March 1, 2013 11:00 AM
The Tulane community sees them inscribed on their buildings, printed on their clothing, coded on their websites. Four words that comprise the university’s credo: non sibi, sed suis. Not for one’s self, but for one’s own. Kristin Groos Richmond, along with the NewDay Social Innovation initiative that sponsored her Feb. 27 speech on campus, represents a reinvention of that motif, championing a social model of entrepreneurship, motivated by social interest and fueled by the self-interested mechanisms of the market.
Richmond’s company, Revolution Foods, began in Oakland, Calif., in 2005, and was instigated by two education professionals’ frustration with the incoherence of trying to build academic achievement in students atop an unsound nutritional foundation.
Richmond recalled a teacher venting frustration at teaching healthy practices in class only to have them contradicted in the cafeteria. “I feel like a hypocrite, like I’m teaching one thing and serving something different,” said the educator.
Revolution Foods, which serves nearly 200,000 healthy meals a day to students across the country, works at the intersection of three interlocking goals: access, quality and affordability. “Ours is a simple proposition: real food. Nothing processed. No fillers. Real fresh food.” It was, as Richmond described it, a perfect storm for a budding social entrepreneur: A clear social need united with a largely untapped market.
From its humble six-person beginnings in Oakland, Revolution Foods, now staffed by a team of nearly 1,000 pulled from local communities, has expanded to serve seven metropolitan areas, including nearly 40 schools in the New Orleans area.
Revolution Foods, said Richmond, seeks to respect both employees and consumers by giving all team members partial ownership after one year, and basing meal plans on active student feedback and adaptation to local palates.
Throughout Richmond’s decision-making process, her relationships with her supply chain and her negotiations with investment partners, one idea seems dominant: the possibility for a new calculation of success, where both financial return and social impact are intrinsic and necessary parts of the equation.
Cody Wild is a junior at Tulane studying economics.
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