Where do great business ideas come from? Sometimes, out of previous business ideas. That’s what happened to Dawn Dickson, who went from selling shoes to reinventing the vending machine. It began in 2011 when she launched Flat Out of Heels, roll-up ballet flats that women can carry as a backup to less comfortable footwear. She tried to sell them in vending machines (to help women who wanted to ditch their heels), but traditional machines didn’t gather data. “I wanted to know my conversion rate, and who was shopping,” she says. So she developed PopCom, software that uses facial recognition and AI so existing kiosks and vending machines can capture shopper data and analytics. Then she realized the hardware could be improved upon—and launched a new kind of machine called a PopShop in 2020, just as demand for socially distant shopping was soaring. Here’s how she did it.
Step 1/ Choose how to build.
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