Jayne Rice, Partner, Managing Director & Director of Institutional Sales, Marketing & Investor Relations, Yesway
DES MOINES, Iowa — Jayne Rice was introduced to the convenience channel in an unconventional way.
After Brookwood Financial Partners, the private equity firm behind Yesway convenience stores, sold its real estate portfolio before the financial crisis in 2008, Rice and a few of her colleagues were tasked by the CEO to find uncorrelated real estate-related businesses that would not be subject to the same cycles as commercial real estate or the economy in general.
After researching more than 300 businesses, the team decided to invest in the c-store and fuel retailing space. However, while the decision to invest was made back in 2010, Brookwood did not officially become part of the industry until late 2015 with the acquisition of its first portfolio of 10 stores in Iowa.
"We had the luxury of creating a new c-store company from scratch and spent a great deal of time researching and deciding which industry best practices we wanted to implement," Rice explained. "I was responsible for researching and eventually selecting a brand and identity firm out of New York [CBX] to not only create a name, logo and color scheme for the firm, which eventually became Yesway, but to also help us fine-tune our company values and create a brand ethos. … Never would I have guessed that by working for a private equity real estate investment firm, I would be recognized as a woman leader in the convenience store industry because of the work we have done over the last few years in creating a new brand from scratch."
Rice will admit that up until nine years ago, she knew nothing about the c-store space. However, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job, she says, is being able to apply her past experience in sales, marketing, investor relations and integration management in the private equity and insurance industries to a start-up business in a different industry.
"Although perceived by some to be simple retail, the convenience industry is both sophisticated and complex, and it takes both art and science to run and grow a successful chain," she said.
Looking at the c-store sector as a whole, which has traditionally been a bastion for men, Rice believes that as the industry continues to evolve, so will its related opportunities and with that, will come new voices that will lead the sector going forward.
"There will continue to be an even greater need for women's voices at the senior levels of the industry to better understand how to meet this consumer base that maybe in the past had been underrepresented," she said. "It is no longer an industry that does not cater to women. What I do see is a really dynamic industry that is changing rapidly and is full of opportunity."