Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey aren’t twins—they’re not even related—but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. They have blond hair and blue eyes, activity trackers on their wrists, and almost matching names. Both are relentlessly upbeat and deeply pragmatic, though Richmond is more assertive than Tobey, who tends to sit back and nod while Richmond does the talking. And Richmond is very, very good at talking—about corporate values, about compound annual growth rates, and about how their almost-10-year-old company, Revolution Foods, is upgrading lunch for the nation’s schoolchildren.
“It’s a work of passion for us,” Richmond says one morning, seated next to Tobey at a conference table in the company’s Oakland headquarters. “Not only as entrepreneurs but also as moms who are building and growing our own families and making sure that our kids are set up on a path for success from a health perspective.”
The “revolution” in Revolution Foods refers to the company’s charter mandate—indeed a revolutionary concept back in 2006—to replace the much-maligned typical school lunch with a healthy meal for less than the $3.13 that school districts receive per lunch from the federal government. Out went artificial ingredients, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, deep frying, mystery meats, added sugar, and growth hormone–enhanced milk; in came fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and so-called natural meats. Ten years later, Revolution Foods delivers approximately 1.5 million freshly packaged “kid-inspired, chef-crafted” breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and after-school “suppers” to schools in 15 states and Washington, D.C., every week. Richmond and Tobey are proud to state that the schools served by Revolution are overwhelmingly public, which dovetails neatly with their company’s trademarked tagline: “Real food for all.”
Over the past nine and a half years, this cri de coeur has found an incredibly receptive audience. Since its inception, Revolution Foods has claimed an average compound annual growth rate of 50 percent. Today, Richmond says, its revenue is over $100 million, and the company is “on track to be much larger than that for this fiscal year.” It has attracted money from firms and foundations that invest in companies with a change-the-world agenda: the Westly Group, DBL Investors, the NewSchools Venture Fund, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
DBL became one of Revolution’s seed investors in 2006 to act on its “very firmly held view that the country needs to do something about the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is gripping our children,” says Nancy Pfund, DBL’s founder and a managing partner. “When we met Kirsten and Kristin, it was like a lightbulb went on—we realized that this could be a great growing business and address an extremely critical social problem. We always have our radar out for that combination: the ability to address significant social needs with an entrepreneurial formula.”
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