Community

From Katrina to Flint, Using Our Strengths to Help

The day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, I found myself being pulled into a meeting with one of the early responders: Walmart.

As a Red Cross employee, I had the opportunity to serve as a liaison between the Red Cross and Walmart and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had it set in my mind that the conversation would probably focus on the disaster’s impact on the stores or the impact it was going to have on the bottom line. I could not have been more wrong.

Those in the room had one thing on their minds: helping their associates and their families. They asked questions like, “Is our Walmart family safe? Are we doing what we need to do to make sure they have access to their benefits and paychecks? How can we ensure they keep their jobs?” Seeing this play out in person, I jumped at the chance to join Walmart the following year, and just over 10 years later I’m now helping to lead global disaster response and preparedness initiatives for Walmart and the Walmart Foundation.

I remember it clearly. A fleet of Walmart trucks lined the highway, each filled with the supplies that would eventually stock “pop-up” stores that sprung up throughout New Orleans. Food and water, even hygiene products, were all made readily available to anyone who needed it. The experience of Katrina showed us that we had an incredible opportunity to draw on our strengths – our presence in thousands of communities; our associates’ compassion and expertise; the ability to source life-sustaining products such as food and water; our logistics and operations capabilities; our philanthropy; and our relationships with other community leaders – to help out our neighbors when they needed it most.

Fast forward 10 years and enter Flint, Michigan, Store Manager Beth Harris. Beth was calling about a rising issue that Flint was facing – a water crisis like no other – and she saw a way that we could lend a helping hand. With help from other companies, we set out to help make sure Flint’s kids had constant access to safe drinking water by committing millions of bottles of water to Flint’s school systems. Turns out the rest of the country felt the same way, as Flint schools were overwhelmed by similar donations. So much that they were forced to convert classrooms into makeshift storage rooms.

Given Walmart’s large logistics and warehousing network, we saw a new opportunity for us to assist. Over a period of months, we researched the workable options and found a partner in the state of Michigan to secure nearby storage warehouses and worked out a delivery system to individual schools. This allowed the schools to get kids back in their classrooms and learning. But we didn’t stop there.

Literally millions of plastic bottles were flowing into the community, so without a recycling program in place in Flint, all those bottles would soon convert into waste. So again, we worked with a coalition of partners to ensure all Flint schools had access to a recycling program that will help alleviate the burden of waste and engage a new generation of recyclers.

While the circumstances of every disaster are unique, we are uniquely positioned to meet the evolving needs of the communities impacted. It truly is wonderful that we are able to do so much, but it’s not just Walmart. We have countless partners that play just as an important a role in serving our communities when they need it most.

Ten years ago, I learned about Walmart’s culture. Today, I’m proud to be a part of it.

Learn more about how Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given back by checking out our recently released 2016 giving report.

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Life

Lights! Camera! Receipt! Walmart Takes on the Oscars

This Sunday, we’re kicking off a three-year partnership with the Academy Awards by doing something we’ve never done before.

We’re bringing audiences three original films by four award-winning directors, each based on a true story – not from a book or a play, but from a Walmart receipt.

Walmart has always been known for saving our customers money, but that’s not all we’re about. We also want to be a part of the ways the people who shop with us live better. One of the ways we can do this is by being a part of the big cultural moments that are important to our customers and giving them something fun to enjoy.

It all started with a challenge to four directors who are known for telling very different kinds of stories: Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors), Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), and Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner). We sent them each a Walmart receipt with the same six items and asked, could they create with a short film based on just these items?

Bananas, paper towels, batteries, a scooter, wrapping paper, and a video baby monitor – an everyday combination, but one that can lead to three different and extraordinary places depending on what you take from it. After seeing what the directors came up with, the idea really does come to life. Each is unique, but they’re tied together because they all start from the same place.

The three short films will air this Sunday during the Academy Awards. We hope people will love them as much as we did, so we’re also going to post them to our YouTube account after the night is over.

The Academy Awards is a night that celebrates storytelling, and this challenge is an unexpected way for Walmart to pay tribute to that – and to join in on the fun!

Editor’s Note: Through this sponsorship, we’re also supporting the art of film in another way: a donation to The Academy Grants Program for FilmCraft. FilmCraft is a dynamic educational program that identifies and empowers future filmmakers from nontraditional backgrounds.

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Community

Conquering Small Business Challenges and Obstacles, Ninja Warrior Style

Since the age of 3, Garrett Takach has been a sports fanatic. According to his mother, Marie, Garrett has not only played, but excelled, in almost every sport imaginable.

It came as no surprise to her, then, when he decided to start a small business combining sports and fitness – ninja warrior style. In January 2015 at age 18, Garrett founded Ninja Park Obstacle Fitness Gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ninja Park is an obstacle training facility where anyone of any age with any kind of fitness goal can come in and participate in a unique fitness style called TAK Fit – a technique that combines obstacles, calisthenics, and strength training. Ninja Park offers training, workshops, kid’s camps, team building events, mobile obstacles, a rock climbing wall and a weight training area.

Coming from a big family, Garrett learned first-hand the importance of a strong support system. So to make his dream a reality, he not only wanted a trusted group of individuals around him – he also knew he needed expert advice. In July 2014, Garrett met with SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Garrett looked to SCORE to provide feedback on his business plan and discuss the possibility of opening an obstacle gym.

