It is not education or experience that determines one’s ability to succeed. It is grit and passion. First and foremost. If you want it and you will work for it and learn and do the hard parts… you can do so much more than you think is possible.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janine Williams, founder & CEO of Impulsify Inc., which provides retail technology and business intelligence to maximize incremental revenue and improve the guest experience in Grab & Go retail outlets, and co-owner of Platte Street Mercantile, a Grab & Go convenience store in Denver, Colorado.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in AK and raised by a very adventurous single father who wasn’t quite sure what to do with a little girl, so he pretty much just treated me like one of the guys. I would camp, fish, survey with him in rugged and beautiful Alaska. I was pretty much unrecognizable as a female until age 10. At that time, he moved us to Costa Rica — long before it was a tourist destination. I learned to speak Spanish fluently and still consider the “Tico” culture core to who I am today. At 16, I came back to the US on my own. I got my GED, worked 2 jobs at the mall, and put myself through college.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Thoughts become things… choose the very best ones.” I have learned through many trials and errors, wins and failures that we create so much of our outcomes with our own thoughts — whether positive or negative. It is now one of our internal taglines in our company anytime we are faced with a challenge.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. There is a key part where Andy has to climb on his hands and knees through sewage to get free. I wrote a paper on the novel in college and it was such a metaphor to me of how much “sh*t” some people have to get past or crawl through when they truly believe they deserve a better life. He was put into unfair circumstances that weren’t his own doing, but he made a choice to survive it and so he did. I think that resonates with a lot of leaders. You didn’t create the mess, but you have to make a choice to get out of it, to survive it no matter how hard.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
My journey started when I set off to create a retail service business that provided pricing, assortment recommendations, and visual merchandising know-hows. I wanted to use data from internal supply and demand stats to gather convenience store analytics and consumer trend reports to give clients analytical direction on profitability trends. I have worked with 1,000’s of hotels, commercial developers, owner/operators, and brands to identify the challenges that traditionally limit the overall performance of lobby shops and common area retail outlets in commercial real estate locations. Since Impulsify’s launch in 2013, pre-pandemic and amidst the pandemic, we have experienced really positive growth.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
As we are experiencing a rapidly changing landscape due to COVID-19, the Impulsify Self-Pay Kiosk technology has been perfectly positioned to help with retail’s post-COVID challenges. Cashless, and self-pay options are highly recommended in this time of uncertainty, and likely to become the most ideal form of payment post COVID-19.
Impulsify’s self-pay kiosk technology is designed to automate purchases and provide a faster checkout procedure for retail outlets, while also providing minimal cashier interaction, and cross-contamination. With multiple kiosks for guests to scan-and-go with minimal interaction, no cash and no touching of customer’s food provides reduced cross contamination in a time when so many are nervous to grocery shop.
That lobby markets that once offered water, snacks, and a 2-pack of Tylenol — are now the #1 F&B source for guests at many hotels who used the space to quickly replace lost revenue and food service. Rather than closing markets, they’ve begun offering packaged breakfast items, kitchen-prepared meals, and higher quality snack items to offset the closure or restrictions on restaurants, bistros and bars.
Savvy hoteliers have grown tired of watching Grub Hub-type delivery companies funnel revenue off property. Many have reopened their kitchens or partnered with local restaurants to package quality meals-to-go on premise without impacting local Covid restrictions.
We have also seen a 68% increase in hotels adding a retail self-service kiosk to allow guests to control the transaction, avoid the front desk line, and minimize cross contamination concerns handing food back and forth through plexiglass. See our kiosk report inside for hard data on the Kiosk Effect.
Impulsify aims to simplify Grab & Go retail with three core objectives in mind: guest safety, guest F&B satisfaction, and incremental revenue.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
When the pandemic came, we were already poised to serve the new demands of our industry because we had the technology to do so, but our primary market was suffering at the time. The hotel industry was hit hard. It was then that I had an “aha moment” and decided to find new outlets where our retail technology could be of use during this uncertain time. That was when we pivoted towards prioritizing the safety benefits of our technology and also branched out to implement our services in apartment and ‘glamping’ sites.
