Kirsten Tobey founded Revolution Foods in 2006 with co-founder and CEO Kristin Groos Richmond while in graduate school at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Revolution Foods, now over $130 million in revenue, today serves nearly 3 million healthy meals per week to students in 30 cities across 15 US states and distributes a line of retail food products to over 3000 grocery stores nationwide. Kirsten continues to steward the mission and drive the vision for the company. Kirsten spearheaded the company’s expansion into the retail/packaged goods space and has led the company’s efforts on thought leadership, nutrition strategy and impact. Kirsten continues to lead the company’s efforts to developing innovative solutions for healthy meal preparation for busy families across the US.
Revolution Foods was named by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies in 2015. Kristin and Kirsten were named by the Schwab Foundation and World Economic Forum as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2015. They were also listed among Fortune’s 40 under 40 for 2013, identified as Time Magazine’s Education Activists of 2011, and co-named Entrepreneur of the Year by NewSchools Venture Fund in 2010. Kirsten is an Ashoka Fellow, an Aspen Institute Environmental Fellow, and a member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Sustainable Business Council. She currently is a member of the Board of Directors for Mercaris and ARTA River Trips. She serves as an advisor for several startup companies, including Wellio, Homemade Cooking and Bixbee.
Prior to founding Revolution Foods, Kirsten was a teacher, researcher and garden educator with Earthjustice, the School for Field Studies, and Phillips Academy at Andover. Her career spanned from leading experiential education programs in the US and Ecuador to evaluating the scalability of school feeding programs with the United Nations Hunger Task Force in Ghana. Kirsten holds an AB from Brown University and an MBA from UC Berkeley. She lives in the SF Bay Area with her husband and three daughters.
Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:
- Michelle introduces Kirsten.
- Kirsten shares a quick synopsis of who she is and what Revolution Foods is.
- Right out of business school, Kirsten and her partner, Kristen heard NO after NO when approaching investors.
- One particular investor spent a great deal of time trying to learn about what Kirsten was doing and what they wanted him to invest in, but in the end it turned into a crushing NO, anyway.
- Kirsten took this opportunity to ask the investor questions about what his concerns were and what milestones need to be met.
- Kirsten believes you should always ask investors what other investors they know that would be interested in the opportunity.
- Kirsten and her partner went through 25 to 30 NO’s before they heard any YES’s.
- Revolution Foods was brought accepted into Walmart, but it turned out not to be a good thing, Kirsten shares the full story.
- “As an entrepreneur you have to have a healthy balance of confidence and humility” ~ Kirsten Tobey
- Kirsten shares the 3 biggest things she learned from working with Walmart.
- Revolution Foods lost over a $1 million dollar investment while working with Walmart.
- Revolution Foods became a food supplier for some smaller charter schools, which then led to but Kirsten began trying to bring them into bigger school districts.
- When trying to get Revolution Foods into bigger school districts Kirsten and Kristen had some serious growing pains to go through. However, it turned out in their favor – listen to hear the full story!
- Kirsten’s had to turn businesses and schools away because the cost benefit wasn’t worth it because of different factors, like the distance to deliver the foods and the sizes of the schools.
- Kirsten shares what she would tell her younger self.
Connect with Kirsten:
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P.S. Stop putting off those difficult conversations! Those are the conversations that will help ensure you’re working with dream clients and employees. Want to learn how to tackle those convos HEAD ON? Click here to read THIS BLOG POST!