From private banker to high-end butcher

@Money April 18, 2012: 12:33 PM ET

(Money Magazine) -- As a VP and senior private banker at J.P. Morgan Chase in Chicago, Terry Walsh was the point person for high-net-worth clients. He'd been working his way up in banking since graduating from college. But all the while, he'd dreamed of doing something else: opening a butcher shop.

It was, after all, what his great-grandfather had done. Walsh's father wasn't part of the business -- which included 12 shops, in Illinois and New York -- but Terry remembers visiting the stores a few times. "I was intrigued by the idea of selling good cuts of meat," he recalls.

As Walsh got serious about becoming a butcher in recent years, he ran the idea by everyone he met. "People told me they disliked the quality of meats at grocery stores," he says. "They couldn't find select cuts." He also consulted his cousins, still in the business in New York, on choosing meat purveyors and pricing product.

Given his career in banking, it's hardly surprising that Walsh saved up for his plan. By October 2008, he'd socked away $120,000. And with his office slated to move to a less convenient location in the city, "I felt the timing was perfect," he says. So Walsh, who is single, put banking behind him.

He had his eye on a storefront in a hip Chicago neighborhood. But he waited until the other tenant in the subdivided space signed on.

"We weren't going to get foot traffic next to a nail salon," he says. After learning it would be a wine store, he jumped.

Walsh opened Sterling Goss (a name he made up to connote quality) in the fall of 2008. The shop grossed $180,000 its first full year. For 2012, Walsh expects sales of $320,000, 10% of which will be profit. Sterling Goss may not be a cash cow to date, admits Walsh, who has three employees and hasn't yet paid himself. "But this is my dream, and I'm living it," he says.

How he did it

How much startup costs exceeded estimates: 58%. Walsh figured his $120,000 would cover inventory and build-out. But refrigerated cases cost more than budgeted, so he had to borrow $70,000 on a HELOC. He hopes to erase the balance in five years.

Salary Walsh hopes to draw in 2012: $30,000. To cover living expenses for the past three years, he cashed out $80,000 of his other investments. He also cut his costs -- for example, trading his Lexus for a pickup that he can write off. "I've lived frugally but eaten well," he jokes.

Year he expects to match his old salary: 2015. Revenue was up 10% last year. Walsh expects growth of another 39% in 2012 once he starts selling sausages to restaurants and expands his catering business. If he maintains 30% yearly growth after that, he'll hit $1 million in revenue by 2015 and can draw a salary in the low six figures.

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