Life

In Case You Missed It: Our Favorite Stories from 2017

Last year, our news feeds were full of big moments.

In case you missed some of Walmart’s major events, we rounded up our Top 10 favorite stories of 2017 – from the impressive, to the heartbreaking, to the downright adorable.

Our Family Got Bigger and Better
It’s always a happy moment when a family grows. This year, we added exciting companies to our team like ModCloth, Bonobos, Shoes.com and Parcel. We also partnered with tech innovators like August Home, Google, Uber and Lord & Taylor, proving that when we strengthen our business in the right places, our customers win.

A Podcast About Retail (And All Things Related)
These days, you can find a podcast for just about anything. From whales to Wales, from weather patterns to whether the latest movie is any good, you can probably find it all in your favorite podcast app. In May, we launched a podcast of our own called Outside the Box where we brought together thought leaders and innovators of all backgrounds to talk about the ways they’re transforming technology, shopping and everything in between.

Virtual Reality – and a Few Cues From Football – Helped Train Our People
Inspiration can come from surprising places. With the same technology used by some major football teams, we started incorporating virtual reality training into our Academy programs across the country. It’s just one of the many ways Walmart Academies use tech to set up associates for success.

This 5-Year-Old Associate Stole Our Hearts
What do you call a preschooler who does an art project on working at Walmart? Our newest associate! Well, at least for a day. When 5-year-old Will Coffman’s dad shared an adorable picture on Twitter, a local store manager invited him in to help out (and try out the job).

We Made Great Value… an Even Better Value
Premium Ice cream, sustainable coffee and salon-quality hairspray all at everyday low prices? We made it happen. In 2017, we highlighted some private label products that go above and beyond in providing our customers an amazing value. Be sure to check them out, you may be surprised!

This Short Story Revealed a Much Bigger Impact
A lot goes on behind the scenes in this big retail business. Aside from bringing customers their favorite products at a great value, we work to make a difference year-round for people, communities and the environment. This year we had Walmart home office associate Kyle Jones break down the lengthy report for us. He did such a great job we wondered why we never thought of it before!

#MadeInUSA Helped Create Jobs Across the Country
In 2013, we announced a commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S. From an eyeglass factory in Brooklyn to an inventor’s home factory in Opdyke, Illinois, we took 2017 to highlight suppliers that are creating change for American workers.

Shopping Got a Major Tech Upgrade
The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age, and last year was a big year for tech in retail. Last year, our Online Grocery Pickup continued to grow as a customer favorite, and we opened new stores with some pretty exciting features. What’s more, our incubation arm Store No 8 moved like a startup to test better ways to shop.

Associates Came Together to Help Those in Need
After natural disasters destroyed homes across the U.S., we witnessed communities and associates come together in times of need. From Hurricane Harvey to Hurricane Maria, from earthquakes in Mexico to wildfires in California, we were proud to see Walmart associates use their unique skill sets to help those affected get back on their feet.

We Started With #HelloMyNameIs
Every year, our Shareholders meeting brings together exceptional associates from around the world. It’s always inspiring to see what our international co-workers are up to, but last June we heard a powerful story from an Asda associate who’s carrying on his late wife’s legacy, and we just had to share it.

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Community

How Cocoa and Honeybees Are Helping Latin American Farmers Thrive

A simple honeybee: It provides you with deliciously sweet honey for your tea. It helps pollinate the crops of fruits and vegetables that end up on your family’s dinner plate – even the coffee beans for your morning drink. That same honeybee can also help small family farmers in places like the dense forests of Mexico thrive.

Many Latin American agricultural businesses don’t survive long term. But it isn’t because they’re fighting against Mother Nature or bad crops or not enough hard-working laborers. It usually boils down to a lack of financial training and little access to credit.

Now, here’s where that bee and your morning coffee come back into the picture.

Root Capital, with support from the Walmart Foundation, is helping provide credit and training to 24 agricultural businesses throughout Mexico. These enterprises play a critical role in linking small farmers to faraway global markets, resulting in more stable incomes. Over the next two years, we will work with honey, cocoa and coffee cooperatives that collectively reach 7,500 small farmers.

