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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Fresh out of college, Niki DePhillips joined convenience store chain Kum and Go LC based in West Des Moines, as an administrative assistant in the real estate department. She brought with her a degree in marketing, but no real estate experience. Yet that didn’t stop her from climbing the ranks to her current role of senior vice president of store development.
“I had a great boss who unleashed my passion for real estate and the convenience store industry,” DePhillips told Convenience Store News. “Growing up, I worked for several years in a local grocery store, so I was already in love with working in retail at 14 years old.”
From administrative assistant, she quickly moved up the ladder to real estate manager, then director of real estate, then director of recruitment and retention, before earning the title of vice president of real estate. Her current role is a newly created position on the leadership team, combining real estate and construction development.
“My role today includes overall leadership for the company as a member of the senior management team, and leadership for my department including site selection, design, construction and asset management,” she explained. “I oversee our non-c-store real estate development arm, and am also leading the design and build of our new Store Support Center, which is being designed by Pritzker Prize award-winning architect, Renzo Piano of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.”
She believes one of her greatest career accomplishments thus far is having built more than 200 stores during her time at Kum & Go. She’s also proud that the retailer has upgraded its quality of assets over the years to better meet customer needs.
DePhillips recently completed her MBA and is active in the Iowa CCIM Chapter, a real estate trade organization. She also volunteers on panels, boards and various groups to help guide others in their personal and professional development.
Since starting in the convenience store industry, she continues to see an increase in the number of women in leadership positions throughout the industry, and there are a number of things she loves about being involved in it all.
“I love the fast-paced environment; the ability to delight our customers; and how open our industry is in sharing with each other to help improve the industry as a whole,” she noted. “I also love the people I work with — hard-working, team players who treat each other like family. Kum and Go has always been a family-owned and -run business, and I think that has helped build a culture of caring among associates.”
Her advice to other women: “Opportunities will present themselves and there could be a million reasons running through your head on why you can’t do it or are too busy,” she said. “Quiet those voices and have the courage to say ‘yes.’”
DePhillips is one of five Women of the Year and among 62 female managers, directors and executives working in the convenience store industry who are being honored in the third-annual Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience awards program this year. An awards reception will take place Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Atlanta, coinciding with the 2016 NACS Show.