Dawn Dickson founded PopCom, a vending machine service, as a response to the dire need to merge technology, commerce, and culture into a cohesive platform for retail businesses, including her own. Bridging the gap between e-commerce and vending machines, PopCom hones in on the importance of utilizing data and culture to promote rapid retail expansion and top-notch customer experiences. Its PopShop Local Program connects brands with high-spending consumers that are already looking for local goods in hotels, convention centers, airports, malls and other high-traffic areas.

In addition, Dickson, a serial entrepreneur, is well-respected in the crowdfunding world. The entrepreneur and inventor is the first female founder to raise $1 million from equity crowdfunding under the JOBS Act. Moreover, she has raised over $6 million from 10,000 investors since 2019.

Dickson spoke with EBONY about her vision for PopCom and the lessons she's learned as a Black entrepreneur.

EBONY: What inspired the creation of PopCom?

Dawn Dickson: Like many companies, PopCom is a company that was born out of necessity. I created the company after my own struggles to find vending machines that could sell my roll-up flat products at high-traffic areas like airports. A key factor that I also observed that was absent was the data I relied on to follow and monitor traffic and conversion rates through my website and shopping cart; analytics, email collection, retargeting, re-marketing—arguably the tenets of successful sales growth—were not possible with  traditional “low-IQ” vending machines. After realizing a need in the market, I was able to then assemble a fantastic team that came together to change automated retail forever, and that's how PopCom was born.

As a Black business owner, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your journey?

The biggest lesson is the power and importance of community. The Black community has huge influence and buying power. My success has been largely because of the overwhelming support from the communities I was a part of in Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio.

What are some tips for those interested in crowdfunding as a means to raise capital?

My main tip for a successful crowdfunding campaign is to have a solid marketing strategy.  When considering fundraising ,and especially crowdfunding, you need to build your community and start with an email list and keep investors and prospects updated regularly as you prepare to launch your campaign. My best practice is never go 60 days without them hearing from you. You want to get them excited about the opportunity and build anticipation.

What does the future of PopCom look like?

We are excited to launch 10 more PopShop Local machines this year, and announce two new celebrity partnerships. The goal for the future is to see PopShop machines in every major airport and travel venue.