Sterling Hawkins Profile

  • Co-founder of the business solution platform and consultancy, CART, Hawkins is a 5th generation retailer and prominent business leader working to close the "retail innovation gap."

  • An internationally sought-out speaker and consultant, Hawkins offers a unique retailer perspective on emerging technologies, helping start-ups, brands, and legacy retailers pick out hidden opportunities, reinvent the way they do commerce, and compete with online giants like Amazon and Alibaba.

  • Hawkins' Fortune 500 clients include P&G, Mitsubishi, Zebra Technologies, and Stater Bros, and he has also collaborated with Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Texas to better prepare future business leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  • Entrepreneur and 5th generation retailer, Sterling Hawkins works with start-ups, legacy retailers, and Fortune 500 companies to close the innovation gap in retail. Hawkins heads operations and venture relations for CART (Center for Advancing Retail & Technology), a leading edge platform and consultancy that allows brands and wholesalers to research and connect with their target customers and find the best solutions to business problems.

    Passionate about connecting online environments to the real world, Hawkins has consulted for P&G, Mitsubishi, Zebra Technologies, Stater Bros., and many other companies. In the academic sector, he’s collaborated with Stanford, Cornell, and the University of Texas in crafting curricula that better equips future business leaders and creators for the 4th Industrial Revolution. As part of his work, Hawkins evaluates over 1,000 emerging technologies each year from a retail perspective first, asking himself how they can reinvent and improve the way we do retail.

    Hawkins’ mission to re-envision commerce and create a better experience for customers has been featured in Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, ABC Money, AlleyWatch, Yahoo Finance, Forbes and other major media outlets.

    Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first retail technology company, Convena in 2004. He grew up working in his family’s New York state-based supermarket, Green Hills Farms, which evolved from his great-great grandmother’s roadside produce stand.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Sterling Hawkins is out to break the status quo to create what’s actually possible for humanity in our time. He has spent his career igniting new views and inspiring people to act on them.

      His journey has been non-traditional right from the beginning. Sterling grew up a fifth-generation retailer, having to master the intersection of human behavior and technology under extreme competition. In 2004, Sterling co-founded, launched and sold his first technology company, Convena, where he developed innovative approaches to beat competition, handle high-growth and achieve performance no matter the obstacles.

      He went on to be involved with the launch, growth or investment in over 50 companies. Today, Sterling reviews over 1,000 new technology companies every year further refining the keys to realizing breakthrough innovation and giving back that experience as a mentor to leading entrepreneurs working through exponential growth. He is the co-founder of CART, a platform to drive adoption of emerging technologies at fortune 500 companies. And he speaks and runs workshops around the world for clients such as Samsung, Criteo, Synchrony Financial and the United Nations.

      Sterling is an internationally-recognized thought leader and top-rated keynote speaker on innovation, transformational leadership and exponential growth. His keynotes share meaningful strategies to drive change delivered with the inspiration to leave attendees in action.

      Sterling is a certified yoga teacher and adventure seeker regularly pushing his own boundaries of what’s possible by skydiving, century bike riding, shark diving, and even camping in the Sahara. He brings that energy of maximizing human potential and breaking past limiting beliefs to everything he does. Currently living in Los Angeles, he has been seen in Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, The New York Times and Forbes.

      Sterling is inspiring a network of entrepreneurs, investors and fortune 500 companies, actively shaping the future for the betterment of business, communities and the human condition. Of course, he’s still regularly found on adventures.

    Sterling Hawkins Speaking Videos

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    Sterling Hawkins's Speech Descriptions

    From 3-D printing to AI, technology’s exponential explosion offers limitless potential to reinvent retail, yet most businesses are only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Business leader and entrepreneur, Sterling Hawkins helps audiences view emerging technologies from a retailer perspective first so that your business can vet the best ones to invest in. In addition to showing you how to raise your ROI, Hawkins works with your group to craft an innovative mindset, meaning that you’re not just making something better – you’re creating something new.


    There’s a difference between what we plan on (or what we accept) and what’s actually possible: The Innovation Gap™. In this talk, Sterling first explores Innovation Thinking™ to see that gap in our businesses and our lives, and then, with the audience, steps into the gap. Starting with the fact that social scientists know but most businesses don't: people aren’t built for change. Amazon, Facebook and Apple are some organizations who have figured this out and experienced exponential growth at times. Learn the keys to developing a culture of innovation to take advantage of the growth potential all around us.


