Are You Keeping It Real?

One of the first real characters I met when I arrived in to the States more then twenty years ago was Matt Rimel. Everyone else could have been directly out of a Ralph Lauren ad, but Matt was like Mickey Rourke at his best—rough around the edges, outspoken and proudly American. Comfortable in his own skin, he said whatever was on his mind and paired it with his signature laugh. Back then, he didn’t have a planned career path and he was trying to figure out what to do next. But he always knew who he was.

Fast-forward to today and Matt is an incredibly successful, passionate entrepreneur who oversees a diverse group of connected businesses. He’s been extremely disciplined about letting his passions guide his business choices and the pursuit of his lifelong dream of owning a ranch. Matt grew up in Southern California, and fell in love early on with hunting, fishing, surfing, his beautiful wife Jacqueline and cooking—probably in that order. He’s always been a hunter whether it’s with a bow, line or a gun, and today his focus and outspokenness reminds me of Gordon Ramsey.

In 1996 before natural and organic eating became a movement, Matt and Jacqui decided that La Jolla, California needed healthy takeout food. They opened a small rotisserie chicken restaurant and haven’t looked back since. They worked hard running the restaurant, and Matt continued to hunt and fish. Along the way he started Ocean Giant, a distribution business that supplies local restaurants with line-caught big fish, and as he built this business, he saw a significant demand for this type of high quality fish. That was the spark that motivated him to open his next venture, Zenbu, a sushi restaurant also based in La Jolla.

All of their businesses are fueled by his passions and desire to do something better than he can find available. As they added more restaurants, Matt was searching for local grass-fed beef. He’d been hunting on a friend’s local ranch for years, and one afternoon the two sparked up a conversation and the next business was born—Homegrown Meats, an old-school butcher shop offering only hormone and antibiotic-free meats, including beef, lamb, poultry, game, homemade sausages, custom cuts and local grass-fed and grass-finished beef from his partner’s ranch. As the butcher shop gained notoriety, it inspired Matt and his partners, the Mendenhall family, to form the Homegrown Cattle Company. They are currently a major grass-fed beef supplier to Whole Foods Markets Inc. in San Diego and Orange counties, as well as to local restaurants.

Matt doesn’t call this sustainability; he calls it the way it should be. All of the mesquite burned in his rotisserie ovens, as well as the wood used to make the bars in his restaurants, come from the local ranch, the fish served in his restaurants are from Ocean Giant, and the grass-fed beef offered in his restaurants are from Homegrown Meats. After talking about how he runs his business and how he’s designed his life, it all seems to be about as authentic as it can get.

Until recently Winston Churchill was always my go-to man in history for inspirational speeches, wit and words of wisdom. While studying to become a U.S. citizen a few months ago, however, I came across Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” and was taken by his wisdom and power for living life. “It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows with great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end, the triumph of achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Matt has dared greatly in the years that I’ve known him. He’s always pushing the limits by looking for a better way, and if he can’t find it out there, he usually thinks about creating it himself or building it with close friends. With Matt what you see is what you get—and what you see is a man who followed his dreams and stays close to his passions. 

Matt and Jacqui have worked extremely hard and designed a life that is fueled by doing what they love. They’ve built each of their businesses on the same principles that many companies and individuals are striving for—being real and authentic. Here are a few thoughts to consider on the journey:

1. Always be true to yourself and what you believe in. Consistently lead with your values and don’t vary them for the people that surround you.
2. Fuel your life and your work with your passions.
3. Success takes time, hard work, determination, patience and a little luck.
4. Look inside and immediately outside of your own personal or business network for new ideas and inspiration.
5. Don’t live in the middle. Push yourself to the edges.

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