Founder Profile

Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene

PopCom

For giving retailers a smarter, touchless way to sell

"Covid was both a blessing and a curse for Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, founder and CEO of PopCom. She founded the company back in 2017 on the notion that vending machines and kiosks ought to be able to give retailers a clearer picture of their customers' buying habits. So her company's automated pop-up shops give companies the ability to monitor inventory, track customer conversion rates, and even analyze a person's emotions as they browse through products--all without involving a sales person. When Covid hit and retailers needed to find a way to keep selling without putting employees or customers at risk, PopCom's kiosks gained new appeal. "Vending machines were deemed 'essential businesses' around the world as retailers scrambled for touchless retail and contactless delivery solutions," Dickson-Akpoghene says. "We signed up a lot of new customers in 2020 and beginning of 2021."

The problem? PopCom's machines were manufactured in China prior to the pandemic and so the company's supply chain shut down. "I lived in Hong Kong and spent years developing a relationship with a great manufacturing partner. Literally in a month everything we worked on was uncertain. I had to act immediately to save my company," she says.

PopCom moved manufacturing to Connecticut, a costly but essential move. While the making of the machines came to a standstill, the company focused on building up its list of venue partnerships. Pre-Covid, PopCom projected revenue for 2021 at $5.5 million; the reality will be more like $1 million because of the delays. "But on the flip side, we now have a whole pipeline of customers ready to work with us and now the market is ready," Dickson-Akpoghene says.

This year, PopCom, which has raised $4.5 million in funding to date mostly through equity crowdfunding, is pressing into highly regulated markets like alcohol and cannabis. The company signed a major global wine seller as a customer and will plant its kiosks soon in entertainment venues. As Dickson-Akpoghene reflects on what the company has gone through, the takeaway for her is clear: "You have to be OK completely changing everything you know as long as your goal is met."

Company Information
Year Founded
2017
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Industry
Business products and services
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2021

"Covid was both a blessing and a curse for Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene, founder and CEO of PopCom. She founded the company back in 2017 on the notion that vending machines and kiosks ought to be able to give retailers a clearer picture of their customers' buying habits. So her company's automated pop-up shops give companies the ability to monitor inventory, track customer conversion rates, and even analyze a person's emotions as they browse through products--all without involving a sales person. When Covid hit and retailers needed to find a way to keep selling without putting employees or customers at risk, PopCom's kiosks gained new appeal. "Vending machines were deemed 'essential businesses' around the world as retailers scrambled for touchless retail and contactless delivery solutions," Dickson-Akpoghene says. "We signed up a lot of new customers in 2020 and beginning of 2021."

The problem? PopCom's machines were manufactured in China prior to the pandemic and so the company's supply chain shut down. "I lived in Hong Kong and spent years developing a relationship with a great manufacturing partner. Literally in a month everything we worked on was uncertain. I had to act immediately to save my company," she says.

PopCom moved manufacturing to Connecticut, a costly but essential move. While the making of the machines came to a standstill, the company focused on building up its list of venue partnerships. Pre-Covid, PopCom projected revenue for 2021 at $5.5 million; the reality will be more like $1 million because of the delays. "But on the flip side, we now have a whole pipeline of customers ready to work with us and now the market is ready," Dickson-Akpoghene says.

This year, PopCom, which has raised $4.5 million in funding to date mostly throug

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