Loren Ridinger, Co-Founder & Senior Executive Vice President of Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM, Top 10 Inspiring Women Leaders of 2022 Profile

Sarah DeLeon
Founder and CEO
Global Retail Ventures

Loren Ridinger, Co-Founder & Senior Executive Vice President of Market America Worldwide | SHOP.COM, Top 10 Inspiring Women Leaders of 2022

Support people to develop individually

This issue is the special magazine edition of our annual celebration of the entrepreneurs leading today’s most influential, innovative companies and changing the world while they’re at, which leads us to our next award winner, Sarah DeLeon, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Global Retail Ventures, LLC (GRV).

Congratulations on being named Impact Entrepreneur of 2023. This Q & A will give fellow entrepreneurs a glimpse into your leadership ethos and how you believe that is propelling your company, Global Retail Ventures (GRV), into the future. First, tell us about yourself and your company.

Thank you. It’s both gratifying and humbling to start a company that matches my passion and experience. I’m in a position to utilize what I know and love, with over 25 years of experience in Strategic Planning, Sustainable Sourcing, and Procurement in Corporate & Retail Development: Construction, design, real estate portfolio, operations & facilities management. I value the impact of creating branded experiences, inclusive of accessibility, innovation, and sustainability in the workplace and through services that intentionally engage customers and employees. Through ethical sourcing and sustainable procurement practice, I have contributed to the stewardship and growth of new business functions within three of the world’s biggest and best-known global technology brands. Furthermore, as an expert in B Corp (balancing profit and purpose), I measure every action my team takes not just against budget line items, but against the accountability to select responsible suppliers globally.

At Global Retail Ventures, LLC (GRV), we collaborate with businesses to design and procure their project goals by creating custom programs with successful strategies for sustainable operations and measurable positive global impact. Our mission is to bring the best user experience to customers through sustainable, innovative, inclusive commercial spaces. We envision being the leading global partner for businesses to create, develop and maintain their inclusive commercial environment by offering sustainable end-to-end services and infrastructure for a measurable positive impact on our planet.

Ultimately, our business is about helping other companies succeed and grow sustainably. We work with our clients to take their vision and help them run with it. We do this in part by managing the suppliers, deliverables, schedule, and budget process for them. We work with global suppliers to offer our clients the quality and best pricing that typically only large retailers can qualify for on their own. We show our partners how to monitor, measure and innovate for a better impact on our planet, all while doing it within their budgets.

“Sarah’s willingness to get deeply involved and truly listen and understand requirements sets her apart. She’s truly one of my favorite people to have worked with ever.”

- Michael Stover

We also specialize in design and construction procurement, which is different from the supply chain. We have partners in every commodity from custom lighting, fixtures, and audio-visual down to point of sale. We offer a diverse menu of services to help small-to-medium businesses operate at a world-class level in an Omni-channel environment. We customize our services to meet our client’s needs. Sometimes that quite literally means that we keep the lights on, so they can get the work done.

We give our clients the power to decide what level of support fits their needs best. Simply put, we can teach them to fish or we will happily bring the fish to them. We anticipate and look forward to long-standing relationships with our clients where they can continue working with us as they grow. Some might start out having us handle more of their needs, only to later transition to more specific support. Or, maybe we only build one office or retail store and then in a few years, they call us back when they’re ready to expand. We see ourselves as a long-term trusted partner in their business.

What inspired you to Create Global Retail Ventures?

The idea to start my own company began percolating from the experiences I had while working at Google. The amazing team I was on was responsible for customer-facing experiences. We supported a lot of different initiatives for departments that later became their own companies within Alphabet. Every project was well into the development pipeline when that happened, so it meant that each former department ended up with a ticking clock to establish its own brand. The experiences I had partnering with our marketing department and outside agencies in order to create those new brand identities were creative, challenging, and genuinely enjoyable for me. I looked forward to getting to work every day.

I left Google to join Singularity University (SU). It was at SU that I was introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They were developed in 2015 and they call the world to action on ending poverty, promoting peace and prosperity for all, and protecting the planet. While I was at SU, we had mass layoffs and a global pandemic. It was a blessing. Since my career experiences after Google focused on one main product each, it helped me realize that I missed the dynamic environment that comes with having a variety of projects. I thrive in being a problem-solver. I realized that I wanted something I couldn’t find and I felt I had a lot to offer in this space with my experience. I decided to create a company to support other companies.

