Powell’s tenacity, verve, and meticulous studying of the marketplace led to two pivotal decisions that changed the course of the business. Instead of telling consumers what was best for them, Powell listened to them to unearth their needs. He held focus groups talking to parents, kids, and even school administrators. This led to a valuable conclusion: once parents drop off their children, the schools are responsible for how students eat. From there Powell created a new business plan and kicked it into high gear, reaching out to school administrators in an effort to pitch his healthy meals.
Between 2009 and 2010, revenues grew from $500,000 to $1 million. The timing was opportune. The K—12 charter and private schools he served jumped from 30 to more than 70 in addition to Head Start and after-school programs that choose meal plans for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. To accommodate the growth, Red Rabbit relocated from an 800-square-foot office space to a new 10,000-square-foot facility with a full-service kitchen, which ties into Red Rabbit’s educational programs, including holding Saturday cooking sessions so parents and their children can learn recipes to prepare healthy meals at home. Red Rabbit personnel also visit classrooms to cover nutritional topics for students as well as to educate teachers about gardening and healthy eating habits.
Powell plans to expand Red Rabbit’s reach in New York, considering there are 1.1 million students in 1,700 schools in New York City alone. He also recently opened a facility in New Jersey. Powell is also partnering with groups such as Rosie’s Theater Kids, an arts education organization founded by comedian Rosie O’Donnell, to host cooking labs.
“Our meals are not only evaluated by chefs, nutritionists, and pediatricians, but also by the toughest critics: kids,â€ he says. New menu items must be tested and approved by children.