Retail think tank founder boosts women to c-suite


CHICAGO – Being the only woman surrounded by men in a professional environment runs in Kelly Stickel’s family—her mom was an engineer at Boeing.

“My father passed away and she was a single mother of four children, and had to go back to get her degree, and then her master’s degree. And I just saw the way she fought through life,” Stickel explains.

Stickel is the founder and CEO of Remodista, a social think tank that examines global retail disruption.

“I’ve been pretty scrappy in my business life, and I got down and did the business development path and management consulting where there’s not a lot of women,” Stickel says.

Stickel got her idea for her think tank while doing business development for Acquity Group, a digital marketing and eCommerce company later acquired by Accenture Interactive. Stickel says she began to see a stark difference between how men and women interact in the business world, and that observation inspired her to start Remodista.

“I realized the men were focused on selling, and I was focused on education. Women want to innovate and collaborate; we want to be more knowledgeable.” Stickel explains. “There are enough of us women getting into executive leadership or buying and selling technology that I felt we could really re-architect this.”

When Stickel launched Remodista in 2009, she says she made predictions that ended up highlighting her foresight and ability to see what many others couldn’t.

“I made a bet that technology would break, women leaders would matter, and we’d go global. All this innovation, insight and thinking is happening right now, so I placed good bets back then.”

Stickel has spent the past six years tirelessly building connections, and says that’s the backbone of Remodista’s success.

“It took about two and a half years to build the community. You can’t just buy a community, you have to have purpose and attract like-minded people,” Stickel explains.

Stickel says she has about 3,000 people in her community, and works closely with about 300 executives.

“Right now, my clients are people like Capgemini, PayPal, Avionos, and a lot of the tech service partners that go to retail—probably 40 over the last three years.”

Stickel is a one-woman show but works with about 10 independent subcontractors: digital strategists, content writers, researchers and product developers.

“I had the inspiration for six years, but I didn’t really have a business until a year ago,” she says.

Remodista’s revenue model is unique in that her company makes money from think tank sponsors who share her passion for investing in female leaders.

“I take all that money, and I put it right back into the business. So what’s cool is I’ve had no investors. It’s all been partners investing in me along the way, to help me.”

And Stickel’s hard work has paid off—Remodista brought in close to $300,000 in revenue over the past year. Stickel now plans to switch over to a subscription business model to generate more revenue.

“It has the potential of being a $100 million company,” she says.

Stickel is driven by her passion to help women climb the corporate ladder and become successful executives. She launched the program Women2Watch in Retail Disruption last year, which facilitates female executives coming together to network and collaborate.

“Businesses make more money when women are involved,” she explains.

Stickel says the rate of promotions among women in the program is remarkable, and far above the rates normally seen in corporations. The program has expanded to Australia, and will be launching in Europe next year.

Stickel says she was looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton break the “ultimate” glass ceiling, and was heartbroken when that didn’t happen.

“There are so many organizations that are rallying around helping women entrepreneurs, and I feel like it’s a setback to breaking the ceiling, but we’ve had those setbacks before. We’ll just reorganize, lead by example, and get our ducks in order. And in four years we’ll come back and make an impact.”

Stickel says the key to success is continuing to get back up after you’ve been knocked down.

“As an entrepreneur, you really have to have passion and belief in what you’re doing,” she says.

“You have to have resilience, you have to be able to be disliked and live feeling pretty afraid most of the time. But you learn that great leaders didn’t make it because they weren’t afraid, they made it because they can be afraid and still walk forward.”

Women Founders Gain Recognition in Retail Disruption

What’s your higher calling? Impassioned entrepreneurs always have a huge reason, the driving force behind their work, even if it isn’t immediately apparent to the rest of the market. This column, a first-person essay, drives home why Kelly Stickel, founder of Remodista, cares about empowering women entrepreneurs. In this Higher Calling, she shares why she brought them together for the inaugural Women2Watch event in New York City. 

Founder @remodista

NEW YORK—My best moment as a founder was recently, during my first Women2Watch Award Show with 150 retail executives.

In January, Remodista listed 80 Women2Women as leaders we think you should watch. We use community to help leaders think through business challenges, provide expertise in areas where solutions have not been developed through collaboration, and shine a light on their key successes. In the last three quarters, 29 of these 80 women have changed title or company. We gave six innovation awards to women leaders at Keds, giggle, HBC Digital, New York & Company, YOGASMOGA and Zazzle.

I have had a retail committee of 20 leaders helping me think through community as a business model for the last three years for my business, Remodista. In quarters eight and nine, 16 of those 20 women were promoted or sold their businesses. Those numbers told me our collaboration was allowing them to be more insightful than others about disruption and innovation, and they were winning the promotions. Expanding this outcome became my priority.


Remodista is a Chicago-based social think tank that uses community as a business model. I re-engineered the buy-and-selling process, so that it is set up the way modern women prefer—through collaboration and education. When you use community, there is a higher purpose bringing you all together, and the community tends to manage that before their own needs. Our purpose is to educate brands, cultivate women leaders and connect a global community.

The biggest misconception in commerce is that you need a large, onsite, multi-year implementation. That model is going away and we are heading into the cloud with Saas platforms. We have put commerce platform players back in charge of configuring their modules, and businesses can focus on their business.


Business is transforming, and not just the retail vertical. Mobility is shaping the way business is structured on the inside. What is exciting is that while retail is transforming, some old standing business models are failing. The ones that are working or evolving are allowing us to shape future processes and procedures around new business solutions versus continuing to be innovative around failing technologies.

The best advice I can give fellow entrepreneurs is:
Be passionate about the idea you are bringing into the world. It is a big commitment, and largely a solo journey to get it over the hill.
Be willing to be not liked. Change does not come with popularity, as least on the front half of your journey, and some people need to be liked.
Move forward even though you are afraid. Successful people are moving forward with fear and that helps you break through walls.
Give it all you’ve got, and be ready to evangelize more and often.

Read more about it here.

Kelly Stickel is founder and CEO of Remodista, a social think tank examining disruption in global retail. Do you have a Higher Calling to share? Why are you passionate about solving the problem we’re facing, and what impact do you see it having on our society? Share your own essay HERE.