She's using healthy food in a convenient way to change people's lives

Lucinda Duncalfe's Real Food Works has 100-plus customers. (Michael Hinkelman / Staff Photographer)
Lucinda Duncalfe's Real Food Works has 100-plus customers. (Michael Hinkelman / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 23, 2013

B EFORE starting Real Food Works, 1991 Wharton MBA grad Lucinda Duncalfe, 50, of Lafayette Hill, worked at tech startups and co-founded an anti-spam company in 2004 that later was sold for $28 million. Real Food Works, which is relocating from West Conshohocken to Center City, has seven employees and more than 100 customers. The company expects to receive $1 million in venture capital soon.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the company?

A: I got healthy by eating better, and realized there was an unmet need for folks who wanted this but found it inconvenient. I had a chocolate-peanut-butter moment at a lunch business meeting at an empty restaurant one Tuesday: Why can't I use restaurants to make healthy food during their downtime early in the week?

Q: Where did you get capital?

A: I used $100,000 to $500,000 of my own money, plus a team working for sweat equity.

Q: How's the biz model work?

A: We work with select restaurants who create meals that fit our nutritional guidelines. We have 24 choices each week, so you can buy a five-, 10- or 15-meal subscription and a five-meal, gluten-free package. You can go online and change your menu until Friday night. Then we aggregate all orders and send them to restaurants. Each customer gets meals from different restaurants. The restaurants order provisions, prep on Monday, cook and cool the food on Tuesday and deliver it to us. We separate it into individual cooler bags and deliver between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Q: How big is the delivery area?

A: It's pretty much the entire Philadelphia metro region, but right now most customers are in Center City or on the Main Line.

Q: Who delivers the meals?

A: We have a courier service familiar with the handling of food.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: Most are 35 to 65, upper income, a mix of singles, couples, families with kids. A third are "healthy convenient," who already eat healthy and we make it more convenient. The remainder are "transformatives" who don't eat healthy, and we are providing healthy meals that are changing their lives.

Q: What do the plans cost?

A: The five-meal is $89 a week, the 10-meal is $149 and the 15-meal is $189. The five- and 10-meal plans have a $9 delivery charge; no delivery charge on the 15-meal plan.

Q: The biggest challenge?

A: Managing restaurant partners to ensure that the supply chain gets the right food to the right person in the right condition.

Q: What's next?

A: We have to show we can do it in multiple geographies. So, by the end of this year, we'll have our operations honed and a lot more customers here. I'd also like to have a robust marketing strategy and be in another location.


 


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