PEARL LEMON INTERVIEWS:
Helene Berkowitz is a Retail Tech executive and startup founder with a background in finance and international payment systems. She is passionate about technology with a human component. In 2017, Helene founded ReceetMe to create a digital retail experience focused on customer experience.
A Fireside Chat
I had the opportunity to have an amazing conversation with Helene Berkowitz at ReceetMe today. From talking about SEO for E-Commerce Sites, Helene agreed to a quick interview.
She took the time to talk to me and answer some questions so I could get to know her better and hear more about the things that have helped shape her business success to date – let’s get stuck into it!
What Is The Book (Or Books) You’ve Given Most As A Gift, And Why?
Paul Reiser’s “Babyhood“. It’s a gut-busting hilarious book on raising kids from babyhood onwards. It makes a great gift because the author/comedian’s views and experiences are so entertaining that you just learn to embrace the crazy. I never laughed so hard in my life.
What Purchase Of $100 Or Less Has Most Positively Impacted Your Life In The Last Six Months?
A Royal Acoustics 5W speaker, model CQL1507B. This small purchase positively impacted my life by making family movie night and karaoke a lot more fun. With 4 children in my family, things can get loud and lively. Some of my kids comment during movies and talk over each other and I’m one of those “I need quiet to hear the dialogue” types. This speaker has exceptional sound quality. Although it has Bluetooth capabilities, I don’t bother with that; I just plug in the USB port and go!
When You Feel Overwhelmed Or Unfocused, Or Have Lost Your Focus Temporarily, What Do You Do?
During these moments, I take a break. That’s easier said than done. Often, I have to force myself to take it because I’m in the middle of a project or close to a deadline and I don’t want to stop or risk losing focus even more. I do it, anyway. Sometimes a break takes the form of a walk outside, watching a funny video, playing a game on my phone, reading a few chapters of a book, cooking something, or just sitting on a couch and shutting my eyes for a while. A brief time away helps me shift my focus elsewhere, rest my mind, or otherwise distract myself. I’m usually able to come back refreshed and with a clearer head. In this Covid era, I find myself working longer than before. It feels like there’s a lack of structure to my days and nights and the feeling of being “on” more than I used to be. The need to take breaks happens more often than in the past.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
1. “Is there really a need for your solution?” I want to sarcastically reply, “No, there’s no need. I just do this for fun out of sheer boredom”.
2. “You shouldn’t bother with cash because the world is completely cashless”. This statement is simply false. Although cashless payments are very much on the rise, cash usage is still very much in play. The World Bank estimates that $19 trillion in cash transactions occur annually worldwide. The unbanked population – people who are not part of the global financial system – is estimated at 1.7 billion people. They may not have a bank account or credit card, but do you know what many of them DO have? Cash and smartphones.
3. “How do you expect to run your company with young children at home?” It boggles the mind that this question is still asked today. I can’t help but wonder how many male entrepreneurs are asked this same question. I’m betting almost none. We need to step away (very far away) from the outdated mindset that all startup founders are young white men wearing a hoodie and living in their parents’ basement. This just isn’t true, nor is it a fair or accurate representation of startup culture.
4. “Offline retail is dying. You should focus solely on eCommerce”. While online shopping and mobile commerce have grown exponentially, brick-and-mortar retail isn’t going anywhere. It is certainly shifting more than ever, thanks to the pandemic, but there’s an element of psychology involved, and that is the human need to socialize and interact with other humans. Offline retail is how consumers do that, and it’s far from dead. Brands like Adidas and Costco, for example, are actually increasing their investment into the in-store retail experience.
Don't be afraid to bring your ideas to the table.
- Helene Berkowitz
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Taking notes during meetings and calls. This may be a no-brainer to some, but it’s surprising how many people don’t do this. For a long time, neither did I. I assumed I would remember the gist of the conversation afterwards and in many instances, that was true. But once I began taking notes, I realized just how valuable so many minor comments and suggestions were that before, I would have missed. The value of re-reading these notes, especially before a follow-up or subsequent meeting cannot be understated.
