Ilia Papas is the Founder and CTO of Blue Apron, fresh ingredients and great recipes delivered weekly to your home.
Our product is inherently social–not only are our customers generally cooking or eating with at least one other person, they are also very active on social media, so many of our customers have an idea of our benefits before they reach the site. We reduce potential friction by announcing recipes a week in advance and giving customers the ability to skip any week they choose, addressing any uncertainties the customer might have while signing up.
We have a pretty firm philosophy here of taking ownership of initiatives and running with them. This is intentional, but also happened somewhat organically due to the diverse set of skills our operation requires, spanning food, technology, marketing, operations—the list goes on. That diversity means we all have to trust each other’s decisions, but it also clears the way for people to take ownership of initiatives and push them forward without a lot of second-guessing and micromanagement, resulting in constant rapid progress.
When you’re shipping fresh food, quality customer service is everything. We generally do everything we can to accommodate our customers’ needs and often go above and beyond to make sure they’re receiving the best possible experience. For instance, a customer’s shipment was recently missing a container of tahini, and we called a local market in their neighborhood to deliver one to them free of charge.
When I first started telling people about the business, I was convinced that the convenience of having recipes and groceries delivered to your door would be our best selling point. However, as I used the product at home each week, I realized what really made Blue Apron special was the new ingredients and recipes that I would never discover on my own, much less every week. When I would pitch people, my genuine enthusiasm was evident, and I discovered that that enthusiasm can be contagious.
Our first delivery went out to 30 customers, which were comprised of our friends and family, and the product began to spread by word of mouth. Not surprisingly, word of mouth continues to be one of our most valuable sources of new customers. When people are constantly posting their dishes on Facebook and Instagram, word spreads fast.
Before starting Blue Apron, I had a stable job ...