Growing Opportunities for Africa – and Its People

When Vivian Kleynhans was a child, apartheid law forced her and her siblings out of their small South African hometown. Twenty years later, the country’s changed political landscape opened doors for their dream of starting a business – and now, they produce wines that are welcomed by customers in not only South Africa, but on two additional continents.

Vivian’s business along with her sisters, Seven Sisters Wines, supplies products to more than 500 U.S. Walmart stores. Their wines are also exclusively imported by Heritage Link Brands, an African-American woman-owned company. By investing in Seven Sisters, we’re not only furthering the success of a woman-owned business – we are also supporting growth in Africa, a continent that has a rapidly expanding presence in our global economy.

Walmart made a significant investment in Africa in 2011 with our acquisition of Massmart, and our CEO Doug McMillon reiterated our commitment to the continent yesterday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. He noted that our dedication to Africa reflects our mission of helping customers afford the things they need for their families. Our commitment to our customers means we are also invested in their communities and the issues most important to them, and so today I joined the second day of the Forum to share a specific way we’re investing in the African people – women in particular.

At the Investing in Our Future event, African First Spouses from more than 30 countries, plus First Lady Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, nonprofit leaders and others gathered to discuss the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships. Through Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, we’ve devoted resources to these very things to benefit women all over the world, and today, I had the privilege of announcing an aspect that will benefit 135,000 farmers in Africa – 85,000 of whom are women.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are pledging $3 million to train farmers in Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya. The funds will support the expansion of three projects organized by USAID and three NGOs -- Global Communities, Agribusiness Systems International and One Acre Fund. Through these projects, these farmers will receive high-quality farm inputs, such as seed and fertilizer, and credit and post-harvest support. This will mean they can participate more fully and fairly in the rural agriculture industry. They will also receive appropriate prices for their surplus produce, thereby gaining access to stable economic opportunity and becoming more active decision makers in their households.

As these farmers are able to produce higher crop yields, they will also be able to contribute to another important issue: eliminating hunger on the continent.

I was honored to be a part of today’s events and can’t wait to witness what’s next for Africa – and especially for its people.

Learn more about the Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative sourcing and training programs that we’re funding: Helping Women Live Better

Learn more about CEO Doug McMillon’s role in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum: Doug McMillon Speaks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum



A Soldier’s Home Away From Home

Serving my country was embedded in my DNA from an early age. My family has fought for the U.S. military since the American Revolution. I grew up hearing stories and seeing pictures on the dining room mantel of my grandfather and great grandfather in uniform. Learning about their experience in the military was extremely impactful, I knew I would serve my country someday. At age 17, I joined the Army.

At age 26, my life changed. On Nov.15, 2004, I was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom when a roadside bomb flipped my Humvee and I lost both of my legs.

Initially, I was sent to Landstuhl in Germany to be stabilized before going to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for long-term rehabilitation. My wife, Belinda, soon joined me with our two boys, Dustin and Lucas, who were two years old and six months old at the time. They stayed at a hotel and made trips to the hospital every day.

About a week into my recovery, Belinda moved into a Fisher House on the medical center’s campus. This was the first I heard about Fisher House Foundation, but I soon became very familiar with our new “home away from home” that would allow my family to be close by during my recovery.

We had a safe place to live as a family at no cost because of the support from Fisher House as I recovered, my kids were able to play with other children going through the same thing and Belinda was able to talk with other military spouses. Ten years later, these families are still some of our closest friends. Without Fisher House Foundation, I don’t know how my family and I would have worked through this hard time.

Since its inception, Fisher House has saved military and veterans’ families millions in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation by providing a network of homes across the country for families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veteran hospital. I believe it’s a cause worth supporting, and that’s why it’s great to hear that Walmart is working with Fisher House Foundation this holiday season to help more families like mine be together during times of recovery. You can learn how to get involved by visiting walmart.com/sing2salute.

Today, Belinda and I live in North Carolina with our boys who are now 13 and 11, and a baby girl, Sophia, and appreciate every day for what it is. I have the great privilege of serving disabled veterans through my own nonprofit called Purple Heart Homes. I’ll remain forever grateful for what Fisher House did for me and my family. They provided me with good medicine that had nothing to do with a prescription or doctor – it provided me with a place to re-integrate myself and my family back into the community.

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2 Dreams, 2 Degrees, and 1 Unconventional Path

Like most moms, Lisa Moore has always bent over backward to put her son Joseph “Joey” Moore in a position to make his dreams come true. But there was one such dream that weighed especially heavy on her.

“I’ll never forget the day Joey came to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,’” Lisa said. “He was only 11 years old when he told me, but his mind was made up. I wanted to help make it happen but, as a single mother, I honestly didn't know where the money was going to come from.”

When Joey neared the end of high school, Lisa’s manager at the Walmart store in Mooresville, N.C. where she worked turned her onto the Associate and Dependent Scholarship Programs offered by the Walmart Foundation. Not only could associates like Lisa apply for scholarship assistance, but so could their high school senior dependents.

That was 2007.  Joey applied for and received a scholarship, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  And he’s used his chemistry degree to springboard into a successful career with Henkel Corporation.

