‘CEO of the Year’ sold firm for $28 million; Local entrepreneur tastes success with Real Food Works

Local Life August 9, 2013 1 Comment

Grilled ginger skewers, one of the dishes from Real Food Works, is prepared by Miss Rachel’s Pantry, a vegan and kosher meal delivery service and catering company in South Philadelphia.

by Len Lear

Lucinda Duncalfe, 50, of Fort Washington, may not be a household name, but she has a remarkable history of successful entrepreneurship. Most recently she was CEO of ClickEquations, a management software company acquired by Channel Intelligence in 2011.

Prior to leading ClickEquations, Lucinda co-founded and led TurnTide, an anti-spam technology company that was acquired by Symantec for $28 million only six months after its founding. Lucinda also served as President & CEO of Destiny WebSolutions, which provided Internet strategy and implementation consulting to large financial institutions.

While growing Destiny from $250,000 to $25 million in revenue, Lucinda received many honors. She was named America’s “17th Most Influential Consultant” by Consulting Magazine, won the Eastern Technology Council’s Enterprise Award for “CEO of the Year” and was an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Philadelphia. She was also named the Iris Newman Award “Female Entrepreneur of the Year.” (Lucinda graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and earned an MBA from the Wharton School in Entrepreneurial Management.)

With all of her success, you might think Lucinda would rest on her laurels, but she could no more stop coming up with new business ideas than Stephen Starr could stop opening new restaurants. So in May of last year Lucinda founded Real Food Works, which contracts with local restaurants to prepare meal packages which are then delivered to the homes of consumers who sign up for the program.

Is the program working? According to Stephanie Kleban, of Chestnut Hill, “This is my first year using the Real Food Works service, and I absolutely love it. When I come home from a morning of exercise and a long day at the office, I don’t have to think what to make for dinner. I just take the meal out of the refrigerator and follow the warming instructions, feeling confident that my meal is healthy, and best of all, no thinking, shopping or chopping is needed.”

Why did Lucinda go from technology-based businesses to the home delivery of restaurant-prepared meals? “My passion for great-tasting food dates back to early childhood,” she explained. Although raised in New York City, Lucinda came from generations of family farmers, whose “success in the fields were matched only by their talents in the kitchen.”

Lucinda’s mother nurtured her love affair with food. “I was sent to shop at the best specialty stores in the city and was taken out to eat a wide array of cuisines,” she explained. “My brother, Michael, a Le Cordon Bleu chef, helped me celebrate my kindergarten graduation with a dinner date in Chinatown and later taught me to make pasta by breaking an egg into a well of flour and whipping it with my bare hand.”

As an adult, Lucinda ended up in Philadelphia and joined her local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture; basically, it is a way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer), cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients, just as her mother and grandmother had done.

Then, in 2011, Lucinda’s mother urged her to watch the documentary, “Forks Over Knives,” which describes the virtues of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. She gave it a try and soon was hooked. Always relatively active, Lucinda lost over 10 pounds while eating as much as she wanted. Her already high energy level soared, and the pain of her arthritis almost disappeared.

Although Lucinda adopted a whole foods, plant-based diet, she found it “incredibly inconvenient” and “challenging to find enough time to cook.” As a result, employing her ample entrepreneurial skills, Lucinda saw an opportunity in her own need: high-quality nutrition and taste conveniently packaged.

Schemes for home delivery of food already exist, of course, in Nutrisystem and similar companies, but Lucinda insists that their food does not meet her “high culinary standards.” As a result, she conceived the idea of using restaurants to prepare meals according to her nutritional specifications.

Real Food Works currently has 11 restaurant partners in center city and the suburbs — none in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy — which make anywhere from 30 to 200 meals per week for them. The closest one to our area is Conshohocken Cafe.

The company does have several customers in Chestnut Hill, however. They were contacted by this reporter, and all reported satisfaction. For example, Sherry Brown, of Chestnut Hill, commented, “This is my fourth week using the Real Food Works meals, and I am enjoying the ease with which I can have a healthy, fresh meal at my disposal without having to cook.

“I am no cook, and eating in a healthy manner has always been a problem for me … The staff, especially Mary, has been extremely hands-on in ensuring that I am satisfied. I have nothing but good things to say about Real Food Works.”

Jina McHugo, also a Chestnut Hill resident, told us last week, “I have been using the service for about four months now, and I love it. My energy levels have doubled, and my skin glows. I run my own business with about 18 employees … and I have a very active three-year-old boy that I have to keep up with. I used to feel tired all of the time but not since I have been using the Real Food Works program…”

Customers of Real Food Works can choose from five, 10 or 15 meals per week, and decide if they want them to be breakfasts, lunches or dinners, or a mix of all three. A customer can also choose a plan with gluten-free ingredients. Every Wednesday, customers receive an email with a list of the meals that will be prepared for the following week, and they have two days to make their selections.

For prices and other information, visit www.realfoodworks.com. In addition, Lucinda blogs at www.duncalfe.me and tweets @LucindaD.

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  • Vince

    If you were walking from Chestnut Hill, you would find Trattoria Totaro (also a partner with Real Food Works) five blocks closer than the Conshohocken Cafe.