Design may be the sexy part of a hotel or restaurant renovation project, but procurement––actually finding the right materials, vendors, and craftspeople that can manufacture custom pieces, and doing so with budget and sustainability in mind––is what brings a project from vision to reality. To learn more about procurement, we chat with Jackie Wright, founder of Pineapple Procurement.
Known for her meticulous attention to detail and her collaborative approach, Jackie has contributed to many prestigious projects with brands including Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, SBE, and Viceroy as well as many independent boutiques. A stroke of luck brought Jackie into procurement, but curiosity and perseverance have kept growing her knowledge and skills. After spending time in textile mills throughout India and furniture factories around the world, she learned the intricacies of manufacturing, quality control, and logistics.
Since launching Pineapple Procurement five years ago, Jackie and her team have completed full-scale renovations, conversions, adaptive reuse and historic projects throughout the United States. Jackie prides herself on being a trusted strategic partner on design-forward projects and is known for working closely and collaboratively with talented creatives.
How did you get into procurement?
Finding my career in procurement was a stroke of luck. I saw a group of people gathered around a conference table in a cool old building. Curious about what they did, I went home and searched the company online. I didn’t even know such a job existed, but I quickly realized that hospitality FF&E procurement aligned perfectly with my background and strengths. After cold-calling them for about a month, they finally hired me.
Before starting Pineapple, I worked for two different FF&E procurement companies that focused on hotel projects. Through those experiences, I gained exposure to different types of project challenges, procurement processes, systems, and technologies. There was also exposure to custom furniture and interior specifications, various suppliers, and supply chain partners, which helped me develop a broader network of contacts in the industry and a better understanding of how and where to source custom items. Overall, the experiences and lessons learned from working for different procurement companies were invaluable in my career development. I’ve been able to draw upon these experiences to improve procurement processes, strategies, approaches, and decision-making.
What do you love about working in procurement?
I love my job because there’s no shortage of variety in working on one-of-a-kind projects. Each day, I get to collaborate with interior designers, and suppliers, negotiate contracts, strategize schedules and budgets, and use my creative thinking skills to develop solutions and address challenges. This means that no two days are the same, and there is always something new to learn.
Procurement is challenging, which I find rewarding. FF&E Procurement for the hospitality sector specifically plays to my strengths in problem-solving, managing risks, and anticipating potential issues. I enjoy having a significant impact on a project’s bottom line and contributing to the success of the project by collaborating and building strong relationships across stakeholders to see a vision come to life. I’m sure it will continue to be challenging, dynamic, and impactful with plenty of opportunities for personal and professional growth.
What inspired you to take the leap and establish your own company?
I’m passionate about my work and want to make a difference in the FF&E procurement space by pursuing my vision for how I felt things could be done differently. Starting Pineapple gave me the freedom to be my own boss and choose the projects I wanted to work on. I now make decisions and take risks without having to answer to anyone else. It’s also a pathway to financial independence. Instead of working for someone else and being limited by a salary or hourly wage, I have the potential to build a successful business that generates significant revenue. Running my own company allows me to have more flexibility in my work-life balance and make a significant impact on the lives of my employees. I’m responsible for the company culture and can build an environment that aligns with my values. It’s an incredibly rewarding journey.
What advice would you give other women looking to start their own business?
Believe in yourself: Starting a business requires confidence and a strong belief in yourself and your abilities. Don't let self-doubt hold you back.
Network: Building a strong network of mentors, advisors, and peers is essential for success as an entrepreneur. Attend networking events, join business organizations, and seek out mentorship opportunities.
Embrace failure: Failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship. Don't let setbacks discourage you. Learn from your mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth.
Prioritize work-life balance: As a business owner, it can be easy to let work consume your life. Make sure to prioritize your own well-being and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Find a niche: Identify a unique market or need that you can fill with your business so that you can stand out from the competition.
