Kim Bowers, Chairman, CEO and President of CST Brands Inc., has been named one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, CST Brands is a convenience store retailer with 1,900 locations in the U.S. and Canada and $13 billion in revenues. A first-timer to Fortune’s list, Bowers took the helm at CST Brands in May, when Valero spun off its retail convenience stores into a new publicly-traded company.
“It’s such an honor to be included in this list with inspirational women like Ginny Rommety at IBM, Indra Nooyi at Pepsico, and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook,” Bowers said. “It’s also an honor and a privilege to lead our incredible 12,000 Team Members as we grow and strengthen CST Brands.”
CST’s strategy has been to build more new stores from the ground up, allowing for larger, more spacious stores with award-winning interior design and a larger selection of hot and cold food and beverages.
“The future of convenience retailing is inside the store,” Bowers said. “Our focus at Corner Store is to constantly innovate in terms of our food offerings and product mix.” That includes expansion of Corner Store’s own signature Fresh Choices line, which includes cookies, kolaches and whoopie pies baked fresh in the store as well as a selection of nuts and snack mixes. Corner Store also carries signature beverage lines Cibolo Mountain coffee, Flavors2Go soft drinks and U Force sports and energy drinks. “We are looking to craft more products that folks can’t find anywhere else—and, at the same time, provide convenience and value to our customers,” Bowers said.
A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Bowers spent over 15 years at Valero prior to taking on her role at CST, most of that time as executive vice president and general counsel. One of the things Bowers enjoys most about her new role is the opportunity to interact with customers and Team Members at the stores.
In her first 100 days as CEO, Bowers visited 100 stores to help her understand the business from the ground up. Bowers served coffee, baked kolaches, even took out the trash. To keep management grounded, she requires them all to do the same through a program called Corner Store Time. All Team Members who work above the stores at CST Service Centers must spend at least two days per year working in one of CST’s stores.
“When you spend enough time in a store, you see and hear great ideas,” Bowers said. “We’re not just selling things, we are selling people. Yes, you have to have the right merchandise. But it doesn’t move off the shelves if you don’t have good folks in the stores. It takes great people to run great stores, and we are fortunate to have both.”
Bowers has also made community service a priority for the new company, organizing diaper drives for women’s shelters and volunteer opportunities for Team Members at nonprofit organizations, as well as raising money for flood and wildfire victims in Colorado and victims of a train derailment in Quebec earlier this year.
Since 2009, Bowers has chaired United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County’s Partnership for Community Change. Each year, Corner Stores across the nation collect millions each year for the Children’s Miracle Network and Muscular Dystrophy Association while stores in Canada raise money for the Breast Cancer Foundation.