Serial entrepreneur and inventor Dawn Dickson recently launched PopShop Local, an innovative contactless retail experience utilizing unused space in hotels, airports, and convention centers. The recipient of the 2020 OBWS Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented by SnapChat and a Finalist for the 2020 Rising PayTech Star Award, Dickson is continuing on her path to revolutionize the way we think of vending machines.
BLACK ENTERPRISE had the chance to discuss PopShop Local, Black women in STEM, and raising capital with Dawn Dickson.
What is PopShop Local?
PopShop Local is a program that helps small businesses sell their products in hotels, airports, and convention centers. PopShop, a smart vending machine that also displays ads and measures customer engagement, will be positioned in the common areas of participating hotels across the United States. Local brands can apply for placement in one of these machines, which would allow them to have a physical retail shop without the costs of maintaining a brick-and-mortar store. It is a convenient way for patrons to find highly curated local souvenirs and products. PopShop Local currently has pilots with AC Hotel, JW Marriott, and has secured a pilot with Virgin Hotel.
How do you suggest small businesses raise capital?
Over the last 20 years, I have raised money in just about every way, and I live by the “by any means necessary” mindset. From friends and family to bootstrapping and pitch competitions to grants and accelerator programs, you name it I’ve done it. What I’ve learned is that you have to be flexible in your approach, but more importantly understand who your potential investors are based on the stage your business is in. The further along you wait to raise institutional capital the better deals and terms you will get on that money.
What happens is entrepreneurs lose ownership and equity when they take money too soon at terms that are not beneficial to them in the long run. I was guilty of this. Before you take any money have a clear understanding of the terms of the money is, what you have to give up, and what it means for you when you want to exit. Be very strategic about the money you take. A mentor of mine told me, it’s not about the money you make, it’s about the money you can walk away from that tells you where you are.
What advice do you give to Black women as they develop, grow, and scale their businesses?
- Understand your industry inside and out. Always be on top of industry trends and projections.
- Have a plan, write it out and revisit it every year. have a deep understanding of your financials and projections. Know how you will monetize and grow. What do you need to be fully operational? This means how will you pay yourself, what is your marketing budget, your hiring budget, and research and development.
- Have an end game. Don’t underestimate yourself. Do you want a $100,000, $1 million, or $10 million business? Knowing what you want and where you want to grow it will allow you to put the proper plan in place.