Vicki Raport is the CEO and co-founder of Quantum Retail, a company that delivers a software platform that optimizes and automates retail processes related to localized forecasting and advanced order planning; allocation and replenishment; and assortment and range planning. Prior to co-founding Quantum Retail, Vicki held executive positions in strategy, strategic alliances, sales and business development, services, and customer support with Retek Inc., a provider of mission-critical software and services to the retail industry.
Sramana: Vicki, let’s start with your personal background. Where do you come from?
Vicki Raport: I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both of my parents were from the area. I went to the University of Minnesota and got my undergraduate degree in finance and accounting in 1985. I started my career working at Arthur Andersen. It was the number one accounting firm in the world, and I started my career as a tax accountant.
I specialized early on in retail. I also decided I did not want to be an accountant forever, but I did enjoy the business side of things. After three and a half years I left public accounting and went into retail. I went to work for Wilsons, The Leather Experts, Inc. They were the predominant specialty leather retailer in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.
Sramana: Is there a specialization or concentration of the leather industry in Minneapolis?
Vicki Raport: Wilson’s Leather was a West Coast company that bought out a Minneapolis company. I went to work for them in their finance area and spent nine years working in the business side of retail. Within a year of joining, I moved to and lived in Korea, where Wilsons was manufacturing 90% of its goods. I took over as an international controller and was responsible for purchasing approximately $300 million of goods from the Far East.
That was my big adventure. I took a risk, moved to a place where I didn’t know anybody, and found it to be very interesting. At the time, it was still very difficult to work there as a woman. Not knowing the language was somewhat difficult. We had a great office which did a great job of helping the five or six expats we had there to adapt.
Sramana: How long did you stay in Korea?
Vicki Raport: I stayed in Korea for a year. I went in to establish systems and processes to allow better operations in Korea and China. I lived in Hong Kong for three months as well. Those were life-changing experiences and helped me create a world view that I could not get living in Minneapolis. I look back and that now and appreciate how much it helped me, not only in my career at Wilsons but also from a world perspective and gaining appreciation of different cultures.
Within Wilsons, I did a lot of things. I came back from Asia and went into negotiating logistics contracts. After that I opened a factory in Mexico; we shipped raw materials into Mexico and shipped them back into the United States. I also ran Wilson’s store operations, which encompassed 400 stores. I learned the retail business inside out. I did a lot of systems and business process improvement work as well. My last role was business process re-engineering and systems design, and that launched me out of retail and into retail software. My cumulative Wilsons experience laid the foundation for my entrepreneurial desires.