At the heart of Skupos is something familiar: the family-owned corner store.
The small but mighty convenience store that caffeinates your morning commute; the earnest mom-and-pop shop downtown; the quaint neighborhood store that’s been lovingly passed down for generations: Skupos honors them all.
Skupos serves the convenience store, or c-store, industry with its proprietary software, which empowers stores to generate more revenue, discover rebates, and connect with consumer packaged goods companies.
“At the core, we’re trying to help convenience stores make more money,” COO Jonathan Czaja told Built In. “These are small businesses — independent owner operators — who own one or two stores.”
WHAT SKUPOS DOES
Skupos is a technology platform that connects the convenience retail industry. Founded in 2016, a growing network of 15,000 customers across 50 states rely on Skupos to boost sales volume and increase their customer base. Led by Forbes 30 Under 30 member and CEO Jake Bolling, it aims to drive revenue growth across all segments of the convenience retail industry through technology that connects both retailers and brands to their shoppers.
It’s not just about elevating the underdogs of the retail landscape, said Head of People Jamie Stevens. Skupos is driven to create socioeconomic change. As a people leader, Stevens seeks out professionals with the same ambitions.
“Many c-store owners are first-generation Americans or first-generation business owners,” said Stevens. “Connecting with small businesses and entrepreneurs in all walks of life is something we’re really passionate about.”
Sheltered from Headwinds
In the first quarter of this year, roughly 131,000 tech professionals were laid off across multiple sectors. Skupos, though, has weathered the vicious tech headwinds, growing steadily in an unstable economy.
Czaja points to unwavering vision and laser-focused goals as Skupos’ mooring in turbulent times.
“We have durable growth because we’ve focused on building great products customers love,” he said.
At the intersection of supporting burgeoning entrepreneurs and the greater good is a perfect product-market fit in a largely untapped market, said Chief Revenue Officer Christine Shriver.
“This is a $300 billion market of in-store sales,” Shriver said. “It’s an enormous — but fragmented — channel.”
Within the US market, roughly 69 percent of those in-store sales take place in small independent stores, but there remains a lack of support in the industry. Most retail tech is aimed at big box stores and major hubs of commerce, leaving a tangible void.
“We’ve become the conduit for small c-stores to operate like a grocery store and other channels of trade,” she said. “It’s really a no-brainer to finally operate with data and be able to run programs across this enormous market segment that’s often right behind the grocery or Walmart channel.”
This harmonious product-market fit has led to quick customer adoption and breakneck growth — 70 percent revenue growth in the past year. Czaja is proud of Skupos’ development.
“We’re now in 15,000 convenience stores in the United States,” Czaja said. “That’s about 10 percent of the existing market.”
Pre-pandemic, roughly 95 percent of Skupos’ workforce was located in San Francisco or Denver. In the spirit of resiliency, Skupos pivoted to a national team as its employees began to sprawl beyond the confines of tech hubs and into suburbia. “Three years later, we have employees in 16 different states,” Stevens said. Come 2022, the tech market saw another shift, urging Skupos to seek international talent. Today, Skupos has expanded to seven countries, primarily in Latin America, Canada, and Poland. “We’ve brought in high-impact international contractors,” she said, noting that Skupos international team members participate in orientation and team culture just as their stateside counterparts do.
‘You’ll Reach the Moon Here’
A vital piece of Skupos’s staunch presence in the c-store space is its measured approach to building a workforce.
“We’ve built the right team, with the right players who are excited to deliver against our mission,” Czaja said.
Skupos has hired with restraint, he told Built In. When other tech companies were leaning into hypergrowth, Skupos opted to maintain their even hiring cadence.
“In a high growth company like Skupos, we make sure we have great managers to support our people the way they should,” Czaja said.
As head of HR, Stevens leans into the concept of talent density. Biannual reviews, constant reflection, and intentional support have a place in Skupos’ playbook for nurturing talent.
“We look for force multipliers, those people who can make a big impact,” Stevens said. “Perhaps you’re not an expert coming in, but if you have the potential to drive changes — we see you.”
Skupos communicates its prioritization of people via fair compensation. Merit and market adjustments are common. High performance is recognized and rewarded. This recognition extends to robust internal promotion, Shriver added.
“When we need to hit a revenue target or build out a new product, the first place we look is internally,” she said. “Is there a superstar out there looking for growth opportunities?”
Shriver noted that she has witnessed the power of internal investment firsthand.
“If you’re passionate and smart, you’ll reach the moon at this company.”
DIVING INTO DEI
“We’re mindful of diversity in our management and leadership roles,” Czaja said — and it shows. Roughly 50 percent of Skupos managers and above are women, a statistic that towers over the average in tech. “We see the need for strong leaders who understand and support bringing in diverse voices,” he said. “It’s something we will always keep improving upon.”
Culture of Trust
When Shriver interviewed for her role at Skupos, she didn’t shy away from asking pointed questions.
“What’s the cash position? Where are you in terms of fundraising?” Shriver recalled asking leadership. She was met with equally forthright answers.
“Being open and honest from hiring to employment sends a message,” she said. “I started at Skupos with a clear picture of what it meant to join the company at that point in my career.”
Transparency has become the crown jewel of Skupos’ culture — and a cornerstone of its sustained rise.
“We keep a company scoreboard of all of our metrics: revenue and expenses all the way down to our cash burn,” Czaja said. “Providing our employees with clear context about where we are as a company and where we’re headed is our biggest culture driver.”
There is perhaps no clearer mark of a thriving culture than tangible alignment, and, at Skupos, all roads point back to serving small business: Skupos’ latest employee survey revealed that 99 percent of its employees can clearly see the impact their role has on helping c-store entrepreneurs flourish.
With family businesses facing steep economic challenges, there’s never been a better time for Skupos to lend a supportive hand.