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Shipt Congratulates Inaugural Class of Retailers on Completing LadderUp Program

Small businesses from Atlanta, Birmingham, Detroit, Houston and Washington, DC participated in Shipt’s accelerator program to set them up for success in a changing marketplace

Earlier this year, Shipt announced the launch of our new local business accelerator program, LadderUp. After receiving hundreds of applications from deserving small businesses around the country, we welcomed 10 local retailers to the program.

Fast forward to today, we are proud to announce that our initial class completed an extensive eight-week course, learning from retail industry leaders on how to drive sustainable growth, build a solid financial foundation, increase efficiency, and improve their marketing. Each of these local businesses also got a primer on e-commerce, using Shipt, and the basic legal knowledge to help run a business. These retailers also received $5,000 from Shipt to invest in their e-commerce and access to Shopify’s platform at no cost for a limited time.

“These business owners are change makers in their communities and are providing their customers with not only goods and services, but connection and a place of belonging,” said Khadijah Abdullah, vice president of economic and social impact. “Shipt congratulates our inaugural LadderUp retailers and we look forward to continuing to support them in building more healthy, resilient, and equitable communities.”

We packed a lot of content into the course, but LadderUp participants were more than up to the task. We were inspired by their enthusiasm for learning and steadfast commitment to the people and places they serve.

What was it like to be a part of the first LadderUp class? Take it from these local business leaders to hear what they gained:

  • E-Commerce is the Future. For Aurora Market co-owner Rahel Kassa in Washington, DC, and Grace’s Nutrition Market owner Michelle Garcia in Houston, TX, LadderUp opened the doors to the world of e-commerce – something they had always wanted to pursue but had never felt ready to. With access to industry experts and peers, Rahel and Michelle were able to ask questions and learn what it would take to build and run a successful e-commerce platform – a critical requirement for adapting their businesses to the modern marketplace. For Jasann Gilliamm, founder of Leafy Greens Market in Atlanta, learning how to add delivery is an important and critical way to better serve her community.

  • Growing and Expanding Your Customer Base is Key. Pillar and Pride founder and CEO Tyree Williams in Detroit, Michigan has a diverse and loyal customer base that spans a wide age range – or as he puts it, from their early 20s through “seasoned citizens” – but he wanted to better understand how to grow the store’s reach. Tyree especially benefited from learning how to better track and improve customer retention. For Jacquie Fazekas, owner of Bama Health Foods LLC in Birmingham, Alabama, improving their online presence was especially important so they could reach members of their community beyond their physical store.

  • The Online Marketplace Offers an Unparalleled Path to Growth. For Ping Ho of Marrow Detroit Provisions in Detroit, Michigan, the timing of LadderUp was perfect. She had just begun expanding into e-commerce with her hybrid butcher shop/restaurant enterprise and was excited to learn about how she could harness new online platforms to make more sales. House Plant Collective owner Jessica Watts was excited to learn how to bring the joy of house plants from her storefront in Birmingham, Alabama to the local community.

  • Scaling is Essential for Success. Sam Newman, founder of Little Red Box Grocery, operates a small community-focused neighborhood market in Houston’s second ward that is small in size but big in heart. Sam is hoping to build off the success of Little Red Box and appreciated learning how to scale his approach to reach other underserved communities and improve the business’s efficiency. Similarly, Jeff Delp, the Director of Economic Development of Carver Neighborhood Market in Atlanta found it valuable to learn how to streamline his business’s processes and sharpen their strategic plan.

  • It Helps to Hear from Those That Have Been There. For Ivy Wall and Jeremy Peaches, founders of Fresh Houwse Grocery, they appreciated that unlike other business accelerators, LadderUp was specifically focused on grocery and retail, so course content felt especially relevant to them and they shared they could personally relate to the instructors. Ivy and Jeremy also found it helpful that in addition to class time, they were able to follow up to receive one-on-one guidance. When Ivy had additional questions on digital marketing and merchandising, she could connect directly with her course instructor.

  • We’re All in This Together. Across the board, we heard from these businesses that in addition to learning a great deal in a short amount of time, it was invaluable to connect with each other. Retailers shared they felt reassured to know that nearly all of them were facing or had overcome similar challenges and many of the retailers remain in touch, as they continue in their journey as small local retailers.

  • Community is Everything. Finally, for all of our retailers, a commitment to serving their communities was their guiding North. Each and every one of these business owners shared experiences of customers becoming lifelong friends, the community uniting together to help neighbors in need, and the pride they each take in providing a safe place for people to come together.

We are also excited to announce that in 2024, Marrow Detroit Provisions and House Plant Collective will be available on Shipt’s marketplace for local delivery in their communities. We are thrilled to have graduated our first class of LadderUp participants and look forward to welcoming more small businesses to the LadderUp program in the future.

Shipt Appoints Smrutha Ipparthi To Expanded Chief Technology And Product Officer Role

The retail technology company expands Ipparthi’s scope to include leadership of technology teams.

In a strategic move to further strengthen its leadership team and drive product innovation in the rapidly evolving retail technology space, Shipt is pleased to announce Smrutha Ipparthi has been named chief technology and product officer.

