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Sandra Ann Harris, ECOlunchbox

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Photo of Sandra Ann Harris with Assemblywoman Katherine Baker

Sandra Ann Harris developed a back-to-basics lunchware product line hewn from traditional reusable materials, stainless steel, and cotton. ECOlunchbox is completely free of waste and saves families hundreds of dollars.

ECOlunchbox sells wholesale directly to national chain retailers, such as Whole Foods and The Container Store; through established natural product distributors such as Down to Earth Distributors, Frontier Natural Products, Lotus Light Distributors and Honest Green Distributors; and direct to independently-owned natural groceries, co-ops, boutiques. They also sell directly to end-users through their online store.

Struggling to meet demand

ECOlunchbox had a well-established multi-tiered distribution network but the demand for its green consumer products was stronger than the small company could support due to undercapitalization. ECOlunchbox was frequently going out of stock on all its products due to high demand and lack of resources to adequately buy stock. Additionally, the bootstrapped company was seriously understaffed. Founder and President Sandra Ann Harris needed to focus on putting the financials together to obtain equity. So she went to the Marin SBDC for help.

The SBDC helped Sandra address several areas of improvement:

  • Planning: Sandra worked with Ashwin Gulatiduring to research and write an executive summary that demonstrated the strength of the lunchware category and explained the market forces driving ECOlunchbox’s strong growth.
  • Financial: They evaluated Sandra’s options in detail, including bank loans, equity investment, and convertible notes. Ashwin helped her fine-tune business loan packages and investment pitches for presentation.
  • Sales Focus: ECOlunchbox analyzed its existing multi-tiered distribution and added new channels to its sales development plan for 2012.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Photo of ECOlunchbox products

After ECOlunchbox implemented the plan, the company was able to report a series of successes:

  • Revenues were up more than 50 percent during the first six months of 2012 over 2011.
  • Employees doubled from the end of 2011 to mid-2012.
  • They secured office space.
  • ECOlunchbox secured $200,000 in loans for expansion.

“ECOlunchbox has benefited tremendously from the opportunity to work with Ashwin Gulatiduring this critical stage of ECOlunchbox’s expansion. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running a small business. Ashwin is a seasoned expert at getting up to 50,000 feet and looking at the big picture as a first step toward planning for a successful future. With his support, we were able to evaluate our areas of strength, plan a strategy for expansion, obtain loans and significantly increase revenues.”

Sandra Ann Harris