Who is Global Retail Ventures’ intended market? What is the size of your market, and what must the firm prioritize in order to generate higher value for consumers, shareholder returns, and employment opportunities?

Our clients are primarily startups to medium-sized businesses. Too often businesses think they need to have their real estate, design, and construction teams in-house.

That is an enormous amount of money to spend and commit your budget to year after year. As a growing business, you need to stay as nimble as you can, so unexpected challenges don’t leave you floundering, or worse. For example, it's the Site Supervisor that has the boots on the ground. Why pay, and in some cases hemorrhage, money for project managers to sit at your corporate office?! Let us do that for you and save your business money that could certainly be earmarked elsewhere.

In terms of your own leadership development, what experiences were most responsible for getting you to this point with your company? What prepared you for the transition from employee to Founder and CEO?

I had the good fortune to work for managers who coached my skill development, supported me, and encouraged my natural drive. It was these positive managers that gave me the space to develop my own managerial style. I’m very resourceful and I love learning new things. I didn’t go the traditional route of business school, so sometimes I need to remind myself that learning is more than a class I could have taken 25 years ago in college. I have worked for, and with, some of the brightest and most inspiring people in their fields. I thank Apple for that. Apple hired the best of the best to work in Retail Development (Real Estate, Design, Construction, and Facilities). I will always be grateful for my work experience there. It was not easy. It pushed me far out of my comfort zone at times. However, it was an amazing time. I got to travel to different states and countries to build new stores and manage talented suppliers.

I, like many others, have sometimes worked in situations where the leadership’s actions seemed disconnected from the company’s stated values. That sets up a terrible work environment, which can easily kill trust, creativity, and productivity. Those situations felt inauthentic and I learned a lot about myself from that experience. I apologize and learn from my mistakes. I believe humility and decisiveness are critical qualities in good leaders. It’s a mistake to believe that as a leader you need to have knowledge of all things. Instead, you need to get the best out of your team. Steve Jobs said, “Hire great people and get out of their way.” I encourage employees to grow and reach outside their comfort zones. This creates work that is both individually fulfilling and productive for the company’s goals. Ultimately, my job is to keep the business growing in line with our company’s mission and vision. But, I can’t do that without ensuring our employees and our clients have what they need.

“Relationships matter. Anyone who thinks they don’t will be limiting themselves”.

- Sarah De Leon

What does effective communication for your company, both internally and externally, look like to you?

Our company is mostly remote with a global clientele. The work we do is actually better when we have team members working in different time zones in order to better support our client's projects. You have to be intentional and thoughtful about communication in any company, but especially in order to keep a remote workforce going. Use all of your tools in your toolbag, but be structured in how you do it. I’ve worked for years with employees and vendors all over the globe. Set up expectations and clear timelines for work. Utilize technology that allows you to work on things collaboratively. Encourage spontaneous meetups when creativity strikes! Maintain your relationships and partnerships by making sure to check in regularly. When there are meetings, give everyone information ahead of time about the agenda and what types of input are being sought. I prefer a roundtable-style of meetings when I’m seeking input. My teams know that I value hearing from them, regardless of position. You never truly know where your best ideas can come from. I also make sure I know what my team members are expecting from me. Continue improving by an established process for giving and receiving feedback constructively. If this is done well, surprises should be minimized and employees should feel safe and supported. And of course, celebrate successes within the company!

Just like being a good homeowner, engagement with your neighbors is important, as being a good steward of your area and understanding the role you play as a local employer. We encourage our team members to participate in their local communities. This ties back to our core value of Sustainability. We work where we live, so all of our team members have different communities that we want to have a positive impact on as a company. Community is another one of our core values. We’re currently working on a plan to donate to sustainable infrastructure, such as bike racks or crosswalks. We’re excited about it.

What do you think your company’s greatest strength is? What makes your company attractive to current and prospective employees?

I love answering this question. If your workforce isn’t your greatest strength, shouldn’t it be? As I have shared this journey with other former colleagues, friends, and family, I have been humbled by the number of people who have offered to join GRV. To have a “waitlist” for people that believe in what we are doing, and want to be a part of something special, has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

Everyone has their own personal and professional experience that they bring to the table and we truly value our diversity. It is crucial to getting things done and being innovative.

