by Len Lear
The name Lucinda Duncalfe, 51, of Fort Washington, may not be as well known as that of a pro athlete or pop music star, but in the world of entrepreneurship, she is definitely an all-star. She has a history of hitting one home run after another. Among other high-flying positions she has held was CEO of ClickEquations, a management software company.
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.)
But Lucinda is not one to become complacent about success. In May of 2012 she founded Real Food Works, which contracts with 12 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 Carol M., a local customer, “To be honest, the menus had to grow on me. I stuck with the service because of the convenience of local, additive-free, cooked and delivered food. But slowly I grew accustomed to it. After about six months, I started looking forward to dinner. I don’t feel like staging a dessert binge or a junk food orgy. And I lost 25 pounds. Today, at 5-foot-7, I weigh 135, a number my scale has not registered since 1993. Now, even given a choice, I would not return to my former way of eating. And that’s the best recommendation I can give!”
Another customer, Jesse T., said, “I rarely find time to create a wholesome, flavorful, and enticing meal. My fridge and freezer are nearly barren … Participating in the Real Food Works subscription program has truly expanded my palate by exposing me to healthy alternatives to dining out that I would not ordinarily encounter without great effort and expense. Every meal is one I would expect to see on the menu of a top tier restaurant and I have yet to be disappointed in the quality of the goods delivered. My favorite meal is zucchini bread oatmeal.”
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.
“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.”
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. “I was approaching 50 with sore knees, flagging energy and a few extra pounds,” she told us. “Eating a real food diet transformed me. I lost 22 pounds, my knees stopped aching, and my energy levels soared. Plus, I was living more sustainably. Eating real food is the right thing for our planet. I founded Real Food Works to help others feel as great as I do!”
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 12 restaurant partners in center city and the suburbs — none in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy — although the company says that about 20 percent of their customers live in or near Chestnut Hill.
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. There are also new options like “Corporate Catering” and “Soup Cleanses.”
The company’s weekly menus are available online each week, where customers can view and customize their selections. Customers can see the current week plus the upcoming four weeks when they go online, so they can make their selections well in advance.
When asked how many customers they have overall, Lucinda replied, “That’s hard to answer, actually, because our business has expanded to include … some other partner programs. It is safe to say we are now feeding thousands of people each month.”
Real Food Works also recently won $200,000 in funding from an equity investment as part of StartUp PHL, an initiative by the Nutter administration to support local start-up businesses.