The Shelby Report and The Grocery Group together present this series, People to Watch, to focus on current and future leadership in the grocery industry. In this installment, The Grocery Group Founder and CEO Cindy Sorenson interviews Katie Hotze, founder and CEO of Grocery Shopii.
Tell me a little bit about you and what do you like to do with your time away from the office?
When I’m not working, I’m usually in a constant state of motion with my family. On any given weekend, you’ll find us boating on Lake Norman, biking our favorite trails or exploring state parks in western North Carolina. I’m an adrenaline junky, but the kids are still young, so we find a balance. When I stop moving, it’s during a hot yoga class where I find my inner Om.
Please provide a brief description of Grocery Shopii.
We passionately believe that recipe inspiration should fuel the online grocery shopping experience. Our digital meal planning technology works inside a grocer’s e-commerce platform, so their shoppers may select meals for the week, fill their carts with a click and checkout in five minutes or less.
With fresh recipes added every day from world-class cookbooks, food brands and bloggers, Grocery Shopii helps grocers sell more products online and intensify customer loyalty at the store level.
What is your role at Grocery Shopii? Responsibilities?
As the CEO of a small grocery tech company, my primary role is developing the business strategy to optimize our greatest growth opportunities. I also own the responsibility of managing our network of current and future investors, writing new blog content and partnering with our tech team to pursue new features and functionality.
What was your career path to this position?
I spent 20 years in technology consulting where I held various digital marketing roles, with my last corporate role focused on building and scaling performance marketing globally for the largest HR consulting firm in the world.
Looking back, I’ve always had a passion for the data side of marketing. At the end of my corporate life, I was finishing my MBA when I got the itch to create a digital solution that added recipes directly into the online grocery shopping journey.
Why? Because figuring out what’s for dinner every night was the bane of my existence. I knew there had to be a better way.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for workforce and leadership development within the grocery industry?
We must build a culture of innovation within grocery retailers. As digital competition is heating up, the innovators will gain market share. Those looking to lead must invest in their people – offer digital training on topics like design thinking and business analytics.
Let it come from the top down and embrace the company as a wave of change. Finally, encourage failure as part of innovation. If there is a fear of sharing failure, then you’re not executing properly because, without failure, there is no innovation.
In what ways does Grocery Shopii focus on developing future leadership? Tell me a little more about that.
Our mantra is to learn by doing, so we take an active role in recruiting talented individuals into the company and then partnering them with our executive team to take on projects outside of their comfort zone.
For example, our marketing manager works across our executives to touch projects like competitive analysis, product design and investor relations. Along the way, we give them guidance and coaching to help build their skill sets while exposing them to efforts across the organization.
Do you personally play a role in helping to develop/coach/mentor future leadership in the industry…either internally or externally?
I thoroughly enjoy the role of mentoring innovators in the retail space. Anyone can have an idea, but it takes a special person to have a clear vision and the willpower to see it through. We operate in an industry that is evolving rapidly, and I take pride in both coaching and hiring individuals who will change the way we source food.
Did you utilize or participate in any mentoring/coaching experiences as you developed your career?
In 1999, I was finishing college a semester early, and I needed to find a job in Atlanta. So, I cold-called an executive with Fortune Magazine and asked her to help me with my career.
Throughout the years, I knew I could always count on her to meet for coffee and coach me through those stressful career and life decisions. Twenty years later, she became a founding partner at Grocery Shopii and continues to support the company as our CMO today.
What advice do you have for college students and young professionals looking at the grocery industry as one where they can build a career?
Grocery is rapidly becoming more innovative, so it’s critical for young talent to sharpen their comfort with data as a tool to drive decision making.
Future hires will be expected to have a comfort with data – sourcing it, storing it, visualizing it and being able to lift insights to drive decision making. From collegiate coursework to free online training, there is a tremendous amount of educational content available for those who want a competitive edge.
What pieces of advice did you receive as you built your career to this point, which you found most helpful?
“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I was raised by a Southern belle, and this advice was pure gold as I was building my career.
“Finish strong.” Whether I’m finishing a workout or wrapping up a complex client project, these words always swirl in my head. I must give 100 percent.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” As a working parent, it’s so easy to be sucked into work you are so passionate about. This quote by author Gretchen Rubin reminds me to find balance and carve out time for my kids. They’re only young once.
What else would you like the readers of The Shelby Report to know about you, your employer and/or other relevant industry information and insights?
An interesting factoid about Grocery Shopii is that the technology continues to be completely designed by a private network of busy parents in the Southeast U.S.
Every recipe category, tech feature and selection toggle to personalize and expedite the digital meal planning experience is shaped by the data collected from these amazing volunteers who share their preferences with us.