Your Questions, Answered

Posted October 6, 2014

We've got someone from Boston starting a Meat Collective and he had a few questions. I thought I'd post his questions and my answers here for all to read.

Question: How was a rate for instructors established?

Answer: I determine my rate based on how much experience the instructor has both as a butcher and as an instructor. I also determined the price based on what butchers or chefs are typically paid in their normal jobs. As well, you have to take into consideration what students are willing to pay for a class. There are plenty of butchers who want me to pay them $1000 a class and I just can't justify it, unless I raise my class rates substantially. Typically the instructors are working for 4 maybe 5 hours and we are doing all set up and clean up for them. So I take that into consideration too. In the beginning of the PMC I paid all my instructors $150 a class. I still start most instructors out at that rate. But there are certainly some that make more depending on their experience.

Question: I also wonder if anyone in the alliance has any experience with Jero brand knives. I have been considering this knife set but im concerned about the longevity if its a poor brand.

Answer: In the beginning I used Victorinox almost exclusively. Then I developed a relationship with Wusthof and started using their knives. Both are great. I have not had to replace any of my knives and I have been happy with the blades.

Question: I spoke to a few companies and they both say they cant insure a meat collective. One actually said "what if someone cuts their hand off!" Are their any strategies for approaching insurance companies. Also when I get to considering a package i was thinking of insuring the BMC per event is their any reason not to do this.

Answer: Did you speak to an insurance agent or directly to an insurance company? My insurance agent managed to get me insurance, and so far as I know, all of the other Meat Collectives out there have also managed to get it. I mean, you are no different than a culinary school, and culinary schools are most certainly insured. Butcher shops are insured too. However, it is true, most insurance companies will say "OMG. Knives! No!" This doesn't mean they won't insure you. You really should get an insurance agent who knows how to talk the talk to the insurance companies, as opposed to talking directly to an insurance company. There's lingo and ways to explain the business model that your insurance agent will know better than you do. My insurance agent was unable to get any of the major/primary insurance companies to insure us, but he did get a secondary insurance company to insure us. We had to also work with a financier to back our insurance (i.e. they pay up front and we pay them on a monthly basis). Some of the things that the insurance company wanted to know: Do you teach knife safety skills at the beginning of class. YES! Of course we do. We also have students sign a waiver of liability. Another way to make the insurance company calm down is to provide protective gloves and chainmail for your students. I'd suggest talking to an agent who will then do the talking for you. I am happy to put you in touch with mine and maybe he can find someone in the Boston area for you. He can also tell you the things that came up when he tried to find us insurance. It's all about how you phrase everything. He is a Farmer's Insurance agent. But he got me insurance through Essex Insurance Company. I looked into just getting temporary event insurance for each class, which you totally could do in the beginning, but I started doing too many classes to make that feasible. It was a lot of paper work every time and also would end up being more money.

Question: How are the other collectives dealing with class cancellation? I was thinking of bootstrapping in the beginning and only reserving the class room and the animal after registration was full and paid.The only problem I see is if someone cancels. Please advise. I'd like to hear the wisdom of experience.

Answer: This is all in the ebook, which hopefully you bought and have read. But to reiterate: We require all our students to prepay. We will only hold a class if at least 8 people can attend. At least that's what works for our numbers. We do however have to reserve the classroom and the animal before we know this (otherwise we might be scrambling for space or animals at the last minute which is not good). We usually make the call as to whether or not to hold a class about 4 or 5 days before the class date. Our farmers need way more notice than that if we want animals from them. We always have people prepay for classes. Trust us, don't ever have people just come to class and pay because if they haven't paid they often will decide just not to come at the last minute. If we do have to cancel a class, usually the farmers can find another buyer for the meat/animal, but if they can't we will help them find one by emailing our students or posting on our Meat Collectives Switchboard. Or even just asking friends or family if they want a side of pork or whatever. If we have to cancel our kitchen reservation, the kitchen's don't really seem to care provided we give them notice (we're already competing with so many other people for that space, that they usually find other people to fill it somehow). We also have a strict refund policy too, which we make sure people get automatically by email when they pay for our classes. This is what we tell them:

"Our classes greatly depend on enough students pooling their money together to purchase the animals needed for the class. While we do the purchasing for you, you pay for the purchase. And we have to order the animals ahead of time. If everyone dropped out of the class at the last minute, you are still technically the owners of those animals. Since we are a traveling butchery school, we’ve nowhere to put the animals for safekeeping. For this reason we must have a refund policy that covers the cost of the animals no matter if a student can make it or not. If you wish to still get your share of meat, even though you can’t make the class, we can arrange for that. Our policy is as follows:

If students cancel 7 or more days before the class date: 100% will be refunded.

If students cancel 3 to 6 days before the class date: 50% will be refunded.

If students cancel with less than 2 day’s notice before the class date: 0% will be refunded."

To me it's best to assume you are going to sell at least 8 spots in the class (10 or 12 is of course better) and to make sure that if you do get at least 8 people signed up and paid for, that you have everything in place beforehand. We tell our kitchens and our farmers that occasionally we may need to cancel but we will give them as much notice as we can. We do hold classes even if we are just going to break even, although we try to make sure that doesn't happen very often.