But that isn't where the story ends with the Moore family.

“It wasn’t long before Joey started telling me I could do the same thing – that it's never too late to go to college,” said Lisa, 52. “A light came on inside me.”

Already a pastor at Scott’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Statesville, N.C., Lisa recently decided to apply to the Associate Scholarship Program to help finance her enrollment at Hood Theological Seminary School. She, like her son, was awarded a scholarship and is on track to graduate in 2018 with her Masters of Divinity degree. At that point, she plans to focus her efforts full time on the church, pursuing her dream of becoming an elder and possibly even a chaplain.

And she has quite the cheering section behind her.

“There are so many people lifting me up and cheering me on,” Lisa said. That’s why I’ve been with Walmart for 16 years. My job at Walmart has helped put a roof over my head and raise my son, and now it has [helped to support] both of our college educations.

“When I enrolled in seminary, Walmart allowed me to cut back some of my hours to concentrate on school,” she said. “Walmart has always been flexible with my schedule, no matter what was happening in my life and I’m so thankful for that. I’m the biggest cheerleader for this company, not just because of the scholarship program, but because of how it has looked out for me and my family.”

For more than three decades, the Walmart Foundation has made resources available to help U.S. associates and their high school senior dependents fulfill their educational goals through scholarships. More information is available here. 



As Customers Change, So Has Cyber Monday

Last weekend, my son innocently asked me, “What was it like before Wi-Fi?” The question gave me serious pause – I remember when I was young asking my own parents what it was like before television.  How quickly things have changed. 

It may be hard to remember now, but there was a time when Wi-Fi wasn’t so widespread. We didn’t have high-speed Internet access at home. And when it came to continuing holiday shopping after Black Friday, many of us waited until Monday to take advantage of the dependable, faster connection at work. And as millions of customers did just that, Cyber Monday was born.

Over the years, it’s become huge. The biggest online shopping day of the year for us. And yes, millions of customers still shop on Monday morning, opting for clicks and carts versus email and spreadsheets. But as faster Internet speeds have become ubiquitous, and as mobile has swept across the landscape, connecting even more Americans to the Internet whenever they wanted, so many of them have felt compelled to stay awake past midnight to access the best specials the moment they were posted.

But it’s 2015 now, and as we’re increasingly able to access the Internet anytime, anywhere, there’s less of a reason to have to stay up late or fit our shopping into the workday. We can do it when and how we like.

At Walmart, our research shows this interesting find:

That’s why this year, we’re starting our Cyber Monday hours earlier on Sunday evening, making it easier for customers to get ahead on saving money during the busiest online shopping day of the year. Historically, when Walmart released select Cyber Monday deals on Sunday evening, our website traffic increased significantly. Customers have changed, but until now, Cyber Monday hasn’t really changed with them. We’re making shopping faster and easier, all season long.

Maybe at some point in the future, the next generation may ask with wide-eyed disbelief, “Did you really stay up past midnight to shop online?”

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‘Thank You Very Much, I Don’t Need Your Help Anymore’

The early ’80s were really tough for my family. I had two babies and no income. But after I got a job, things started changing for the better.

Back in 1984, I knew I wanted to work for my local Walmart in Pearsall, Texas, but I was pregnant with my second child at the time. I figured after having my baby, I would apply for a job. The only downfall was everyone kept telling me, “You need a GED to get into Walmart.” I didn’t have one, so I held back.

Later, in 1986, I found out that you don’t need a GED to apply. As a matter of fact, the company will help you get a GED. I took a chance and spoke with the store manager. After filling out an application and taking an assessment, I headed to my mom’s house to let her know I used her phone number as my contact.

I will never forget, it was a Wednesday. As I pulled up at my mom’s house, she came outside with a big grin and said, “Walmart just called. They want you there Saturday at 1 o’clock.”

From then on, my life changed every day – it was getting easier. One of the best feelings in the world was being able to write a letter to the food stamp office saying, “Thank you very much, but I don’t need your help anymore.” I could make it by myself. So when outside groups perform media stunts and attempt to speak for me and my fellow associates who work hard every day to build better lives, I find it incredibly offensive.

My first job was as a cashier, and by putting in my part, I’ve worked my way up to assistant manager. I was promoted to customer service manager after just three months on the job at the most. From there, I became a floater to learn more about the store and then moved on to department manager, first over stationery and later to men’s, boys’, girls’ and infants’ apparel. After five years in that position, I became a support manager – a job I enjoyed for the longest time before finally accepting the offer to be an assistant manager.

There have been a lot of obstacles along the way, and a third child, but thanks to my determination and a good company, I didn’t quit.

One of my sons, Mario, is following in my footsteps. He started as a pharmacy cashier at age 16 and moved up from there. Now, nearly 15 years later, he’s an assistant manager, too.

When people ask me about Walmart, I use my life as an example. I didn’t graduate, but you know what, this company believed in me. And after nearly 30 years, I don’t give back any less than I did when I started.

The sky’s the limit, but I believe it’s up to you to want it.

Editor’s Note: This post is an update to this video, where Noemi first shared her story with us.