Smrutha, who was a leader in Shipt’s technology organization prior to being appointed the company’s CPO, will have an expanded role in shaping the company’s user experience and infrastructure, aligning product development with innovative technological advancements, and enhancing the overall experience for customers, shoppers and partners. She will also oversee the integration of technology solutions throughout the company’s operations, harnessing emerging technologies to optimize processes and driving strategic initiatives to enhance the digital shopping experience for customers and more.

“As we continue evolving Shipt as a leading technology retail brand, Smrutha’s ability to drive technological advancements that further cement Shipt’s status as an industry leader will be instrumental to our growth,” said Shipt Chief Executive Officer Kamau Witherspoon. “With a unique combination of expertise in ecommerce and operational excellence, as well as experience driving product innovation, we’re thrilled to see what our team will accomplish under her leadership.”

In her tenure as chief product officer, the seasoned engineer spearheaded the development of successful product offerings, including the recently-launched student membership model, which expands access to the convenience and simplicity of same-day delivery for budget-restricted college students. Ipparthi also played an instrumental role in developing Shipt’s Summit Seeker Program, an initiative that incentivizes shoppers to provide exceptional service, such as industry-leading gas cashback offer, $50 in grocery credits, wellness perks and more. By rewarding shoppers for their high standard of service, Ipparthi, in turn, also improved the customer experience.

“One of the best parts about working at Shipt is seeing the bright, kind minds of our community work together to achieve great success within our industry, while prioritizing the experiences of Shipt’s customers, partners, and shoppers,” said Ipparthi. “I’m extremely proud of the work the team is doing to continue bringing our customers delight in every delivery, and I look forward to what we will accomplish next.”

As chief technology and product officer, Smrutha will continue to report directly to Witherspoon, contributing to the company’s long-term strategic direction and playing a vital role in ensuring Shipt’s continued leadership in the technology retail sector.

Shipt and Issa Rae Launch New Student Membership Program While Amplifying the Talents of Diverse Creatives

From Campus to Times Square: Shipt’s New Offering Comes Alive in National Ad Campaign, Forged by Howard University Students

Shipt is proud to announce its newest membership program, offering college students nationwide the convenience of same-day delivery with college budgets in mind. Available for $4.99 per month, students can access all the perks of a Shipt membership, receiving everything they need, from snacks to electronics, room decor, and school supplies, conveniently delivered to their dorm room, house or apartment. To discover more about the student membership, visit

Along with the new program, the company is also proud to unveil the second phase of its visionary collaboration with entrepreneur, actress, and producer Issa Rae, dedicated to empowering underrepresented voices in creative industries. According to the Association of National Advertisers’ most recent annual diversity report, African Americans make up only 7.2% of professionals in the advertising industry. This dynamic next wave is the culmination of a unique summer internship program in conjunction with Howard University, where interns were tasked with crafting a national advertising campaign created by students for students.

“Shipt is incredibly proud to make the convenience and simplicity of same-day delivery even more accessible and affordable for college students nationwide,” said Alia Kemet, Shipt’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Who knows better what college students want than students themselves? As a proud Howard University graduate myself, I was thrilled to work alongside these bright creative minds. The students did a brilliant job creating a best-in-class campaign while gaining real-world experience.”

Throughout the summer, rising Juniors Avery Harrell, Serenity Owens, and Gavin Kelley, alongside rising Sophomore Kayla Collins, have been mentored by Issa Rae, Kemet, and other Shipt leaders to gain experience and build their professional portfolios. The four interns spent 12 weeks working alongside industry experts to conceptualize, film, edit and even star in the 30-second advertising spot that went live today. The spot, along with the full suite of creative assets, was unveiled in Times Square last night at an event hosted by Shipt, where the students were surprised to see their work illuminating iconic screens.

“Championing underrepresented voices has been a driving force in my career and collaborating with Shipt on this journey deepens that passion,” says Issa Rae. “Witnessing the dedication and brilliance of these talented students as they create something truly extraordinary this summer is awe-inspiring. I believe their work will resonate with people from all walks of life, and I’m excited for the world to experience the impact of their remarkable talent.”

In support of the student membership launch, Rae has also curated a list of essential items for every college student, available via Shipt, to ensure the upcoming school year is a breeze. The first 500 students to sign up for the student membership will receive a complimentary kit of Issa’s college essentials.* Essentials include:

  • Threshold 14 x 14 Wooden Letter Board

  • heyday 4000mAh Power Bank

  • Be Rooted 3pk Ballpoint Affirmation Pens

  • Cheez-it Extra Toasty Baked Snack Crackers

Customers can also shop the full list of Issa’s college essentials here.

For more details and to download the Shipt app, visit and  follow @shipt on InstagramTikTok and Facebook. New customers can sign up and learn about availability in their area by visiting or by downloading the Shipt app.

**To receive a gift with purchase, (1.) be one of the first five hundred (500) signups for a Shipt Student Membership; (2.) retain membership beyond the free trial period; and (3.) remit the first month’s membership payment. Gift is a College Essentials Kit curated by Issa Rae, which includes one (1) Wood Letter Board From Threshold; one (1) 400mAH Power Bank from heyday; one (1) 3-Pack of Ballpoint Affirmation Pens from Be Rooted; and one (1) 12.4-ounce box of Cheez-It Extra Toasty Baked Snack Crackers. Approximate retail value (ARV) per gift is $46.87. Limit one per person, while supplies last. Gift recipients will be notified via email and must complete the online gift claim form before the deadline specific in the email in order to receive the gift.