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Lemons to lemonade feature #6: Kristi Naelitz-Thomas

Thursday, November 20, 2008
Each morning, Kristi Thomas spent a few moments adding a special touch to her daughter’s school lunch bag. Some days, it was a love note or words of encouragement. Other days, it was a brainteaser, joke or fun fact. Whatever the theme, Kristi always took the time to hand print it, along with some cool artwork, on a simple brown lunch bag.

The decorative bags quickly became a hit with her daughter’s classmates. As children and parents began requesting their own sets, Kristi experienced a light bulb moment. She hired a patent attorney, outlined a business plan and dove into the family’s nest egg. Then in 2002, with the support of her husband, Kristi proudly launched LuNcHoLOgy®: Lunch Bags That Educate, Entertain and Inspire. Here is her story...

How has this economy affected you, your business and your family?
We noticed a turn in the economy more than a year ago. Our retail sales and e-commerce sales started to slump. It was apparent that our buyers for the larger stores were becoming cautious to load their shelves and/or aisles with impulse buys. They were seeing their customers tighten their discretionary income belts on spending on the impulse buys, thereby; it has been risky for our retailers to restock shelves when people were clearly spending less. These were tough conversations to have with my buyers; after all we have had four years of proven marketplace success with a loyal customer base.

How are you making lemonade from lemons?
We decided to revamp the marketing of our product to these same retailers and e-commerce customers, to remind them that LuNcHoLOgy is an eco-friendly product; attentive to the current global warming concerns of moms and dads everywhere. LuNcHoLOgy Lunch Bags are made from recycled paper and printed with soy based ink. At the time, this was not printed on our bags, but it is now. This has breathed new life into some of our accounts.

This year we launched our Customized LuNcHoLOgy Lunch Bags, Grab-N-Go Bags, Birthday Bags, School Concessions Bags, and many others. This allows venues across the country, including delis, diners, MLB and NBA concession stands, and arenas to customize a Grab-N-Go Concessions Bag with their company logo, coupons, bounce backs to their customers, etc. It was a hit. We have been able to create a new revenue stream and at the same time encourage all of these vendors to “Go Green".

Despite the economy, we’re staying afloat. We took a step back from our products and gave them a second look. For us, we had to remind our customers about what we did well. We also garnered our raw materials from sources that recycle, reduce and reuse. Giving the customer this information has helped them to make better choices when packing their kid's lunch. LuNcHoLOgy Lunch Bags are one of those last affordable luxuries that make it fun and easy to connect with your kids, while preventing another plastic lunch box from ending up in a land-fill.

Any encouraging words you would like to offer mom entrepreneurs?
Stick with it. Be fearless, but wise. Surround yourself with like-minded female business owners and family/friends who believe in you and will lift you up when you’re feeling beaten down. There will be naysayers, let them motivate you, not intimidate you. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, reevaluate your product or service, or pull back for a while. Do the hard stuff first; make the toughest calls first thing in the morning. Whatever it is, reward yourself later in the day for stepping up to the challenge.

For more information, visit or call 1 (888) i–8–Lunch (AKA 1 (888) 485-8624). Use COUPON CODE: MOM for 15% OFF your order. Expires December 31, 2008.

For retail store owners who want to carry the product, use the above code to negotiate a reduced wholesale price with one of the company's sales associates before the expiration date.