Opportunity

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.

Massmart Farming


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

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Community

Helping Women Find Their Strong Suits Through Dress for Success

On New Year’s Eve 2014, Samantha pulled into a hotel in Northwest Arkansas, leaving an abusive relationship and destructive lifestyle behind in Texas.

Alone in a new state, with just her daughter, Samantha had no real plan in place, but she did have a goal: building a better life for herself. Two weeks after arriving and still seeking a job, Samantha heard about Dress for Success, a global nonprofit organization that provides professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help disadvantaged women thrive in work and in life.

In 2012, knowing that the local poverty rate was nearly 19% and the unemployment rate was 5.7%, several Walmart home office associates strongly believed that Northwest Arkansas was an important location for the organization's first affiliate in the state. Now nearly three years old, the mission for Dress for Success Northwest Arkansas remains the same: to help women like Samantha find financial independence as they work their way out of negative situations.

Dress For Success Volunteer Helping Client

Marie Paterson, a Walmart human resources associate who is a key leader with Dress for Success Northwest Arkansas, told me, “Volunteering with a local affiliate is especially meaningful because we’re making a difference right here. Our clients are becoming confident and equipped to raise not only their standard of living but also their families’, and they are becoming role models for their children, their friends and communities.”

When Samantha left Texas, friends and family weren’t the only things she left behind. She left behind the clothes and possessions that would present her as professional and hirable in interviews that another local agency had helped her find. Beyond that, she had no idea what to expect from Dress for Success.

Woman Standing at Desk Looking Through Papers

“The actual experience at Dress for Success was so much more powerful than I could have expected,” Samantha said. “Not only did they provide me with one-on-one attention for my suiting, but they did a mock interview and gave me feedback on areas to improve.” Later, Samantha said, she felt prepared and confident enough to ace her interview for her dream job: becoming a key member of the team at a local car dealership.

Now in a much healthier situation, Samantha is looking to the future and wants to be a “giant success” in the auto industry. She is actively looking for ways to reach out to women in situations similar to the one she left in Texas to show them that anything is possible. 

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Opportunity

7 Fathers, 7 Sons, 1 Distribution Center

Lots of people use the term “work family” casually, but in Marcy, N.Y., it’s quite the literal thing. At one Walmart distribution center, seven fathers and seven sons work alongside each other, all as Walmart truck drivers.

Having your parent as a coworker could be a nuisance for some, but for many of these sons, it’s a privilege. Watch them describe why they’ve looked up to their fathers for years, and why they ultimately chose to pursue the same road with Walmart logistics. 

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Walmart #NWAChampionship Player Gaby Lopez: ‘The Impossible Can Be Possible’

This weekend, University of Arkansas golfer Gaby Lopez will enjoy her third opportunity to join LPGA players on the greens at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Here, she shares her thoughts on the tournament – as well as pursuing her dreams on and off the course.

WMT: You took up golf at age 4 while growing up in Mexico. What drew you to the sport? 

Lopez: My dad introduced me to golf. It all started as a fun game, nothing serious. A couple of years later, Lorena Ochoa became the No. 1 women’s golfer in the world. That was when I knew that the impossible can be possible, and golf became my passion. 

WMT: Tell us about your journey to today, where you’re a standout on the University of Arkansas golf team.

Lopez: Coming to the University of Arkansas has been the best decision I've made. I've grown as a golfer but more important as a person. I'm 100% certain that I have the right people around me, like Coach Shauna (Estes-Taylor) and Coach Mike (Adams), by my side that will always push me to be my best. 

Gaby Lopez smiles on a golf course during the LPGA Tour in Rogers, Arkansas

WMT: During this week’s event, you’re playing in front of hometown fans. What is that like? How does it compare to other tournaments?

Lopez: This tournament makes me feel like I’m at home. The Northwest Arkansas and Razorback communities have opened their doors to me and my family in a very special way. It is a huge honor to be able to represent my school and my country at the same time. Calling the Hogs with all the fans on No. 17 is one of my favorite golf moments - the energy is amazing. I feel blessed to have this opportunity for the third time in my collegiate career. 

WMT: Empowering women to recognize their full potential is a longtime priority for Walmart. You’re certainly a role model for other youth – do you have any advice for young girls on not just pursuing professional sports, but succeeding in whatever they do?

Lopez: My advice would be to always do and pursue what interests you, whether that is golf, sports or anything else. Discipline and passion are two characteristics I think a person needs to be successful, and I think believing in yourself is the most powerful tool of all. 

WMT: What are your own dreams, and what do you envision as your next step?

Lopez: I think everyone who plays the game dreams of being the best player ever and I certainly want to be the best player I can be. But I think more importantly I want to be remembered for what I did off the golf course. I want to finish out my senior season with the Razorbacks and enjoy every minute of the team atmosphere – that is a unique experience in golf. After graduation, I’ll start work on earning my Tour card and see where that journey takes me.    

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Opportunity

Fluent in Determination, I Mastered Both English and a Career


At the encouragement of my husband, I applied anyway at our local Walmart store in Miami. And to my surprise, it all worked out, because what I was able to communicate – determination – pulled me through.

Store Manager Bogey Say with Two Associates

Growing up in Mongolia gave me plenty of experience being the manager of my household, as I shopped and cared for my younger sister and brother while my parents worked nearly 24 hours a day. But I wanted something more for myself and them, so I started a retail store in my home country to help out. A few years in, I met my husband, an American who was in Mongolia teaching English. We married and moved to the United States, where different social norms gave me the inspiration to run with a new dream: having a career that allows me to be independent and also provide enough for my children.

Starting at Walmart at entry level, I set a goal for myself to be promoted every two years. And that has actually happened. More than a decade later, I have worked my way up to the position of store manager, leading a Supercenter in Haines City, Florida.

Bogey Say Training an Associate

How did I do it? Aside from personal grit, I made my first steps forward with Walmart's training program for new hires. Next, I talked to as many people as I could – having regular conversations with other associates helped me learn English pretty quickly. Later, having the support of mentors – like my market manager who saw that I had high expectations for myself – kept me moving further and further.

In the back of my mind, the stark separation of roles between women and men in Mongolia did impact my self-esteem a little bit. Even though my hard work was paying off at my job, I still feared things like public speaking, thinking others would make fun of my accent. But last year, I participated in another Walmart training program called Champions for Development, where we covered women and confidence. I sat in the back, quiet, as every woman in my group got up and spoke about themselves.  I thought to myself, if they can do it, why not me? And I made a personal commitment to no longer be afraid.

Store Manager Bogey Say with Store Associates

In March, that pledge became very real as I addressed a full auditorium at Walmart’s corporate office for International Women’s Day. My message was my story, which was this: If I can accomplish all of this in 13 years without knowing English at the start, then anyone can do it.

The language I knew all along, perseverance, has paid off, and now I’m speaking and teaching it confidently to nearly 380 associates in my home store.    

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