Stay focused and adaptable: Entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs. Stay focused on your goals, but be willing to adapt and pivot as needed to stay competitive and successful.
Do you have a favorite project that you are most proud of and why?
It’s so hard to pick just one, but the first one that comes to mind is the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites project. It was my first client and first project with Pineapple. Thanks to that project, Pineapple is now a Hilton-preferred vendor.
Your company, Pineapple Procurement, has been in business for five years, congratulations! How has the pandemic shifted procurement and what trends are you seeing right now?
Top 5 Trends in Procurement
1. Source Sustainably
Supply chain sustainability is based on the idea that socially responsible products and practices are not only good for the environment but also important for long-term profitability. As sustainable practices become more in demand in the hospitality industry, sustainable sourcing can be a competitive advantage and a great opportunity for business growth. Transparency around procurement practices is on the rise, so you’ll want to be able to confidently share the provenance of your products with guests, partners, and investors. A simple place to start is sourcing more local items. This practice benefits nearby communities and lends spaces a true sense of place. For example, sustainable wooden furniture involves the full lifecycle of the product, including where it is manufactured and where its parts and pieces are sourced and then disposed of. It is furniture made from wood that has been legally and ethically sourced from well-managed forests in the United States and worldwide. Third-party certification programs verify timber sourcing. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which promotes responsible forest management, is one of the most well-known organizations. Some of our favorite ethically sourced woods are oak, acacia, bamboo, pine, white ash, and maple.
2. Aggressive Timelines
Managing client expectations while tackling challenging timelines may be the biggest obstacle hospitality procurement firms face. In order to mitigate project delays, it’s important to plan ahead and develop a strong, strategic plan before kicking off. This is where exceptional organization comes into play. By joining project teams early on, Pineapple Procurement has been able to reduce costs and add value to many of our projects. Developing alternate plans for items that cannot be sourced in the United States and contingency plans for damaged items is also a must.
3. Think Outside the Box, Within Reason
A common hurdle we come across is clients who wish to bypass traditional procurement processes in order to reach a deadline faster. While we’re committed to finding creative solutions for our clients, our processes exist for a good reason! They’re tried-and-true tactics that lead to exceptional end results, and cutting corners just doesn’t work in our industry. When met with unique client requests that you can accommodate, I recommend keeping detailed and meticulous notes throughout the entire production process.
4. Think Local and Global Goods
Imported item delivery times can often be longer than anticipated. These days, it is not uncommon for orders to take 16 to 20 weeks to arrive! These import issues have caused us to rethink some of our best-laid plans, and we are frequently asked if we should consider sourcing goods domestically.
Historically, prices of imported items have been lower than domestic goods due to lower production costs outside the United States. However, the rising cost of shipping, as well as raw materials like steel and wood, have made locally-manufactured furniture more appealing. Plus, domestic goods have much more reasonable lead times. Ultimately, the choice will come down to your project timeline, ability to absorb risk, and budget. Base your sourcing decisions on these three factors, and find the mix of local and imported goods that work best for your project.
5. Budget Transparency is Key
More and more, clients seem to be afraid to share their budget at the onset of a project. Inquiring about a client's budget is an important step in identifying the best vendor partners. While it may be uncomfortable to talk about, clarifying a client's budget early on saves time and helps manage expectations.
Quickfire with Jackie!
What is your morning routine? I start the day with a gratitude prayer, stretching, coffee, schedule review, check email, and then check in with my team.
What do you do for self-care? I’m a sucker for anything marketed to me as experiential wellness or mental regeneration.
What is your top travel hack? Travel cubes and points
What hotel design trend have you incorporated into your own home? Scent – I have hotel scent diffusers throughout my house.
What new hotel amenity or service has impressed you the most? Everything wellness-focused.
What books/TV shows/podcasts are you loving right now? Book: Dare to Lead, TV Show: The Mindy Project, Podcast: Defining Hospitality with Dan Ryan.