Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, founders of Revolution Foods, are on a mission to transform the way America eats. The company creates lifelong healthy eaters by providing access to healthy, affordable meals to students and families throughout the country. It sources roughly two million fresh, clean-label meals each week to over 2,500 schools and community sites nationwide in lower-income and urban areas. Now, with the recently passed COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act, it is able to provide reimbursable contingency meals for school and community relief sites.
Kirsten Saenz Tobey and Kristin Groos Richmond, founders of Revolution Foods.
Revolution is empowering children to make better, healthier choices by introducing nutritious school meals at a young age. On a national level, they offer a clean label supply chain, which enables the company to provide a great balance of real foods and composition of nutritious, high-quality meals that are chef-crafted and kind-inspired. The founders aim to drive system change – from policy and food systems evolution to driving positive student academic and health outcomes. The founders each had a background in education and saw first-hand that kids were not getting proper nutrition at school in order to be successful both in their classes and in their lives.
“It’s a $20 billion addressable market,” Richmond explains. “Really a lack of great quality options in a very large market. For me, it was a combination of incredibly high impact area, in terms of setting students up for success and being a partner to educators. Then also this real business opportunity of ‘why aren’t there more companies and more healthy products and meals being served to students?’ It seemed like it was a large addressable market with a very high impact opportunity.”
Richmond’s career began on Wall Street in investment banking. Shortly after beginning her career in finance, she had an opportunity to move overseas to Kenya and start a school. She handled the finance operations and assisted in setting the educators up for success by helping them get off the ground, whether it was finding a facility or raising the money. “I had this incredible chance to enter education actively and fell in love with it,” Richmond explains. “I quickly realized that education is the ability for a child to access quality education and is the single biggest gift that one can have.”
Kristin Groos Richmond with some of the students who benefit from Revolution Foods programs that … [+]
While at business school, Richmond and Tobey met in a social venture leadership group. “We had a chance to work together through various projects,” Tobey states. “We developed a lot of respect for each other. In one social innovation and product development class, we were charged with coming up with an idea to a problem that needed solving. We both came into class with a very similar kind of complementary idea around solving the food and nutrition challenge in schools and with kids.” They had to write a business plan for the class, which ultimately turned into a venture they developed.
Tobey began her career in education both inside and outside of the classroom. While inside the classroom, she saw the link between how kids were nourished and how well they could learn. “I remember specifically building a community garden for kids,” Tobey shares, “and these were kids coming from very low-income backgrounds. It was summertime so they weren’t getting school meals at the time. They would just come into the garden that I was building and eat the fresh fruits and vegetables that were growing right off the vines and off the trees…That was one of the things that inspired me to focus more closely on the connection between food and education.”
One of their biggest challenges pivoting into entrepreneurship was their lack of understanding of what a clean label supply chain for school meals was and being able to provide the school meals every day. “Over time, it’s taken a decade-plus to effectively catalyze a clean labeled supply chain for the school and community sector,” states Richmond. “We’re a $150 million company, but…clean label products for those sorts of things were not available when we started. We really had very few ingredients to pull from, and we wanted to have diverse menus because serving kids you’ve got to be making sure that food is not just healthy but also inspired and delicious.”
Kirsten Saenz Tobey with some of the students who benefit from Revolution Foods programs that … [+]
Throughout their transitions and expanding the company, Richmond and Tobey focused on these essential steps:
- Figure out what you’re passionate about, especially if you want to start your own company. You’re going to be putting in overtime to launch your company, make sure it is something that makes you happy or else you’re not going to have the drive to continue when you face a challenge.
- Take your time. Don’t rush an idea. You need to be able to research and test what you want to accomplish. If you move too fast, you may miss an important step to the process.
- Develop a plan to balance your personal and professional life. Without balance, you will lose sight of what you’re working towards.
“I think it’s really important as a leader to make sure that you understand the details and to not lose touch with those details,” Tobey concludes. “When you’re trying to pull something new together, I advise people to never lose touch with what it takes to actually bring a vision to reality.”