As VP of Marketing at Fresh Prep, Josh Bluman has helped grow the meal kit delivery service from 100 customers to over 6000 in roughly one year. Bringing experience from Hootsuite and multiple eComm businesses, Josh knows a lot about quickly gaining momentum. Emma Bullen caught up with him to talk about his career path, and get his top three tips on how to rapidly grow customers.
Emma Bullen: Tell me about your career path. How did you get to where you are today?
Josh Bluman: I’ve been doing marketing for most of my career, and I’ve had an interest in digital marketing, right from the beginning. I started at BCIT where I did a marketing communications program and went on to work at a boutique marketing agency. From there I went on to another larger marketing agency and then became interested in starting my own business. I started a small online business with a partner and was able to leave my job at the time and focus on that as well as doing a bit of traveling. When I came back, I was able to maintain that business while starting another small business.
Around the same time, I got a great opportunity working for Hootsuite. I was able to keep my businesses running on the side while taking on a challenging full-time role. After a couple of years there, working in online strategy, I got involved with Fresh Prep. I was one of their first few customers and I was so blown away by the service that I reached out to the owners to find a way to get involved, helping it grow from the early stages. Here we are today with a big office space in East Vancouver and over sixty employees.
EB: What does Fresh Prep offer?
JB: Fresh Prep is a meal kit delivery service that makes it easy for busy people to cook high-quality meals in about 15-30 minutes. We pre-chop and pre-portion all the ingredients for any different recipe you choose, and we deliver those recipe kits right to your home or office. The menu changes every week, so you set up your taste preferences and we continue to deliver to you. You keep the recipe kit in the fridge, so anytime you get home from work, you’re hungry, you pull out the kit, and you’re good to go.
EB: This is a really competitive market. What sets you apart from the competition?
JB: It’s definitely a competitive space, but we believe there are a number of things we do that make us stand out. One is that we pre-chop a lot of our ingredients; we focus on making the experience as simple as possible for our customers. You won’t find any meals that take an hour to create. We do everything we can to cut down on time.
Another piece is that we have our own drivers. Unlike our competitors who use FedEx to deliver, we have our own fleet of drivers, so we can fully control the customer experience. It also allows us to deliver everything in a cooler bag instead of a disposable cardboard box. Our customers recycle the cooler bag by exchanging it with us each week. So that’s great for the environment, and it’s a lot more convenient.
Most importantly, our meals are great. We use local high-quality ingredients, direct from the source. Many competitors stick to several major suppliers, across the country but we’ve found success in focusing on local suppliers from Vancouver and high-quality ingredients.
EB: You’ve been at Fresh Prep from the early days. What were the first couple of things that you did when you came into Fresh Prep?
JB: When I came in, I first had to understand the company’s goals and where we wanted to get in the next twelve months, six months, three months and understand how much we were willing to spend to get there. I spent time learning about the company, its customers, and what marketing levers I could use to create a clear path to reach our goals.
We saw a huge opportunity with the website to improve the conversion rate and search traffic, significantly driving up the number of new customers signing up each month. And then we experimented with several marketing channels like facebook ads, paid search, and even some more traditional channels and have continued with what’s worked best for us.
EB: What three tips could you give me for rapidly growing customers for startups.
JB: My first one would be to focus. There are so many things you can do and it’s so easy to spread yourself thin across various marketing channels. Pick one thing to start with and master it; that will yield so much more potential. The challenge is knowing where to focus, so it’s important to evaluate and understand where you should put your time. If you spread yourself too thin across too many things, nothing will get done right.
I would also say to try to avoid planning too far ahead. Short-term plans are really effective for startups, especially now as everything moves so fast in the marketing space. So focusing but keeping a long term vision in mind, I think focusing plans on three or six-month cycles is the way to go. That way you can learn from what you’re doing and you can change faster. In general, I would say the smaller you are, the shorter your cycles should be.
My third tip would be to avoid copying bigger brands. It’s tempting when you see what a large brand is doing and think, “I’ve got to do that, too.” But in fact what got that big company to where they are today is not necessarily what they are doing now.
EB: How would you describe Fresh Prep’s company culture?
JB: The culture is reflective of the founders, and there’s definitely a very humble, modest attitude throughout the workplace. No one thinks they’re better than anyone else, and everyone is really there because they like doing their work. Decisions are made on facts and not just opinions. There’s also a culture of giving back and this is also reflected in our service. We try to work with nonprofits where we can, whether that’s working with Open Door Group, or donating leftover meals to neighborhood houses.
EB: Are you currently hiring?
JB: We are! Go to www.freshprep.ca and you can check out our jobs there.
EB: What’s your favorite question to ask in an interview?
JB: In general I like asking puzzles that challenge people’s critical thinking abilities. So if it’s a web optimization role, for example, it would be a question related to web optimization where there may not be an obvious answer to that question, but I want to understand about how that person thinks and solves problems.
EB: What’s a quality you look for in every employee?
JB: They have to be motivated in their field. If someone is motivated it makes things easier off the bat, they already want to do the job, and they already care about their work. The other thing I look for is great critical thinking. Someone who is analytical and strategic.
EB: What’s the most useful piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
JB: I think it’s something I’ve picked up from some of the great people I’ve worked with, which is just learning to stick your neck out and to have the confidence to take on something that you may not know how to do. Business changes quickly and it’s the people that can take on the unknown and make it work who grow the fastest in their careers.
EB: What book do you most often recommend to friends?
JB: I’ve just read Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight and I definitely recommend that one. It’s for anyone who likes Nike and it’s great business book in general. It really makes you appreciate the time and challenges that come with building a successful business, and there are some key takeaways that I am now using in my work today.