While browsing the SCORE website in January 2016, Garrett noticed the open call for applications for the American Small Business Championship, a national competition sponsored by Sam’s Club that celebrates small business owners and entrepreneurs from across the nation. He didn’t think he stood a chance against 400 other small businesses across the U.S., but decided to enter Ninja Park anyway. This turned out to be a great decision.

Ninja Park was named the Grand Champion in the 2016 American Small Business Championship and awarded $25,000.

The mentorship and resources provided by SCORE and Sam’s Club have helped Garrett grow his business. As a result of the championship, Ninja Park has grown from offering two to three classes daily to nearly eight to ten. Garrett has also expanded the facility to incorporate new and improved flooring, mats, rock climbing walls and obstacle courses. A new business manager, four new full-time employees and two interns have been hired, too.

Garrett is excited about what the future holds for Ninja Park and hopes to become a franchise by continuing to leverage the support provided by SCORE and Sam’s Club.

To learn more, apply or nominate a business for The American Small Business Championship, visit the official website here.Entries are accepted through Feb. 13. Champions will be announced in late March and the grand champions will be revealed in September.

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Opportunity

Work That Matters: Looking Back on 2 Years of Investing in People

Way back in 1979, a Walmart meeting kicked off with the theme “Our People Make the Difference.”

Those words stuck around, and today they’re even printed on associates’ name badges.

They’re words with staying power because they don’t simply form a slogan – they mean something real. Two years ago this week, those words took on extra meaning as our CEO Doug McMillon shared that we were making new investments in our people.

What has that commitment meant since then? Here’s a quick look.

Here’s What Happened
February 19, 2015 was a big day. After news broke that the company was taking a new approach to our jobs – specifically raising starting pay for 1.2 million associates across the country, and creating training programs to build skills that can help them be more successful – it went down in the Walmart history books.

200,000 Promotions
The next year, those raises went into effect, marking one of the largest single-day, private-sector pay increases ever – and resulting in new positions for many across the Walmart workforce. Out of the 200,000 associates promoted, more than 11,000 of them were hourly associates getting promoted to salaried manager positions.

Academies Across America
At 70 of our stores across the U.S. today, a Walmart Academy is a real place. It’s a dedicated building where associates can get advanced retail and leadership skills, as well as specifics on how to run individual store departments like produce and meat. The course is designed for hourly supervisors and department managers, who are paid to leave their home stores to soak up training that not only can help them be more successful in their careers, but also better serve their customers.

Graduation Day
As more Academy locations get up and running, each location hosts a real graduation. Associates celebrate in the company of their families, and then return to their stores to put their newfound skills to use.

New Pathways
In addition to Walmart Academies, we also launched another training course – Pathways – for all new entry-level associates. It’s a hands-on, interactive experience that combines computer-based learning with in-store training and results in an associate who’s better prepared to serve our customers and advance in his or her career.

Paid Time Off
Last year, our paid time off program got a refresh as well. In March 2016, we streamlined paid vacation, sick, personal and holiday time into one category for hourly associates in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club stores. Not only does this give associates more control and flexibility – we believe it offers stability that helps better set anyone up to reach his or her true potential.

Taking Care of the People Who Take Care of You
When the news of this renewed commitment to our people began to take off two years ago, it made for an awesome day. It’s even better to look back now and be able to show that we’ve made real progress. But this is only the beginning. Putting our associates on the path to success ultimately makes Walmart a better business, and we’ve already found that investments in training, education and wages for our associates have resulted in higher customer satisfaction.

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Life

#FiveThingsFriday: The Beauty of Convenient Shopping

ICYMI: An investment in jobs sometimes means an investment in ordinary things … like socks. Check out this news, plus a few new ways to shop with convenience.

Sock it to Me

I’ve lived in the Sooner State, the Natural State, and the Windy City, but I’m thinking the Sock Capital of the World might be worth a visit. Last week, we signed a deal with Renfro Corporation as a part of our commitment to buy $250 billion in products that support American jobs. Renfro has been supplying Walmart with socks and hosiery since the 1970s, and this deal is expected to bring more than 400 manufacturing jobs to Fort Payne, Alabama.

Best in Beauty

It’s nice to pick up a surprise find on a routine shopping trip. But it’s even nicer when someone compiles a list of these surprise finds in one place for you. The good folks at Refinery29 have selected 12 of what they’re calling the “coolest and cheapest” beauty finds at Walmart. They’ve got everything from moisturizer to curling irons for your next impulse purchase.

It’s Like a Tiny Walmart … at a Big Walmart

We’re always testing new things at Walmart, from the latest technology in supercenters to completely new kinds of stores. In Crowley, Texas, we’ve opened one of two Walmart convenience stores (the other opened in Rogers, Arkansas). This little guy is about 2,500 square feet and located in the parking lot of the Crowley Walmart store. You can get gas, ICEEs, hot dogs, and most of your typical c-store fare. If you’re in the area, stop by and let us know what you think.

Welcome to the Family, Moosejaw!

The Walmart brand expanded this week with the acquisition of online outdoor retailer Moosejaw. The Michigan-based company has a great online presence plus 10 physical stores. They’re going to be joining our growing e-commerce team and we couldn’t be happier to have them aboard! Plus, it’s fun to say. Moosejaw … moosejaw…

The Science – and Smart Business – of Sustainability

Thinking green isn’t just good for the environment – it’s also good for business. Did you know we save $1 billion a year through improved fleet efficiency (read: ensuring our trucks are saving as much fuel as possible) alone? If you’re curious about how these efforts translate into real change, check out this piece in Environmental Leader.

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