep learning and improving.

Specifically, if you’re a lawyer who wants to quit law, Mario says you have nothing to lose.

“Definitely have a plan in place. Research what you want to do and have a good understanding of where you’re going to go.”

Mario knows that lawyers never stop being lawyers, so even if the worst happens, you can always go back to practice.

“There’s nothing stopping you from doing anything you want to do.”

Wise words from this healthy butcher…