It was the loss of her grandmother’s treasured recipes and the opportunity to write a book about ‘killer’ user experience design that led Jodie Moule to create recipe app, Cook. (The app would go on to be nominated by Apple in the App Store as Editor’s Choice, one of the Best New Apps of 2013 and an ‘Essential’ iPad app for the Food & Drink category.) Here we chat with Jodie about Cook…
So, Jodie, tell us about your business…
Cook is a global social network for creating, sharing and swapping recipes with people from around the world. It is beautifully presented in an iPad app, making it perfect for use in the kitchen when you are cooking, or for browsing through the thousands of recipes available within the app when you are sitting on the lounge. Cook is essentially the ‘World’s Cookbook’.
Who are your clients?
Users of the app are passionate foodies the world over who love to browse for meal-time inspiration, or love to access quick and practical recipes to help them prepare for family meals and special occasions with friends. The Cook app has been downloaded nearly one million times with its biggest markets in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and also growing rapidly in a number of Asian countries. There are hundreds of brand new user generated recipes uploaded on a daily basis from around the world, allowing Cook to live up to its position as the ‘World’s Cookbook’.
What prompted you to start your business? Did you identify a gap in the market?
The idea came from a merging of two critical worlds. One being that I love to cook and the other that I was asked to write a book. I have worked in the Customer Experience and Innovation industry for the last 15 years (my other business is a customer-led innovation firm called Symplicit that I have been running with my business partner for the last 11 years).
I am lucky enough through this work to regularly get to look at the world through customer eyes, and imagine new product opportunities for my clients. The idea for Cook was born out of my own frustration at discovering my Grandmother had passed away and not written down any of the family recipes. This meant that cherished dishes that I remember her cooking as a child were gone and could never be recovered. My business partner and I discussed the idea of a digital recipe cookbook that would allow you to create and store recipes, and also allow you to share your recipes with family and friends, so the family heritage that is tied up in food and cooking would be sharable and accessible to a closeknit group of people.
Ideas are worth nothing unless you do something with them – and this idea remained just that for about a year – that is until I was lucky enough to be asked to write a book in 2012 (Killer UX Design) and, as part of this book, I needed to have a case study that showcased the value of taking a Customer Led Innovation / User Experience approach to designing products, services and systems.
Ideas are worth nothing unless you do something with them…
Cook was the case study that we built as a way to showcase the best practice approach to design and development of a digital product. After being nominated by Apple in the App Store as Editor’s Choice, Best New Apps of 2013 and listed as an ‘Essential’ iPad app for the Food & Drink category, I guess you can say the approach works!
What’s special about your business? What’s your ‘Point of Difference’?
The main differentiator of the Cook app is that it is a global social network for swapping and sharing recipes with people from around the world. More than just a standard recipe app that has static content, and only a small amount of recipes within, Cook supplies a constant stream of new content daily. Not only does it allow users to create their own recipe content, but it allows you to browse through content created by people from around the world (e.g. USA, Turkey, Spain, India, Denmark). Our community of users can fill up their own recipe books by adding recipes from these different countries to their own book – meaning they don’t actually have to create content if they don’t want to.
The interesting thing is that you get to see what the average person, from a range of areas around the globe, is actually cooking. This is something that has not ever been done before – a seamless way to create and share recipe content, that is user generated. In this way, Cook is helping to democratise the creation of recipe content, as it is no longer just the domain of famous chefs or celebrity cooks – recipes can be published by the everyday person too – and that is something that has not been done before in an app.
Who are your competitors?
The main competitors to the Cook app would be your physical recipe scrapbook that sits in a draw or a cupboard at home – you know the one, it has bits of paper and recipes you have printed, or torn out of different magazines and books and tried gallantly to consolidate all this information in one place. I used to have one – it’s messy and doesn’t really work because recipes are easily misplaced, and are too hard to browse through. In this new convenient age of digital, where your devices are never very far from your person, Cook represents a much simpler way to manage your recipe content, and carry all the recipes you‘ll ever need for cooking and planning family meals or special occasions with friends – and it all fits in your pocket!
What was your first major achievement in the business?
