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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Innovation

How Easy Reorder is Making Shopping Even … Easier

Peanut butter beats jelly. Water beats soda. Tortilla chips beat potato chips. These are just a few of the things revealed to us by our new Easy Reorder feature.

What is Easy Reorder? Instead of telling you, let me try and show you. Imagine this … last week you purchased diapers while at your local store. Then you realized you forgot a few things. So, you logged onto Walmart.com and purchased wipes as well as some cleaning supplies and paper towels.

The next time you open the Walmart app, you may notice something different. The site remembers the Walmart.com items you purchased, but also the diapers you bought in your local store – including the brand and size.

Easy Reorder, which is available now on desktops and our mobile app, makes it … well, easy for you to reorder items that you previously purchased at Walmart. Here’s the cool part: We’re integrating both in-store and online purchases to provide you with a single spot to view (and repurchase) the items that you buy most frequently – items like dog food, cereal, shampoo and diapers.

Let me share a little bit more on why we’re doing this. I’ll use myself as an example. I have 151 different items on my Easy Reorder list. I challenge you to go online and try and find 100 individual products to build a list. You’ll find it takes a really long time. Now, you can simply go into a Walmart store, buy the things you need and then, when you come home, everything will be neatly organized on Walmart.com. For me, that means that I get to save a ton of time when I need to repurchase the items I’m looking for. Trust me, with two kids at home, I have to replenish the snack cupboard a lot. Easy Reorder is a game changer.

I’m not the only one who loves this feature. Our customers love it as well, and we’re seeing it in our results – Easy Reorder contributed to the growth we saw in the first quarter.

For fun, I thought I’d share some of the top items on customers’ reorder lists:

Easy Reorder is part of our team’s laser focus on helping customers save both money and time by leveraging our more than 4,700 stores and Walmart.com.

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U.S. Manufacturing

In the News: Inside Our Open Call for American Manufacturing

Shrimp, hair gel, sweet potato cake.

Forbes sent a film crew to Walmart’s corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to capture the excitement as suppliers pitched these and hundreds of other products at our annual U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event.

Forbes shared its inside look today. Take a look at what the big day is like for the people behind the products.

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Community

Why This Associate Wants You to Start With #HelloMyNameIs

“Hello, my name is….” It’s a phrase made up of only four words.

It takes very little time to say – it’s an easy way to begin a conversation. Yet, when people say these words, they can have such a big impact.

My late wife, Kate, started the #HelloMyNameIs campaign in 2013 while living with terminal cancer. As a medic herself, she had become frustrated with nurses and doctors who never introduced themselves to her before providing medical care.

Kate had already been speaking to hospitals and conferences about her experience as both a medical provider and a patient, but through the campaign she hoped to share some key values that resonate beyond people working in healthcare: communication, small acts of kindness, putting the patient at the center of every decision and seeing each person as an individual.

Kate was one of the most determined, resilient people I have ever known. I firmly believe that through adversity, comes legacy. July 23 is International “Hello My Name Is” Day – both the anniversary of Kate’s passing and what would have been our 12th wedding anniversary. We invite everyone – from people to corporations – to join us in celebrating Kate’s legacy by introducing yourself and using #HelloMyNameIs.

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Community

Paper Paved the Way to Success for This Family Business

There are two secrets to C. Ray Kennedy’s business success: an entrepreneurial spirit … and office paper.

In 1992, the bank Ray worked for in Charlotte, North Carolina, was in need of a copy paper supplier, but there were no local businesses offering that service. Ray took a chance and decided to quit his job and create a company that could meet the bank’s needs. Since then, what he started, American Product Distributors, has evolved into a nationwide provider of paper – and so much more – to large government organizations and corporations like Walmart.

APD now creates custom electronic catalogs for a variety of products needed to run a business – office and cleaning supplies, industrial items, branded corporate products like apparel, bags and awards – and houses many of the items within its network of 31 warehouses located across the U.S. The company believes in buying American-made whenever possible and sources the majority of its products from the U.S.

Office supplies may sound commonplace, but streamlining the buying process and offering advice make a huge difference for businesses in two key areas: cost savings and speed, according to Cy Kennedy, son of Ray. Cy has served as president of APD since 2011.

APD started small with three employees and a limited catalog. Twenty-five years later, the organization now employs around 50 people and includes a new software division that uses an updated, redesigned ordering system to save customers money. Walmart, a longtime customer, has found value in the company’s convenience, specialized service and quick turnaround, which is important to a business operating on such a large scale.

While growth is always something to be grateful for, Cy says that APD prides itself instead on its employees’ continued success inside and outside the company. While some have moved up to senior management positions within the family business, Cy said some former employees have gone on to become executives at other companies, and a few who started their careers with APD are now successful politicians or entrepreneurs.

Cy credited the culture his father established – a meritocracy built on kindness and respect for employees, suppliers and customers alike – with contributing to personal success.

That culture extends beyond the walls of the business. Ray’s family established the Kennedy Foundation to reach out to children in need. The foundation has helped feed hundreds of thousands of free meals to kids who don’t have access to healthy food outside of school.

The family also started three daycare centers that focus on serving low-income families. “We’ve prepared a lot of children for school who otherwise wouldn’t hit the ground running,” Cy said. “Some started with us as infants and are now college degree holders.”

Whether it’s in business or in the community, the Kennedys are focused on one thing: finding ways people can help each other.

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