By Eva Saviano
Rhys Powell says memories of growing up in the Bahamas inspired him to quit his stock-trading job and launch his healthy-school-lunch venture, Red Rabbit, in 2005. There, every fruit and vegetable was picked ripe to be eaten immediately.
His vision of freshness keeps getting bigger. Red Rabbit just upgraded from an 800-square-foot kitchen in midtown to a 10,000-square-foot facility in Harlem, where the seven-rack deck oven can roast 500 chickens at one time; and he plans to expand even further this year.
Mr. Powell worked on the project while still at his day job for six months before ditching finance. He expanded Red Rabbit with $750,000 in capital from the New York City Investment Fund.
“A good entrepreneur is like a duck on a lake—above the surface, he is sitting calmly, but underneath he’s paddling like crazy to stay afloat,” said Brad Barnhorn, a board member and strategic adviser to Red Rabbit. Mr. Barnhorn noted that the natural-food business poses huge logistical challenges in delivering more than 20,000 freshly prepared meals to students every day. “Rhys is committed to that challenge.”
Mr. Powell acknowledges the size of it. “Bad, processed school food is a systemic problem that will probably be changed on a larger scale by a company much bigger than ours,” he said. “But they will draw inspiration from what we are doing here, and that is what I count as success.”