    Access to The Innovation Gap™ requires a special kind of skill. This skill is letting go of everything we think we already know to discover what’s possible. Learn to develop a perspective that looks for what’s possible vs. what’s not.

    Leadership in the future needs to be leadership that embraces change, a world where transformational performance is possible and proven. Gain insight on how leaders, agents of change and facilitators of the innovation process ignite that spirit in others.

    Sterling shows audiences, by example, how to develop innovation thinking to gain perspective, clarity and take profits to the next level inside the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where anything is possible


    Our action (or lack of action) determines our results. If we see something as impossible, we don’t do anything about it. This wouldn’t be a problem other than the fact that most of what we see as impossible is an illusion. It’s not actually impossible. It was impossible to fly before the Wright Brothers. It was impossible to go to the moon with the computer processing power of a desk calculator before JFK. The same limiting “impossibilities” occur within our businesses. In this talk Sterling unveils the illusion of the impossible opening up new possibilities for everyone in attendance. He brings case studies such as IBM, Amazon and Apple together with pop culture references to give attendees valuable takeaways they’re excited to do something about.


    There are key tools to unmask the illusion of the impossible. Learn how to distinguish those limits to open up new thinking, ideas and possibilities within your business.

    Our companies only work because of the people. Every company has a group of people. And every group of people develops a culture. Developing accesses to impacting organizational culture minimizes limited thinking which lead to unleashing the organizational potential.

    Seeing an action to take is easy. Seeing the most effective action to take is not. Thinking that there is only one option will stop everything. Lifting the veil of the impossible gives us access to seeing ALL the actions, products, services or solutions will make the biggest difference.


    The only constant is change. Sterling’s background in working with hundreds of startups and fortune 500 companies has led to a discovery. Told as a story inside the 80s TV show MacGyver, innovation isn’t about money, who you know, or even being in the right place at the right time. It’s about discomfort. And embracing that discomfort as our access to breakthrough growth. People aren’t built for that, they’re built for survival. In today’s fast-paced world, change is necessary and learning how to first accept it and get out ahead of it is the only competitive advantage. Sterling learned that first hand as he worked with clients to embrace the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution including robots, IoT and Artificial Intelligence. At the same time it required him and the companies he worked with to think differently to truly embrace technology coming together with humanity to unlock something new..


    Intentionally creating discomfort in your current situation in the workplace leads to innovative thinking.

    See constraints, hardships and problems as not something to rid ourselves from but as the access to innovation.

    An ecology of people who create big goals allows for and even forces us to take actions that were previously unthinkable to us.

    Sterling Hawkins on Speaking

    I get to make a difference for people and that’s the number one reason why I do it. Inside of a keynote I’m able to create entirely new possibilities for an audience that light up actions for them to take in their businesses.

    SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn/take away from your presentations and why do you do it?

    HAWKINS: I get to make a difference for people and that’s the number one reason why I do it. Inside of a keynote I’m able to create entirely new possibilities for an audience that light up actions for them to take in their businesses. It has a ripple effect inside of conferences that really leaves the event and attendees with tangible results.

    There is so much technology out there that not only works, but is also economically viable and can entirely change what retail (and the world) looks like. Inside of a keynote, we start to create that change and give people the tools and knowledge so they can start making that difference as well.

    SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?

    HAWKINS: It’s funny — I often hear I’m such a natural speaker, but that has only come with practice, practice and more practice.

    I have a lot of material to draw from so I spend time understanding who event attendees are and what they’re currently dealing with. Then I orient my message, stories, and content in a way that’s not only relatable, but furthermore, inspires action.

    SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

    HAWKINS: There have been bomb scares in Melbourne, flight cancelations in New York, and countless adventures in and around speaking engagements like diving with great white sharks or sailing the Galapagos.

    One of my favorite stories though is about a speech I gave in Japan years ago. It was to a larger audience and one of my first keynotes so I was overly prepared. Since I don’t speak Japanese, there was consecutive translation set up, which I loved since it afforded me a few seconds between each thought for the translator to translate. I got up there after a big applause, delivered my first sentence and the translator started right on queue.

    30 seconds went by. 60 seconds. 90 seconds.

    A full two minutes later the translator started to wrap up and the entire audience broke out laughing. I was confused; I hadn’t told a joke. I stumbled through the rest of the presentation, found the translator afterwards, and asked him what he had said out there that had everyone laughing. “Oh,” he replied, “don’t worry — I told them you were here to talk about the future of commerce, but that you were really here to find a Japanese wife.”

    SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

    HAWKINS: Audiences that want to make a difference themselves. We have the toolsets to unlock innovation thinking and unleash action to produce measurable results.

    Of course, it’s particularly relevant to crowds that have to do with retail and commerce; however, it’s a message that resonates with entrepreneurial groups, business managers, and even more traditional companies that want to start taking steps toward change.

    What I love most is talking about innovation thinking because it opens people and businesses up to so much potential.

    SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speaking topics are your favorites and why?

    HAWKINS: I love everything that I get to speak about. What I love most is talking about innovation thinking because it opens people and businesses up to so much potential. Not only is it a blast to share — it’s something that people take with them and put into use. I continually get updates from past attendees on how take-aways from my programs are impacting their businesses and lives.

    SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

    HAWKINS: There’re countless quotes on how powerful language can be. Our future is literally created through the conversations we’re having now, which is why I felt I had to speak. I was scared in the beginning; to start speaking meant to be vulnerable and be willing to embrace the unknown in myself. Yet it has ultimately led to more fun than I could have imagined, impacting more businesses than I would have ever believed, and giving me more fulfillment than I ever thought possible.

    There’s a difference between speaking to an audience and speaking with an audience. My audiences are engaged because I’m talking with them, not just talking at them.

    SPEAKING.COM: How do you keep your audience engaged and actively listening during your keynotes? Do you use case studies, personal stories and/or in your speeches?

    HAWKINS: Yes, yes, and yes. There’s a difference between speaking to an audience and speaking with an audience. My audiences are engaged because I’m talking with them, not just talking at them. Of course there’s interaction, vivid stories, case studies, and take-aways, but they’re delivered in a way that gets up under the audience where they know that I know that I’m talking with each of them, be it 10 people or 1,000 people.

    SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients achieve?

    HAWKINS: We’ve kicked off successful corporate meetings by shaking up the conversation. We’ve launched conferences with record-breaking attendance and engagement. We’ve even shifted corporate cultures from resistant to change to a culture that actually creates change.

    One of the things I’m most proud of is a success at a business event relatively recently. We kicked off the program and lit up a very traditional crowd with more energy, more excitement, more possibility than they’ve ever seen at this conference, which has been running for about 50 years. The keynote spurred more engagement than they’ve ever logged throughout the program – such as record early registrations for the following year’s event and the most positive feedback they’ve seen so far. Exclusive Interview with Sterling Hawkins
    Driving Retail Innovation, with Sterling Hawkins
    In this interview, innovation speaker Sterling Hawkins discusses:
    • Why retail hasn't changed as much as we think it has.
    • The coming revolution in retail and why customers will be the big winners.
    • Building a culture geared for innovation.
    Read the Full Interview

    "You don’t need technology for technology’s sake. Done right, technology works for people. Right now there’s an incredible opportunity to use all these emerging technologies to further real customer relationships at scale."
    - Sterling Hawkins

    What People are Saying about Seeing Sterling Speak

    Rating Entries

    Sterling’s Tedx Chula Vista speech was excellent. His admonition for us to find our MacGyver moment was a perfect way to end a wonderful event. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Hawkins’ telling how he pushed through his fears and started to tell his story. And, it was his ability to tell that story that totally connected with his audience. Well done!


    “Over my many years running events around the world, few if any of my 2,000+ speakers delivered as remarkable a performance as Sterling did at Seamless Asia 2017.”

    — Oliver Arscott, Director, Terrapinn

    “I highly recommend him and we’ll definitely have him back!”

    — Ravi Kanniganti, Zebra Technologies, Product & Program Leader

    “Sterling combines powerful storytelling with meaningful information and tools leaving listeners excited and empowered to take action. He’s one of only a few speakers I’ve seen that actually makes a real difference. We’ll definitely have him back!”

    — Managing Director, Innerworkings, Inc.

    “Sterling was not only a delight to work with, but had rave reviews from our audience of executives! His energy was contagious, and he provided real strategies for success and inspiration, to send us out with a bang after three full days of
    content. Highly recommend Sterling as your next keynote!” — Senior manager, Winsight, LLC

    “He was an incredible speaker and all of our attendees enjoyed the content he delivered focused around living in the information age and what that means for brands. It was a captivating presentation and I look forward to working with Sterling again in the future!”

    —Jorey Rekoon | Senior Conference, Producer at WBR Connect

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