U.S. Manufacturing

At 50 Strong, America and Innovation Go Hand-in-Hand

There’s a game that my husband, Brendan, and I play every time we go to a trade show.

We flip the products over to see where they were made, and usually we see the name of a country overseas, like China or Taiwan. When I ask the sales manager why, I usually get one standard response: “You can’t make this in the U.S.A.”

This has always been interesting to me because I know that you can make a lot out of plastics in the U.S. – my family has been doing it every day for the past 35 years! Not only is it possible, it’s work that has provided for us since my father founded Precision Thermoplastic Components, Inc. in 1982. What started out as a fun little game pushed my husband and me to address what we saw as a real need for even more American-made products. In 2012 we started our company 50 Strong in Lima, Ohio, producing U.S.-made water bottles, bottle cages, and tire repair levers for Walmart’s bike accessories department.

As the brand grew, we were constantly looking to innovate. I began to spend weeks in the housewares aisles of various stores, watching how people shopped and asking about their water bottle must-haves and pet peeves. Our designers took the responses and created a line of the top 10 bottles that folks were looking for. Innovation is at the heart of what we’re doing at 50 Strong, which means we’re dedicated to making smarter products with better manufacturing processes that we engineer ourselves.

When we started the brand, we also started the 50 Strong Foundation, our nonprofit that receives 10% of all sales to fund education for manufacturing workers. It doesn’t matter if these people are going to work for us or some other company; any time we can add skilled workers to the industry is a true benefit for the future of American jobs.

Our family is competitive, and we feel great pride being able to say that we’re making a better, smarter product with great quality at a competitive price. Partnering with Walmart is another big source of pride for us because we know that their commitment to U.S. manufacturing is as real as ours is. When a retailer is willing to develop a team to focus on finding more suppliers of U.S.-made products, that’s when you know they truly care.

The name “50 Strong” stands for the 50 states, and came from our vision to make America stronger by making more of the products that we use here, in America. For every job that we’re able to fill with an American worker, we know there will be a ripple effect throughout that person’s community. Maybe they’re coaching youth baseball, maybe they’re volunteering at church, or maybe they’re just spending more time helping their kids with homework.

The feeling of providing meaningful jobs is hard to put into words, but our mission is simple: When we start making more things in America, it’s a win for our workers, our families, and our communities.

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Business

Found: The Story Behind Our New Natural Beauty Routine

If you’ve ever tried shopping for naturally-inspired beauty products, you know the struggle.

They can be expensive. They’re sometimes not as effective. Makeup colors can be limited, and guess what? That means matching skin tones is a challenge.

As a buyer for cosmetics at Walmart, I’d begun noticing an industry trend, both from our customers’ feedback and focus groups: People care more than ever about the ingredients in the products they’re using. But this was also personal. I’m passionate about using natural ingredients in my home, and I was having trouble finding beauty products that looked good, felt good, and wouldn’t break the bank.

That was last year. Little did I know that a solution was soon to be found.

My team started looking into what it would take to develop naturally-inspired skincare and cosmetics, and that’s when we discovered Hatchbeauty, a company specializing in everything from the development to the marketing of innovative beauty products. They were eager to marry their beauty expertise with our retail expertise to create something truly unique and different – Found, a new line of naturally-inspired beauty products exclusive to Walmart.

Every item within Found highlights a “miracle” ingredient used in ancient beauty rituals. For instance, one of my favorite products, the illuminating drops, uses passionfruit oil to lock in moisture and nourish your skin. We’ve brought these ingredients to life to give customers an alternative featuring natural ingredients that can deliver the same results as traditional, high-end beauty products.

Helping develop Found has been one of the most meaningful achievements in my career, because it has been an intersection where my personal passion and my professional purpose collide. Walmart is committed to selling more products that benefit people and the planet. Found’s 130-product line is never tested on animals, and there’s even a Not Found list featuring what you won’t find in the products, like parabens and phthalates. Every product is 90-99% natural, and the percent of natural ingredients is front and center on every product.

Working with Tracy Holland, founder and CEO, Diana Madrid, COO, and Ben Bennet CCO, was a phenomenal experience, but I was impressed with the engagement from everyone on their team. From the owners to the brand managers to the chemists and product developers, everyone encouraged diversity of thought and inclusion, which made it possible for the customer to be the focus of our development process. I can’t count the number of times we changed direction on formulas, shade range or packaging based on customer feedback. For instance, we received customer feedback that skincare can be a confusing category to shop, so we broke down every item into one of three steps: cleanse, treat and hydrate. Found demystifies the process and helps customers focus on key items to build their regimens.

When I gave my first presentation to our leadership team, I asked them how my makeup looked, and they couldn’t believe everything I was wearing was from our naturally-inspired line. It’s one thing to develop these products – but it’s another thing entirely to actually wear the products and love them! Found has truly been a chance for me to help our customers save money and live better.

You can find Found products at select Walmart locations, Walmart.com and coming soon to Jet.com.

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U.S. Manufacturing

The Backyard Invention That Held on Through it All

When I was a kid, I saw a museum exhibit on Thomas Edison’s workshop. For some reason, I felt an immediate connection to this American inventor.

I’m a mechanical engineer by trade, but I also spend most of my free time tinkering and designing in my garage. Ever since that day at the museum, I’ve been inspired to recreate what I saw there – imagination, innovation and ingenuity – in my own work.

