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Sunday Sitdown: Kelly Stickel, runs ‘think tank’ on retail

Kelly Stickel, founder and chief executive officer of Remodista, a retail "social think tank." | Max Herman / Sun-Times

Kelly Stickel’s entrepreneurial career began as a kid when she organized a camp. Today, the Chicago business owner and West Loop resident runs Remodista, “a social think tank examining disruption in global retail and fintech.” The company helps women fulfill their ambitions in the retail industry and recognizes “Women2Watch.” Stickel spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times’ Sandra Guy. An edited transcript follows.

Question: You’ve always shown a flair for being an entrepreneur.

Answer: In third grade, I organized a cheerleading camp during recess. In high school and college, I enjoyed selling handmade jewelry. When I worked on cruise lines after college, I also made extra money helping crew members send videos to their families.

Q: Why did you start Remodista?

A: I wanted to better understand how to build businesses and how businesses could benefit from conferences and education.

Q: What does the name mean?

A: It stands for “retail and mobility distilled.” In 2010, my business and community within Remodista were looking only at the mobile smartphone and tablet industry. But I could see then the true change would be in the mobility of the customer and not the device.

Q: Talk about your research work.

A: Remodista created our Retail Source Papers, which focus on one business challenge at a time. The research gets condensed into an easy-to-digest format.

We spent almost three years meeting with retail executives on a quarterly basis in New York City. We built products and services to help them better understand the industry and meet their challenges.

Our papers start at $10,000, paid for by sponsors who support the Remodista content and research we publish. Sponsors include partners like Capgemini and analytics firm Avionos. Our published research is open to the public. Our Retail Source Papers discuss customer experience, or how to get a customer his or her order with no hiccups.

After launching two products that took two and a half years to develop, Remodista brought in close to $300,000 in its first year of production. With five products in Year 2, we are looking forward to expanding our revenue streams.

Q: What’s next?

A: We are launching two more research products that take a closer look into retail changes. And we are launching a subscription-based technology platform that will let retail executives access on-demand problem-solving capabilities.

Q: How do you recognize women leaders in retail technology?

A: In 2015, we started taking nominations and launched a Women2Watch Program that focuses on influential thinkers experimenting in online and brick-and-mortar retail. We nominated 80 women. Companies like PayPal and IT firms Valtech and iSoftStone sponsored the first year.

Our goal was to help identify these women’s business issues and solve them while shining a light on their success. In three quarters, we saw 30 of those 80 women be promoted in title or change companies for the better.

This September in New York, Remodista awarded six of these women executives with innovation awards. The winners are from Keds, Zazzle, HBC Digital, giggle, YOGASMOGA and New York & Company.

On Oct. 15, we launched Year 2 of Women2Watch and expanded to Australia. Nominations are open until Dec. 9 using this Women2Watch nomination link.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I enjoy architecture, photography, design and antiquing. I love working as a mosaic artist and have taught classes for 20 years.


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