My mother taught business skills at a local high school, then put herself through law school at the age of 40. Now, at 63, she has a thriving solo law practice in San Antonio. My father was a community banker and knew everyone in town. I have two brothers, who are 3 and 11 years younger.
When I was 14, I applied to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, after my mother and I visited at the suggestion of a friend. I was accepted. But we weren’t rich. I came back every summer and worked as a waitress in San Antonio to earn money.
After high school, I attended Boston College, studying finance and accounting. I was an unpaid intern one summer at Merrill Lynch in Boston, and another summer at Smith Barney in San Francisco. That job was also unpaid, so I worked at night as a waitress to support myself.
After graduating in 1997, I joined Citibank as a global analyst trainee. I was in the first group of women to join the bank’s high-yield corporate finance group. Over Thanksgiving that same year, I met my future husband, Steve Richmond, an investment banker and budding entrepreneur.
About 18 months later, I followed my managing director to FleetBoston Robertson Stephens, to help found its high-yield finance group. But by 2000, I wanted to pursue my interest in education, so I left and moved to Nairobi to help start a school for children with learning disabilities. It was called the Kenya Community Center for Learning. I wrote the business plan, secured the facility, raised the funds, helped recruit students and paid the bills. I also taught geography and life skills and sports, which convinced me that my career should be in education reform and health. I still serve on the center’s board.
After I returned in 2002, Steve and I moved to San Francisco, where we married two years later. He worked on a start-up,and I found a job at Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators, or RISE, a nonprofit that aims to recruit and retain quality teachers in public schools in low-income areas.
I decided to get an M.B.A., and enrolled at the. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. The summer of 2005, I worked as an associate for Leadership Public Schools, a Bay Area nonprofit that operates a network of charter high schools in low-income communities. While helping to design a food service program, I continuedto see a lack of healthy, quality meals.
At school, I met Kirsten Tobey, a fellow student who shared my interest in providing students in need with nutritious meals. We developed a business plan for meals with fresh ingredients at a manageable price, and in 2005 we turned that plan into Revolution Foods.
After earning our degrees in May 2006, we began a pilot program with three charter schools in downtown Oakland. We prepared 300 meals daily in a rented kitchen. We expanded our business in California, then to the Washington, D.C., area. After that, we expanded to Denver, Houston as well as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most recently New Orleans.
We now have 850 partner schools in 11 states. Nearly 900 employees at our seven regional kitchens prepare about 200,000 healthy breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners for children daily.
Kirsten and I still work together — we’re both mothers now. We have learned that a good team is essential, and so is humor — no matter what the situation.
As told to Elizabeth Olson.