Tom Blessing was your typical Wall Street investment banker. The Indiana University Kelley School of Business graduate was working 12-hour days at a Manhattan firm called Sandler, O’Neil & Partners. When he finished his long days, he usually ate out, often at a fast food restaurant.
He said he loved to cook but he wishes he had more time. He wishes he could just walk into a store and pick up a package of ingredients all pre-proportioned so he could knock out a fresh meal in a half hour.
“I wanted to feel better and to cook better,” he said. “So I create the product that I wish would have existed.”
That’s why in 2012 the 27-year-old banker left New York and searched for a town to start his own company. He thought Carmel had the perfect demographics for his new venture: FreshArtistry.com.
Visitors to his website can choose three recipes a week and then all of the ingredients and instructions are overnight shipped to their homes. While massive national services such as Plated.com and BlueApron.com might be more well-known, Blessing said his company is different because he focuses on Hoosier palates. He only ships within the state of Indiana and he gets all of his meats from local farms and providers, such as Moody’s Butcher Shop. Meals are designed by a chef recruited from Black Swan Brewpub.
Here’s how it works. Subscribers log on and pick their recipes for the week, which have included items such as beef stew, fish tacos, sweet potato and black bean enchiladas, turkey burgers, chicken kabobs and stuffed portabellas. You can pay $89.97 a week for three meals that feed a family of five or $59.97 a week for three meals that feed two adults. Subscribers can pause at any time and the deadline is Sunday by midnight so Blessing can order all of the ingredients and have it shipped out by Wednesday or Thursday.
Blessing said focus groups show that convenience is the biggest reason people are interested in his service. That’s why he brings in people to test out each recipe to make sure it’s easy to put together and the instructions are clear and concise. A busy professional saves the time of going to grocery store and in many cases the ingredients are pre-chopped and prepared.
“We are trying to take the approach of, ‘What can we do to make a family’s life easier?’” Blessing said. “We know they might still go out to eat sometimes, so that’s why we have three meals a week. We’re trying to fit in to their existing routine. We just want to give them a healthy, fresh, convenient option for when they do eat at home.”
The next goal is to grow the subscriber base to the size where Blessing can order larger quantities of ingredients to save money. He wants to buy a pallet of ice packs which would significantly cut costs. A larger customer base would also mean more recipes and more options for gluten-free or vegetarian menus.
And while Blue Apron or Plated might seem like the competition, Blessing thanks those Web sites for increasing awareness of the recipes-by-mail business model. He said his site is different and more local.
“I believe that people already want the product that we offer,” he said. “We have to make them aware that we exist.”