Covid is demanding a more immediate leap forward from cool open market design to full-fledged, technology driven, self-service Grab & Go retail.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Impulsify Inc. has been flourishing since pivoting towards safety concerns and branching out to apartments and ‘glamping’ sites during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The self-pay kiosk solution, designed to automate purchases and provide a faster and safer checkout procedure for retail outlets has helped hotel, apartment, and glamping site owners reduce employee headcount and overhead costs, reduce cashier retail traffic, decrease abandoned retail sales, decrease retail theft, and improve the overall customer experience.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
God and more God. I had a truly crazy life. Scary at times, impossible at others. That I am alive is a miracle. That I run a software company that allows me to do good for others… crazy huge miracle. I also had three adults who stepped into my teen years and told me I was smart, I was capable, I was better than the circumstances I found myself in. They encouraged me to go to school, to focus on the good parts, to not be defined by the bad ones. This made all the difference in the world in who I am, how I see myself, and what I am capable of.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Since pivoting to focus on the safety benefits of our Self-Pay Kiosk technology, we have seen an urgent need for retail outlets to prioritize safety in their Grab & Go spaces. For example, Impulsify recently implemented its technology in 14 of Dimension Development’s hotels across the nation and the results have been staggering. Dimension Development specializes in maximizing hotel profit. Their 80 hotels employ a variety of innovative solutions, such as Impulsify’s Grab & Go retail technology.
By utilizing our self-pay technology and retail insights, Dimension Development increased their average Retail Sales Per Occupied Room +19% (from 0.95 to 1.14 dollars POR), and increased average Profit Margin significantly, at the 14 hotels when comparing the six months before installation to the six months after installation.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It is not education or experience that determines one’s ability to succeed. It is grit and passion. First and foremost. If you want it and you will work for it and learn and do the hard parts… you can do so much more than you think is possible.
- I hire with the same philosophy. I would rather take someone who is willing to learn and work hard than someone who believes the job is a sure thing because their resume looks awesome. I take the scrappy, hard-working, kind people over degrees any day.
- Don’t listen to the naysayers. People are so afraid of failure, afraid of risk, afraid of the unknown. Don’t ask people, “should I start a company, do you think I can do this, or am I crazy to want to make this happen?” Because in the average person’s mind they think they’re doing you a favor by telling you no. They want you to keep your safe job, or keep you from straying from your original path, but only you truly know what you are capable of. Go for it.
- Get a real lawyer to create the company, the contracts, etc. So often you think you can’t afford one when starting out. Contracts only truly matter when they are disputed or breached. Not doing it right in the beginning will be very expensive later as I found out with one of the largest brands in the world.
- Have a purpose beyond revenue. If that’s your only goal… people will have a hard time following you. Have a purpose and a value you believe in that people can get behind. Employees and clients will care about your business so much more.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
My approach has been: Stop consuming the news. People are good, genuinely good. But you have to shut off your screen and go talk to them to remember that right now. It is so ugly and painful behind the safety of a screen. It is not who we are at all.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Crazy giving. Like the kind that hurts. The kind that makes your CPA raise an eyebrow. I have found no matter how much we give away, each year we always have more. We are now committing to give 1% of topline revenue instead of 10% of profit, because profit is often somewhat of a theory and is what is left after everything else you wanted to do. We give off the top, off the best of what we have done. I would love for more companies of all sizes to do this. It brings a satisfaction and joy beyond anything else that we do.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Tony Robbins. I absolutely love his heart for helping people change the way they think about themselves, their past traumas, and their future potential. I love his heart for giving to others and his dedication to charity.
How can our readers follow you online?
To learn more about Impulsify Inc. you can visit us at www.impulsifyinc.com
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!