3 Years of No Regrets (+We’re Hiring!)

Today is a special day because. . .

This is the day that our meal plan service turns 3!

  • By Jess Dang
  • May 1, 2016

Even though I became a mom to a real life human being last August, a part of me will always feel like this meal plan service was my first baby.

And raising this baby over the last 3 years has not been easy, but I have absolutely no regrets.

Just like a baby, it took ~9 months of incubation to get it ready for the world. I wanted to launch a new kind of meal plan service – one that helped people answer, “What’s for dinner?” AND taught them how to cook at the same time.

To do this, I had to create and photograph a bunch of meal plans, film and edit instructional videos, and learn to design and code the front end of our site. It felt crazy, but with no budget, it was just what had to be done.

I luckily had a coding partner-in-crime, Jen Gilbert. She was also in her early 30’s, decided she wanted to leave her job as an editor and wanted to learn to code instead.

Here we are working till 3 AM at my house, which sadly was pretty normal the weeks before launch:

And on May 1st, 2013, our meal plan service went live on the internet, and we even signed up a few paying customers on day 1!

But there was still so much to do . . . and it was just me (because Jen was so awesome, she got a job as a real software developer). So I begged for some interns.

Here we are working out of my Mountain View garage (though our story is unlikely to turn out like Google’s):

But then they had to go back to school.

And it was just me again, and the site was bringing in a sad, sad amount of money. I was burned out from working nonstop for a year and a half, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep the business alive.

But I kept plugging away and things started to pick up around the end of 2013.

We just kept growing and growing, thanks to word of mouth from our customers, which helped us get voted as the #1 Meal Planning App on Lifehacker and featured on The Today Show.

Instead of lying awake worrying about whether the business would shut down at 4 AM, my worries turned to, “How the heck am I going to grow the business all by myself?”

With the realization I could no longer do everything, I started hiring. This was super scary but asking for help and hiring the right people was the best thing I could ever do for my company.

Today Cook Smarts has 3 employees residing in California, Kansas and Washington, D.C., plus a half a dozen contractors who support our website development, graphics design, and videos. We all work remotely, but stay in constant communication together through awesome apps like Asana, Basecamp, Google Drive and Hangouts, and Uber Conference.

We even made one of my long-time wishes a reality – our website got a complete makeover! Our site had come a long way, and though it was a lovely place to start 3+ years ago, we’ve created so much new content and rolled out several new products these last few years that the structure of our site just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Look how much it has progressed:

Our team  managed to work together for almost a year without meeting in person, but last month, we finally all got together in D.C.

Here we are at Momofuku restaurant after a jam-packed day of discussing Cook Smarts strategy:

(If you’re wondering, we ordered almost everything, and it was delicious.)

Follow us @cooksmarts on Instagram for more behind-the-scene photos!

I was so energized from our time together that I couldn’t fall asleep till 2:30 in the morning that night!

One of the biggest topics of discussion was what we need to grow through 2016 and beyond. Our answer: We need to expand our team some more, so we’re hiring again!

We’re looking for an Outreach Coordinator to join our team some time between June and July. If you are interested in this position at all, you can get all the details here. We want to hire someone within our community or our community’s community, so if you can help us spread the word by posting the job to Facebook, I’d be so appreciative.

I’m super excited about celebrating our Meal Plan Service’s 3rd birthday and hope we can add another member to our family soon!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who has supported us – family, friends, all of our wonderful Kitchen Heroes, and of course, you.

While turning an idea into a product has been great, the real reward has always been the community that’s come out of all this.

I consider myself so very lucky that I go to bed every night excited to wake up in the morning and do work that I love, that also makes a difference.

I couldn’t ask for anything better as our product turns 3.


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