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Shoebuy.com founder teams with ex-Yankee Group chief to deliver healthier school lunches

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 26, 2012 08:29 AM

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Scott Savitz and Emily Nagle Green are out to take your child's lunch money.

Their Charlestown-based start-up, Smart Lunches, is already delivering lunches at about $4 or $5 a pop to eleven Boston-area schools and daycare centers, and Green talks about building Smart Lunches into a nationally-known brand: "There's a national market available here, and you can't think of a brand that has national awareness around providing nutritious food to kids when they're away from home." The target market, as she sees it, is about 30 million kids between the ages of two and eighteen who don't participate in school lunch programs.

Savitz left Shoebuy.com, the online footwear retailer owned by InterActive Corp., last summer. He was introduced to the two founders of Smart Lunches, Cathy Goldman and Susan Frigoletto, as a prospective advisor. (Savitz's wife had served on the board of the Charlestown Mothers Association with Frigoletto.) Though the pair had only begun delivering lunch to schools in the Boston area last September, Savitz decided to make an offer to acquire the company just before the end of 2011. He knew Green (pictured at right) from serving alongside her on the MITX board; she had vacated the CEO's office at Yankee Group, a Boston tech research firm, at the end of 2010, and was thinking about next steps. She signed on to run the business around the same time that Savitz was wrapping up the acquisition.

Green says, "I was really captivated, partly because it's so different" -- she'd earlier run Cambridge Energy Research Associates and been a top executive at Forrester Research -- "and partly because the mission is so compelling. The company is doing something worthwhile, and there is a huge scale opportunity."

Right now, Smart Lunches is focused on students in private and parochial schools that don't have cafeterias; Green says public charter schools will likely be next. "We're competing with packed lunches," she says, offering parents the choice to order a month's worth of hot or cold lunches online. Lunches are then delivered to the school by caterers that Smart Lunches contracts with. A sample lunch menu: a turkey half sandwich with cheese, baby carrots, and an oatmeal cookie.

"We don't ask parents to make any long-term commitments with us," Green says, and for schools that help promote the Smart Lunches offering, she says the company will share a slice of its revenue at the end of the year.

Founders Goldman and Frigoletto have retained a minority stake in the company. Savitz has been the sole backer of Smart Lunches since acquiring it, but Nagle suggests they may seek other investors soon.

As for expanding outside Boston, she says, "We will definitely go into other markets, but it's hard to say when."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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