In 2008, Neat Meat founder Simon Eriksen was about to open stores around the country.

Retail had seemed a natural evolution seven years after starting the fast-growing meat wholesaler to the hospitality industry. But he was called at the eleventh hour to a meeting with his lawyer and accountant.

They warned him that the timing was lousy for the economy and advised him to "pick lower hanging fruit".

"Since then we have done retail in our own premises at 47, The Strand and developed our online retail with our website," says Eriksen. Two years' later, the Neat Meat online business is well established and growing at a rate of 25 per cent monthly. And the company has attracted regular advice from a loyal customer, Sir Michael Fay.

Neat Meat, with 34 staff, is a family business. The three Eriksen brothers grew up on the Waikoko station near Gisborne. Simon Eriksen heads the business, William does the sales side and Tim the IT and systems.

Co-shareholder Andy Ham is in charge of operations and finance. The business was set up in 2001 when Eriksen saw a gap in the market for supplying top-quality meat to New Zealand consumers and restaurants.

"Neat Meat sits between the meat industry and the hospitality industry," says Eriksen.

The New Zealand lamb and beef market had a high standard of export quality meat cuts, but the domestic market felt hard done by for what was on offer.

"The good stuff is here," says Eriksen, "but you've got to know the right plant and the right regions."

In the beginning, Neat Meat, which now sources the bulk of its meat half from Affco NZ and half from Anzco Foods, approached the NZ Angus Association about developing Angus Pure, a brand of the highest-quality beef available: wholly organic, pH tested and aged for a number of weeks. Eriksen created the 6 Star System which identifies whether the animal has been grass or grain fed, and is grown with organic farming methods.

The business now provides a wide range of different quality cuts of beef, lamb and pork to its restaurant and hotel customers including Simon Gault's restaurants, The Jervois Steakhouse and Euro, as well as The French Cafe and hotels such as SkyCity, the Langham and Accor.

Neat Meat bought Harmony, which produces free range pork, a couple of years ago. Eriksen has a soft spot for pigs, especially wild boar.

When he went to London for his OE, with his agri-business degree from Massey University, he set up a couple of wild boar farms on the outskirts of London and sold the meat to Waitrose. He now has two wild boar farms in New Zealand, and sells the Razorback brand.

Nine years on, Neat Meat has an annual turnover of $14.5 million and has expanded to Hong Kong and Australia. Eriksen, a King's College old boy, draws regularly on his network from school to grow.

"The old boy network is unbelievable," he says.

He went to school with his accountant, Andrew Harris from Grant Thornton. And it's no coincidence Neat Meat is next to Juicy Rentals in the Strand. His friend from King's Tim Alpe runs it. Eriksen is also talking to former King's boy, Rick Knight from online wine business Blackmarket.co.nz about joint marketing.

Eriksen tries to keep his business performing to best practice. Neat Meat has a board which includes the shareholders, brothers, Simon, William, Tim, Andy Ham and and one non-shareholder, Dan Gilbert, who is national sales manager of National Foods' Australia. The board meets monthly and the company's National Bank manager and accountant attend every two months but speak every other day.

The small business has had to weather the recession like everyone else. Restaurants have had a quiet time but Eriksen just stepped up his business customers to make up for the shortfall.

"Most of these guys cut back by 20 per cent, so we picked up 20 per cent more business."

"Our business is quite broad," he adds. Neat Meat is supplying the dominant airline caterer LSG, as well as Eden Park, Ellerslie Convention, Austins, and Dawsons.