If I want to work for a company that creates change and a positive impact on our one shared planet, then that change has to start with me. So, I created our five core values: Balance, Community, Integrity, Sustainability, and Teamwork.

I took the task of selecting these personally, as I wanted them to be material to how I actually lead my company and the work we do. When deciding to take on a new challenge, I simply ask how, and if, it relates to the values of GRV. While I love all five values, Teamwork is my personal favorite. I can define my expectations for myself and every team member who joins GRV by its definition: “We treat each other with mutual respect, always assuming positive intent in others. We collaborate and support one another through fearless constructive feedback and transparency by all, regardless of rank, to encourage innovation through inclusion and diversity.” I started with these values because I want our current and prospective employees to know you are going to matter. You are going to be valued and respected. You are integral to the company. In turn, you have to value and respect the company and your team members.

Key to the experience of any entrepreneur is deploying effective decision-making strategies. How do you approach decision-making?

It’s a skill to do this well. For me, developing this skill has required a combination of knowledge, experience, and intuition. You won’t be able to choose the right course of action if you haven’t defined your problem adequately. I trust my own experience and knowledge, but I also know that the smartest thing you can do is not pretend you're on the mountaintop alone. Use your resources. If you have employees and other leaders around you, make sure you’re incorporating the experience and knowledge that they bring to the table.

The other important part of my decision-making strategy is to simply follow the core values I mentioned earlier that I’ve set up for my company. This is something that can get overlooked. I’ve worked at companies where we had more than ten stated values and I often felt they were generic, so much so that they couldn’t really be a guide to anything. So when I started GRV, I wanted the number of core values to fit on one hand: Balance, Community, Integrity, Sustainability, and Teamwork. We are always referencing them because they are actually integral to the way we do things.

How do you see GRV evolving in the next five years?

There are three divisions to GRV and we’ve rolled out the first two. The first division is CAPEX. This is where we partner with General Contractors and Designers to fulfill their procurement needs. We’ve since expanded our operations to working with clients directly as well. If a client isn’t doing any tenant improvements or architectural changes to a space, they don’t need to pay for a contractor or designer. We are fully capable of taking care of their needs. My experience in retail makes this an easy expansion for us.

Our second division is Facilities Operations. We understand the importance of designing commercial spaces that are sustainable and cost-efficient to preserve our client's space and maintain it for years to come.

That way you keep your space looking and operating as it did on your first day of business, for your employees and customers. Our team works with you to make business decisions that improve your workplace experience, reduce waste, and stay or become compliant with relevant regulatory requirements. Whether your needs are customer-facing or employee experience, process maturity, services staffing, or building engineering, our decades of experience in both retail and tech, GRV is here to help your business become more resilient with a focus on sustainability. We believe that an amazing workplace experience is an achievable goal for every company regardless of whether you are physical, remote, or cloud-based. Everyone deserves to work in an environment that welcomes you, GRV is here to help you with that journey.

The third division is about seed funding, incubating, and accelerating startups with products or services related to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). We’ll have a physical headquarters where we can showcase our venture partnerships, house our extensive sample material library, and most excitingly, provide design and project space for working with clients.

What are some of the most exciting initiatives you have planned for the near future?

We have collaborations in the pipeline with some amazing companies, working with former colleagues who also have a devotion to the guest experience and attention to detail. I am grateful for the long-standing relationships I’ve built over the years. Working with so many talented people allows us many avenues to meet our client's needs and expand what we offer into the future.

We’re excited to be pushing the design, construction, and operational boundaries that so many are used to seeing combined into the same project. We see green buildings or green packaging, but what if everything related to the project had a sustainable foundation? That's where our unique experience and partnerships will make the difference… so stay tuned!


Global Retail Ventures


Sarah DeLeon
Founder and CEO
Global Retail Ventures


At Global Retail Ventures (GRV) we love retail and helping others to create their customer facing space, is our passion. We collaborate with businesses to develop and achieve their retail goals by creating custom retail programs and successful go-to-market strategies for sustainable operations with positive global impact. But retail isn't all we do... Creating interactive user experiences for commercial spaces, partnering with design and construction teams to fulfill their procurement needs, and with operational guides for clients to maintain their facilities for years to come!

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