For New Englander Jared Auerbach, the ocean was always in his blood, and growing up, he would romanticize the idea of harvesting fish for his family. In fact, during our interview, he couldn’t help but gaze out at the sparkling Boston Harbor, yearning to join the fellow fishermen for a fresh catch of the day. Considering his undeniable passion, it’s no wonder he eventually launched his own company Red’s Best, supporting community fisherman while bringing fresh seafood to the local community. We got to catch up with Jared to chat sustainable fishing practices, their high-tech tractability software and his big dreams for the future.
R.K.: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
J.A.: I grew up in the Boston area and no one in my family is really in the industry, but I was drawn to the ocean, fishing and seafood. I had that love my whole life and really romanticized that idea of harvesting fish and feeding my family. Out of college, I started commercial fishing and headed up to Alaska on a boat fishing out there, and ultimately fished back in New England for a while when I truly fell in love with the industry.
Seeing the supply chain as a consumer, I was compelled to learn more and set out to do that! I was off and on with commercial fishing gigs and taking odd jobs around town. Then in 2008, I found my niche and started Red’s Best. Last Sunday was our 10-year anniversary from when I first rented a truck and started selling fish. We’ve scaled a lot since then and here we are!
R.K.: Tell me more about your sourcing methods!
J.A.: From the beginning, I wanted to create a business of scale to be impactful, while also working with a lot of smaller, community fishing boats. We got our feet wet, but it was very difficult to scale since every time we buy fish off a boat there’s a fixed cost, which can be very expensive. Back in the early days, this created an unleveled playing field for the smaller boats so we had to figure out how to make this scalable.
Fast forward to today: Our drivers show up on the docks and they can enter the information immediately as the fish comes off the boat and that information is available in real-time to our sales team. Our innovative technology platform helped us scale while keeping in alignment with my values! It’s important for me to keep the fisherman happy. We’re proud that on a busy day in the summer we’ll have hundreds of transactions— some big and some small. And not a day goes by where someone isn’t selling me just one fish, but that’s real money and real food that’s nourishing our community.
It’s a very complex business with more than 80 employees, but at the end of the day, it’s about giving our community access to the oceans. Right now I’m looking at this amazing abundance of ocean life and I don’t see trash—I see miles of the Boston Harbor. I see such optimism and thriving oceans, and want others to experience this too!
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
J.A.: Everything! I’m a self-taught business person, so I could write a business book on all the mistakes I’ve made and had to learn the hard way. The biggest challenge is getting people to be flexible in their seafood choices, and I work hard on this. More often than not, the fishermen give us the fish and trust us to sell it for a fair price, so our whole world is about supply and demand. That dictates price and we do our best in that paradigm.
With the ocean, what draws us in is the unpredictability. We don’t have consistent supply as it changes with the tide, the moon and the year in ways we can’t even understand. With this inevitability, we’ll have a misalignment of supply and demand where we may have hake and you wanted haddock, or the fisherman caught the “wrong” species for you, and I’m sitting here pulling my hair out.
Whether that’s being in farmer’s markets or opening up a retail shop in the Boston Public Market, it’s all about finding ways to influence flexible supply and demand and educate our consumers. This includes storytelling around the wonderful fisherman we work with, which really resonates with people and you may become more willing to try something new. You’ll say, “I want that guy telling me what to eat.” We also create access by building retail locations and working with the city of Boston to get seafood into farmer’s markets.
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
J.A.: Yes, New England is a global seafood hub! I don’t take for granted the health and sustainability of our local waters and I’m really proud of that. I’m proud of the company, but it’s important we’re humble and the history of the industry is very important to the people who work here. I just happen to be alive in this era! I was born passionate about this and people want to hear about it.
R.K.: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
J.A.: I think positive changes are coming. I’m ready for drones and technologists to create both the matchmaking infrastructure and the physical infrastructure to give the community access to my fish hub at scale. I have the technology to post every fish we get online for sale, and the systems to create an algorithm, so I’m ready for a technologist to match-make that to my community and figure out a way to actually get it to the people we matched it with! I really believe that’s possible.
R.K.: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
J.A.: The team at 88 Acres are cool people and I like to buy their products. I’m friendly with the guys at American Provisions who are really good guys—they’re a brick and mortar in [South Boston] focusing on local, hand-made products. I’m a fan of the whole Boston Public Market; the honey guy is more passionate about bees than I am about fishermen!
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
J.A.: It changes with the day! For instance, today it was Paul Gautschi who is an organic gardener. The guy who started Kickstarer has a cool story that really spoke to me. I also really admire and look up to these fishermen!
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
J.A.: Through technological advances, my ultimate goal is that people have access to our fish when it’s still sitting in traffic, and to be sold to individual people in my community. I’ll cut the tuna, a robot will bring it to you and you’ll eat it for dinner that night! I want my problem to be that I’m getting new fish too quickly.
Another goal of mine is to show the city this treasure [of the ocean]. There’s just so much history here! Our team is happy to give tours of our fish pier to anybody, anytime!
R.K.: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness or food business?
J.A.: For me, there’s power in saying no to opportunities. When you’re a dreamy-eyed entrepreneur, that’s really important.
R.K.: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
J.A.: Optimistic. Innovative. Self-made entrepreneur. The thing that frustrates me the most is, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” There is no always; I made this all up!
Want more Made in New England? Check out our full series coverage.