House-bound senior citizens, toddler-toting working mothers, busy college students or young professionals—having the time or ability to go grocery shopping is a luxury that some people simply can’t afford.
Enter Rosie—the Ithaca start-up grocery ordering and delivery app developed by Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management students, Nick Nickitas and Jon Ambrose, and their chief technology officer Mike Ryzewic. Nickitas and Ambrose teamed up while earning their MBAs with the goal of starting a company that takes the chore out of grocery shopping.
“It should be as easy to shop local as shopping on Amazon.com or any other online retailer,” Nickitas said, who came up with the initial idea.
Rosie allows consumers to browse their local grocery stores online or on the smartphone app and place an order for pickup or delivery starting at $1.99. But it goes beyond that, using smart technology to offer recommendations, recipes, and reminders for previously purchased products. Ambrose said they aimed for two things with Rosie: an “amazing customer experience” and the support of local businesses.
“There’s no reason local grocers have to go out of business just because Amazon or Walmart have better technology,” he said. “We want to level the playing field to make these stores competitive because, honestly, most people would choose to buy local if they had the option.”
The company’s first day of service was in July 2013— “a day that will live in infamy,” according to Nickitas—at the P&C Fresh on East Hill in Ithaca. The initial website featured a basic selection of products, in-store pickup only, and had not yet been developed into a smartphone app. In less than two years, Rosie has spread to eight states and 22 stores.
But their success is only beginning; the Rosie team battled through a series of competitions in IBM’s Global Entrepreneur program to appear at the InterConnect Conference in Las Vegas in February as one of the top eight new technology companies in the world.
With this momentum, they plan to have Rosie in 200 locations by the end of the year, Nickitas said.
“A lot of other retailers around the country have said, ‘I’ve been interested in doing online shopping but I didn’t really know how, didn’t really know what to expect, and I didn’t know if I would really have a strong return on investment,’” said Ambrose. “We’ve been able to show them with our first group of stores that that does happen.”
P&C Fresh Ithaca store manager Allan Malek said Rosie has become so popular among customers that the amount of orders can be overwhelming at times.
“We’re constantly working on how we can be more efficient at picking orders and selecting them, because it is labor intensive at the store level,” Malek said. “It’s not our only business, it’s a very small part of our total business, but it’s an important part of it.”
Ambrose said they want to continue their special relationship with P&C Fresh and make sure they continue to grow.
“If you look at the industry, it’s more and more shopping online and home delivery,” Malek said. “For us, it’s the future.”