PEARL RIVER, N.Y. -- Julien Meyer cultivated the seeds for his entrepreneurial spirit at the schools he attended in Pearl River. A little more than six years out of high school, the young executive has created an application that revolutionizes the customer service industry.
Meyer is the CEO of BlurtBox, which he launched in 2015. The app gives customers a voice to speak to businesses about service. Businesses learn what customers are saying and can respond in real time. Unlike Yelp!, Facebook and other social media, the contact between customers and businesses is private, and reduces the chance for negative public reviews.
“We found a lot of times customers want to have issues resolved, and businesses want to resolve them,’’ Meyer said. “It allows people to communicate with the business privately. You can have a two-way dialogue and an immediate response. It’s like texting a best friend about a problem you might have and getting a response.”
Meyer conceived the idea while working as a consultant for some major restaurant brands. In managing one of the restaurant’s social media pages, he reacted to a negative comment on Facebook. He landed in trouble with brass from the restaurant chain. “I thought there has to be a better way for customers to communicate with businesses and vice versa,’’ he said.
Some major brands, such as Starbucks, Walmart, Domino’s and Burger King, are already receiving customer feedback. Meyer started the business cautiously in 2014 under a different name in Orlando, where he went to college at Central Florida. “We didn’t want to invest a lot of time and money because we didn’t know how businesses would respond,’’ Meyer said. “We found a pretty big need in the hospitality and retail space. It was a full-fledged business six months later.”
Meyer and a few other people put their money into the business to get it started, and they later secured financing from angel investors. One of the biggest hurdles, Meyer said, has been monetizing the app.
“We had to figure out how we could turn this from a good idea into a great business,’’ Meyer said. “We had to get businesses on the platform. We’ve found a niche market with convention centers, airports and hotels which we can grow. They have so much square footage, it’s hard to respond to individuals. We give them an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation.”
Meyer said he faces additional challenges in finding the right team to build out the product, and expand market share. He has spent a lot of time in technology-driven California, trying to land new clients and more investors.
This is not Meyer’s first rodeo in building a business. While in college, he started a coupon book business that offered discount tickets to college students for concert tickets, nightclubs and restaurants. The business grew from a $50,000 enterprise to more than $250,000 in two years, and he oversaw 35 employees. He was still only a college senior. “I thought I was set for life,’’ Meyer said. “Then it tanked. And it tanked hard.”
The coupons had been printed products, and they became obsolete as more people figured out how to use the web for online promotions. Meyer begged some former customers for consulting work, and also obtained a master’s degree from Rollins College. The consulting work and his degree from Rollins laid the foundation for BlurtBox.
All along, Meyer’s career path has trended toward business. As a fourth grader, he hosted a lunchtime bartering station at his desk, and sold gum to classmates when he was in sixth grade. In high school, he sold firecrackers, skateboards, cell phones and even gave drum and guitar lessons. “I got hooked as I progressed,’’ Meyer said. “I would buy stuff, and then sell it.”
He chose Central Florida because of its hospitality program, with the dream of owning his own hotels. He learned even more working at a Disney property while in college. “I was a rotating cast member,’’ Meyer said. “I’d work anywhere from three weeks to six months in a department. What Disney taught me is that in any business, it’s always about people. It’s not about technology and code and computer screens. They took pride in take care of each and every customer.”
Meyer’s goal remains to purchase a hospitality property at some point down the road. For now, he’s focused on taking BlurtBox to other regions of the nation and seeing how far it can go.
To outsiders, Meyer’s business success seems to come easily. It hasn’t been easy, and he has paid some stiff prices.
“I’m blessed, very lucky and thankful to God for the opportunities,’’ Meyer said. “There have been a lot of challenges. I’ve had health issues, broken relationships, stuff I’ve had to miss out on. I don’t complain about it. A lot of people have helped me along the way. I’d say 99.9 percent of the people I’ve come into contact with have helped me build connections, and so far, it has been a dream come true.”
For more information on BlurtBox, click here to visit its website.