California Western alum, Steven R. Pietro ‘93 has always been passionate about the foodservice industry.
Essentially, Pietro put himself through college and law school working in that business. Even while he was working at the Miami Dade County Public Defender’s Office, and later as a successful criminal defense litigator he always kept a foot in the foodservice industry by being a partner and owner of several bars and restaurants.
However, the global financial crisis of 2008 made Pietro shift gears. “I saw a way to serve my country while at the same time doing something that I love and that is extremely rewarding,” Pietro recalls.
His J.D. from California Western gave him the ideal background to change industries full time. “My law degree has helped me on pretty much all fronts in my life,” says Pietro. “The knowledge and skill sets that I learned, particularly in terms of contracts, negotiation, mediation, problem-solving, and planning for the future all provided a foundational framework to branch into just about any field of work or profession.”
Combining his desire to give back to his country and fulfilling his passion for foodservice, Pietro founded Justice Government Supply, Inc. (JGS) a decade ago to serve the women and men in uniform center-of-the-plate beef and pork products.
Providing U.S. Forces with “A True Taste of Home”, Pietro is proud of the fact that co-owner of the business, CEO Grady Renville, is a service-disabled veteran who served in three of the four branches of the U.S. military, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, and he is also a Native American of a recognized tribe.
Pietro believes that California Western provided a cutting-edge curriculum that expanded his reach and opened his eyes to the complexities and inner working relationship of multiple disciplines. “I utilize my legal training on a daily basis even though I no longer practice law ‘in the traditional sense,’” says Pietro.
The sheer logistics and economies of scale involved in going from selling one pork chop, or hamburger, or T-bone steak at a time to now selling 250,000 pounds of a product was challenging and exciting at the same time says Pietro.
“In less than two years, during the war in Afghanistan, we were the number one bulk ground beef provider worldwide,” says Pietro. “Those logistical challenges of shipping full container loads of a frozen product into a war zone through several different countries all with different laws and guidelines was very challenging, but we did it flawlessly.”
One fundamental lesson Pietro maintains from his legal training is that there is always a solution and he operates JGS on the philosophy that “failure is not an option.”
“What our troops provide on a daily basis is unimaginable, particularly in warzone or conflict regions,” he says. ”They don’t go out to fail or to do a mediocre job; they strive for excellence and success. I would be remiss if I did not adopt and maintain that very attitude.”
Pietro has some simple advice to today’s California Western students, and that is to keep an open mind. “If someone would have told me in 1989 when I entered law school that I would be traveling to Afghanistan, or Dubai or Korea to serve our troops, I would have probably laughed,” says Pietro. “And yet, here I am doing just that. The skills that we learn in law school are not mutually exclusive to all other professions in life; rather they are transferable to any number of professions and businesses.”
Pietro believes his time at California Western laid a foundation for the future and truly enhanced his education and skills in multiple areas.
“A legal education is the best training in the world and can never be taken away from any of us even if we don’t utilize it by practicing law,” concludes Pietro. “Yet in every instance, including my own, we remain true to ourselves and strive to make a difference in the world, no matter how big or small.”
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