The day we launched, we were lucky enough to be noticed by Apple and be nominated as an ‘Editor’s Choice’, ‘Best New Apps’ and also profiled as ‘Designed for iOS7’. In our first three weeks, we saw 500,000 downloads of the app worldwide. That was an amazing and surreal few weeks for us – we had to remind ourselves to just savour the moment – it was totally mind-blowing!
What has been your biggest challenge? What obstacles have you overcome?
The biggest challenge in the business at the moment is that we are a FREE app, and despite the worldwide success of the app, we have not yet earned any revenue from the product. ‘Free’ is a very expensive word as a startup, as it means that we don’t have the funds available to expand our team or move as rapidly as we would like; however, our biggest priority is user engagement with the product – so I am happy to report we are kicking some major goals in that area. We are currently looking for investment in the app, so we can move to the next level with the company and get closer to achieving our overall product vision.
What is your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy was initially to create a product that was so beautifully designed, and stupidly simple for people to use, that Apple would hopefully notice us and support us within the App Store. Once downloaded, we needed to make sure that people loved using Cook and kept using it, because it was just so easy; keeping us on their iPads and not just tossing us out to make space for other apps. We figured that if we could achieve those goals, the rest would work itself out.
Since launch, I have been working actively to ensure we are leveraging audiences across other social networks (e.g. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), and I have also worked to get a range of celebrity and known chefs involved with Cook – so that we not only have user generated content but content from better known chefs from around the world, too. These things combined with the fact we are pushing out new app features on a quarterly basis, that make using Cook easier for our community, are basically our approach to keeping us top-of-mind and prominent for food lovers out there.
Who is/was your business inspiration?
I am not sure I have ever had a single person that is a ‘business inspiration’. I have always worked in smaller organisations in what would nowadays be referenced as a ‘startup’ environment, so I guess all the people I have ever worked with over the years have in some way helped to shape my overall work views of the working world. I tend to have a very optimistic approach to all I do – sometimes to my peril – but I tend to always think that things can be done… and so I just get on and do it.
What is one thing you could be doing better in your business? What’s your opportunity?
Nowadays, everyone needs more time… and I guess that is what I’d love more of, too. The overall opportunity for us is to keep on expanding our user base globally and working hard to keep them highly engaged; so that is something we are continually focusing on. We are doing that in a number of ways that focuses on community, content and also killer features for the app. What we’d love to be better at is having someone in every part of the globe to help with this!
Focus on what you are trying to achieve and don’t be distracted by what others say you should do…
Are you a mentor? If so, who do you mentor? Why do you mentor?
I guess I might be a mentor to people on my team – but I am not sure I have ever been asked ‘to be a mentor’! Things happen in situ in the trenches, so if I am modelling the type of behaviours that might help someone to think differently, or might shape the way someone does something in their career or their life, then I feel privileged to be in that position.
What does the future hold for your business? Where to from here?
We are hoping to get investment for Cook to enable us to grow the team – so we can keep heading toward our total vision of the product – but do it a bit more quickly!
Are there any particular business women you would like to connect with to support your business?
I am sure there are many – I guess the obvious ones: people in the food and drink industry (bloggers, chefs and passionate chefs). If they are reading and would love to get involved, I’d love to meet them!
What’s your best business tip?
Work hard and keep your energy high – make sure you focus on what you are trying to achieve and don’t be distracted by what others say you should do, or what competitors are doing – make your own way.
‘I love my business because…’ I get to live my passion and fulfil my dreams!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Make sure you download Cook for iPad and keep an eye out for our iPhone app that is in the works, too. If anyone wants to contact me directly about Cook, please do so: email@example.com
At a Glance
Business Name: The Cook App
Memberships/Associations: Design and user experience related groups
Business Structure: Pty Ltd with four co-founders
Names of partners: Jodie Moule, Stephen Moule, Alex Johnston, Jeff Tan-Ang
Location: Melbourne, VIC
Your Position: Co-Founding Director (UX/Content/Community)
Year Business Established: 2012
Number of Employees: 6
Industry: Food & Drink, Cooking
Visit: The Cook App
First published December 2014.