After serving the convenience and fuel retail industries for 21 years, Impact 21 founders Lesley Saitta and Lisa Biggs Stewart have gained valuable insight into how businesses can achieve greater success. Over the years, they have helped hundreds of clients grow and improve because of their shared knowledge, experience, and proven action plans.

In the early stages of their business partnership, Lesley and Lisa knew they could offer something different – something that was missing – that would ultimately have a significant impact on the industry. The founders were recently interviewed and asked about the beginning years of Impact 21, how it started, and the journey they have taken over the past 21 years in the convenience and fuel retail space. Over the next several months, we will reveal more of their story and help others benefit from their experience.

Q: After 21 years in business, it’s safe to say you two have learned a lot. Let’s start at the beginning. What did you do before starting the company, and why did you start Impact 21?

Lesley: We both had other careers, as convenience and fuel retailers, prior to starting Impact 21. We had worked closely together at one retailer and following an acquisition, we decided to branch out on our own. At first, we both looked for opportunities independently of one another. We were contacted by several CEOs and executives from retailers we knew in the industry. After exploring these opportunities, we realized that there was an obvious gap in the channel; and, we knew we could make a difference.

Lisa: Truly, we both loved the industry and were incredibly passionate about what we had done both as retailers and through our work in the industry. We both quickly found opportunities to start consulting but realized early on that our combined experiences created a unique opportunity. That’s when we decided to form our company.

Lesley: While I had senior level experience as a retailer, as well as within the chemical industry, we both knew we didn’t want to start a company on our own. Having someone as passionate as we were for the industry, with complementary skills, was very important to me and to Lisa. During our early discussions, we both knew we wanted to do something to make an impact on the convenience industry and the retailers in this space.

Lisa: That’s right. We used the word “impact” in most of our dialog as we discussed the name and strategized on our company’s strategy. We joked that it should be the name of the company, or in some way be included in the name.

Lesley: We didn’t want to use the word impact alone, so we looked at many different variations.

Lisa: We kept talking about how we wanted our company to be about leadership and have a focus on growing companies and individuals. We eventually decided on the tagline, “Building Leadership for the 21st century.” After numerous conversations with respected colleagues and advisors, we decided to add the “21” to our name as well. So, we became Impact 21. It’s funny, when we were newly established and someone didn’t recall our name, they would mention that they never forgot the number.