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“Persevering, staying focused on what you want to be and what you’re good at – you’ve got to stay the course." — Louise Pritchard, co-founder of Shopii
The Harbert College is dedicated to developing graduates who are highly-skilled, professionally prepared, confident, ethical, and globally minded.
Envision yourself meal planning … you sort through recipe books, jot down the ingredients, then head to your local grocery store to search, aisle by aisle, for the products to finally make dinner, or try the equally frustrating task of ordering groceries online. Louise Pritchard, a 1978 Harbert College marketing graduate, along with her co-founder Katie Hotze, had a better idea: why not let a simple online bot do the work?
“Go to your grocer’s web site and click on the floating bot that says ‘plan your meals in five minutes or less,’” she said. “You are immediately directed to a meal planning source of popular recipes and/or recipes that met your personal profile. When you click ‘check out,’ you are seamlessly taken back into the online grocery store’s checkout, where you can continue to order items like milk, dog food, etc.”
The meal is planned and the ingredients are purchased – at your fingertips. Grocery Shopii, an eCommerce platform coming soon to stores near you, was co-founded in 2019 by Pritchard, who recognized the need for faster meal planning and purchasing. Things changed in 2020.
“Before COVID, online sales of groceries was pretty anemic,” said Pritchard, an Atlanta native who has spent the past 20 years in Williamsburg, Virginia. “It was no longer about firing up sales, which was our tagline. It became grocery shopping re-imagined because stores now had more online business than they could handle. Our play to stores was … ‘You’ve got all of these people. How are you going to retain them?’ ‘How are you differentiating your platform?’
“Everybody is jumping on the grocery eCommerce opportunity. Until now, no one had figured out how to make the experience seamless, which would save time. Some see us as a differentiator. We play in the B2B space looking for ways to help grocers build loyalty at the store level and they see the Shopii application as a differentiator.”
Pritchard, also the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, said her business’ key differentiators are 1) personalizing the customer experience, 2) expediting the experience, and 3) inspiring shoppers with fresh recipes daily. “For us, we’re talking about retaining grocery stores’ customers’, building loyalty and giving them something that would keep them from jumping. That’s how we are changing the narrative,” she said.
Taking a chance on a startup, whether it’s a software company or health club, takes patience, guts and determination, Pritchard believes.
“Persevering, staying focused on what you want to be and what you’re good at – you’ve got to stay the course," she said. "We tested, learned and tested some more. We’ve conducted customer discovery at every corner. We’ve had setbacks and we’ve had days when we were floating on air with excitement. But you must persevere and adapt in the startup space – and that is where we excel.
“Being the owner of a startup can be like drinking out of a fire hose sometimes. You’ve got to think strategically and with thick skin. There are so many unknowns and there’s a lot pulling on you. In one single day, you are handling so many different things. But it’s energizing at the same time.”