Most of my best ideas come to me when I run into a problem and can’t stop thinking about it until I create a solution. One-Ties are a reusable rubber zip-tie I invented after I was doing some painting on the house and my power painter cord came unplugged so many times I must have gone up and down the ladder every five minutes to plug it back in. I thought to myself, “there’s got to be a solution for this.” It turns out there was – and it was a solution for a bazillion other things, too.

When my business partners Erik Chmelar, Jason DeYoung and I decided to get serious about selling One-Ties to the public, I was adamant from the very beginning about manufacturing our product in the U.S. Anything else was a deal breaker. I’m what you might call a patriotic person. I believe the greatness of our country lies in the potential of the great people who live here. If we were going to be creating jobs in making this idea come to life, I wanted to share that opportunity with other Americans. That’s why today, One-Ties are manufactured in Elroy, Wisconsin.

If I could give one piece of advice to other entrepreneurs, I would share the famous words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.” I first invented One-Ties to use around my own house. I never imagined they would be sold at the world’s biggest retailer.

I feel truly blessed, and to have my invention recognized at Walmart’s Open Call this past June was an amazing reward I never expected. Prior to Open Call, we began thinking about licensing our concept to Tailor Made Products, the company we charged with manufacturing it from the beginning. After Open Call, we did just that. They’re a company that has been making products for sale at Walmart for 20 years, so giving them this opportunity was a move that made sense for all of us.

Creating something other people love to use is the best part of being an innovator, and I’ll never stop.

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Business

Walmart's Secret Advantage to Serving You This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a busy time of year at Walmart.

From October through December, hundreds of millions of Americans will visit more than 5,000 Walmart locations to shop for gifts, grab last-minute items for holiday meals and take advantage of special deals that come but once a year.

Now, more than ever, Walmart and its associates will be ready for them.

Based on the success of a similar effort in 2016, the company announced it will be offering extra hours available this time of year to our current associates, rather than hiring thousands of seasonal workers.

“Our associates make the holidays come to life in our stores, and we are thankful for everything they do,” said Judith McKenna, Chief Operating Officer. “As we head into our busiest time of the year, we know associates are ready to deliver for our customers and help give them a memorable and affordable Christmas.”

These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, as well as newly created, technology-empowered positions in Walmart’s growing online pickup department.

Here are three big reasons why the company is investing in its people for Holiday 2017:

  1. The way customers shop is rapidly changing. Walmart expects new services like Online Grocery Pickup to take off with the holiday cooking crowd, making the company’s specially trained personal shoppers an even more indispensable part of the team.
  2. The company’s Holiday Helpers program was a huge success last year, and in 2017 Walmart is increasing the number of Helpers across its fleet of stores. These associates are dedicated to helping customers get through stores faster by finding the shortest checkout line and opening registers as needed. They’ll even run to grab items customers may have forgotten, so they don’t lose their place.
  3. Walmart has increased its focus on service through new training, tools and technology. Thousands of associates have completed the company’s Pathways and Academy programs, which prepares them to more effectively serve customers during this busy season.

“The holidays are a special time of year for our customers and associates,” McKenna said. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our people have the passion to do even more this year.”

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Business

One Year Ago, We Welcomed Jet … and the Winners are Our Customers

When the Jet.com deal closed one year ago, many people asked, “Why Jet.com?”

At the time, we’d strengthened our e-commerce capabilities and were looking for the right partner to accelerate our efforts. So while it was a logical question to ask, the answer was really quite simple: Jet was the right partner at the right time. Both Walmart and Jet have a deep commitment to serving customers, and saving them money and time. By coming together, we could do all these things, better.

That’s exactly what we’re doing. In August, we partnered with Google for voice shopping. Earlier in the year, we launched Easy Reorder, a feature in our mobile app that helps customers easily access a list of items they purchase most frequently. We also launched free two-day shipping on millions of items – without a membership fee. And we’ve steadily expanded our merchandise assortment. This time last year, we had just reached 15 million items available on Walmart.com and today that number is 67 million items and rising.

We’ve welcomed other innovative online retailers to the Walmart family, including Bonobos, Hayneedle, Modcloth, Moosejaw and Shoes.com. Each of these acquisitions has helped strengthen our expertise in key product categories, provide an expanded assortment and a way to reach new customers. We’re able to provide these new companies the benefit of Walmart’s scale to lower their operating costs, which allows each to invest in the customer experience and grow the business.

We’re also seeing the power of our stores and e-commerce coming together to serve customers. We’re removing friction from our shopping experience – focused on making it fast, easy and fun for customers. Walmart customers now receive a discount for store pickup rather than home delivery, which we can offer by using our vast supply chain and store network to create efficiencies. With stores located within 10 miles of nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, it’s convenient for many of our customers, and saves them money.

In addition to 1,000 grocery pickup locations in the U.S., we’re testing associate delivery of Walmart.com orders in a few stores. By the end of the year, we’ll have approximately 100 automated pickup towers in stores across the country, where customers can pick up their orders within a matter of minutes. And we’re excited about the growth we’re seeing across our e-commerce portfolio. One important metric, Gross Merchandise Value, grew 69 percent in the first quarter this year, and was just as robust the next quarter at 67 percent. That’s proof customers are responding.

Marc Lore, who founded Jet, and now leads our U.S. e-commerce efforts, has proven to be the digital embodiment of Walmart. He has a fanatical focus on serving customers and creating the next generation of everyday low prices. It’s energizing how he and Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., and their teams continue to partner closely to delight customers in new ways across our apps, sites and stores.

I’m excited about how far we’ve come together, and even more excited about what’s ahead. Here’s to another great year of finding more ways to save our customers time and money, and delivering an easy and enjoyable shopping experience.

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