What Is One Of The Best Or Most Worthwhile Investments You’ve Ever Made?
I invested my time to speak to the senior class of an all girl’s high school about becoming an entrepreneur. The school administration had a number of female professionals give talks to the class about their businesses and how they managed demanding careers with an equally busy family life. My talk was the most interactive and had the highest engagement because the students felt they could relate to me as a woman who successfully balanced the personal and professional, as well as the technology my company develops, which is something they themselves could use. It was so rewarding to be a tiny part of their education and real-world experience.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — what would it say and why?
“If girls run the world (thanks, Beyonce!), then fund more women-led startups!” According to Columbia University, “businesses led by women are 63 percent less likely to obtain venture capital (VC) funding than those led by men.” The statistics on investments based on genders of the founders are quite staggering. Investment criteria on paper don’t always match the hidden criteria and biases that are rampant in the startup ecosystem. It’s even less for women of color. This needs to change…and fast.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
1. Take a course in business etiquette and the corporate world. There is so much about business culture and career life that cannot be taught at the college level. Young people are often caught unaware of the many nuances and challenges that exist in the corporate environment and it can be a bit of a culture shock.
2. Don’t be afraid to bring your ideas to the table. Some young adults about to enter “the real world” may feel overwhelmed or unsure of themselves when copared to more seasoned professionals. It’s precisely this outside view that can bring fresh perspectives to business challenges, like a company entering a new market, launching a new product, or conducting detailed market research. Bring your objective views and fresh outlook – they can be incredibly valuable.
Tell Us About Your Business. What Does It Do And What Value Do You Add?
ReceetMe is a mobile platform that aggregates all digital receipts onto 1 centralized, easily searchable system. No paper, no email, no text messages. Retailers get sophisticated customer engagement tools, consumers enjoy an optimized retail experience.
What is the most significant thing that someone much younger than yourself has taught you?
Patience. More than anyone else in my life, my children have taught me patience. One of my children has a mental illness. The way she sees people and how others see and interact with her is very challenging. Navigating life through her eyes has shown me patience as she struggles to understand the world around her.
Tell us about someone you admire and why you admire them?
Theresa May. She seems to have the focus of a bull terrier with the temperament and humor of a charismatic tough love grandmother. I see her as a truly exceptional leader and would love to meet her to chat about anything and everything.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Novelist. I love to write and I have a plethora of stories in my head that are just begging to be written.
Where do you see your industry in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, the retail sector will be more advanced with a primary focus on the customer experience. Brands both big and small will focus on experiences rather than strictly products or sales. Biometric payments will be more widely adopted than it is now while digital services will be at the forefront of the industry.
What's your favourite colour?
How has Covid-19 changed your industry?
Grocery eCommerce has surged in the face of COVID-19. To keep up with rising demand, Instacart hired 300,000 new workers while Amazon brought on 100,000 new staff. We’ve seen an uptick in retail features like curbside pickup, contactless shopping, and contactless dining as consumers look for ways to continue shopping and dining out while maintaining social distancing practices.
How has Covid-19 changed your company?
We’ve always talked about the health concerns caused by toxic chemicals found on paper receipts, as well as the environmental issues. Since COVID-19 started last year, consumer demand for clean, climate-friendly products has grown. Consumers want to do business with companies they feel are socially conscious. All of these issues are things our technology solves. We’ve spoken about them since our founding, but consumers are now more aware of them.
What one thing in life do you consider to be overrated?
What's something exciting you're currently working on/learning that only a few people know about?
A new mobile platform bringing together tailors and seamstresses with customers who need clothing alterations.
Pearl Lemon are an SEO, PPC, PR, and B2B lead-generation agency. We are based in London but service clients around the world.
We have taken the time to interview entrepreneurs and experts (like Helene) in this new series.