Since the project launched in December 2017, it has provided tailored training in financial management and accounting systems to eight Mexican honey and coffee cooperatives. We’ve also supported four of these businesses – that previously had no access to credit from commercial banks – with $1.1 million in new financing. To date, this credit and training has strengthened the livelihoods of more than 2,000 small farmers.

This project also gives us the opportunity to help farmers unlock the hidden potential of honey and cocoa. Despite growing U.S. demand for honey, most honey producers are extremely poor. And they’ve usually turned to beekeeping to supplement income from their primary activity – coffee farming. But honey offers economic opportunities to those able to invest in it: It doesn’t require much land, can be pursued in many different climates and tends to generate relatively high earnings per kilo. Plus, the benefits of beekeeping go beyond livelihoods. Healthy hives sustain diverse ecosystems by pollinating plants, including many of the crops we depend on for food.

Cocoa holds similar promise. Latin America produces 48% of the world’s sustainable cocoa and 85% of its certified organic cocoa. Demand for fine chocolate means there’s significant room for growth. Like honey, cocoa provides an alternative crop for small-scale coffee farmers threatened by climate change and food insecurity.

Thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation, Root Capital will build the capacity of early-stage honey, cocoa and coffee businesses to access stable financing. And that stability will, in turn, empower farming families in Mexico to invest in nutritious food and education for their children, better farm productivity and so much more.

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Life

Nailed It! Associates Show Spark with Creative Manicures

It’s tough to stand out in a crowd of 6,000 people – tougher, still, if half of them are wearing matching T-shirts.

As associates from all over the world converged on the University of Arkansas campus for Walmart’s 48th annual shareholders meeting week, many found creative ways to distinguish themselves. South African associates wore exquisite beaded headbands, and Argentines accessorized with their country’s flag.

One tactic many associates used for showing their individuality: nail art. From solid tips in Walmart colors, to artistic takes on the Walmart spark, to Insta-worthy designs featuring sequins and glitter, there was no shortage of creativity on display.

Rita Wright from store 592 in Derby, Kansas, always has her nails done and says her customers notice. For shareholders week, she went with bold azure polish, with the exception of her ring fingers, which sported a glimmery gold.

Kari Bickel is a department manager in jewelry, and it shows in her strong accessories game. Since she is often reaching into the jewelry case to help customers at store 5360 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, she wants her nails to be on point. Kari painted the Walmart spark on her thumbs and pinkies.

Different takes on the spark were a big trend in associate nail art, and some associates took store pride to the next level, adding their store numbers to their tips.

Ashia Sanford had one of the week’s most daring nail looks: pink and yellow with all manner of sparkle. From “fishtail” sequins (which resemble scales) to an “S” shape for shareholders, Ashia’s nails reflect her bright and vibrant personality.

“I have a standing appointment every other week with my nail lady,” Ashia says. “I do a different design each time. My regular customers always make a point of asking, ‘Ashia, what’d you get this time?’ They really seem to enjoy it.”

As an overnight customer service manager at Neighborhood Market 3052 in Vancouver, Washington, Ashia does a lot of stocking and work near the checkout area. When she returns home, she will probably shorten her nails so she can use her hands at work more easily.

But for shareholders week, she wanted to go all out. “This week is really special,” she says. “And I wanted my nails to reflect that.”

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U.S. Manufacturing

Answering the Open Call: Entrepreneurs Bring It at Walmart’s Annual Event

It was high-stakes show-and-tell yesterday at Walmart’s annual U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event.

Entrepreneurs representing more than 450 businesses roamed the halls of our Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, awaiting their turn to pitch everything from salsa to sportswear in front of Walmart buyers. Weaving my way through the crowd, I saw hundreds of original and inventive items and had the privilege of meeting some of the people and hearing some of the stories behind them.

A few of those people walked away with deals, a few heard maybes and others received feedback that will prepare them to try again. Here are five of my favorites.

1. Flying High. Megan Hardwick had a roller-coaster ride of a day. The business owner and mom had to pitch her Wings Cosmetics eyeliner stamps twice: once in a small room in front of a buyer, then in an auditorium filled with other hopefuls and Walmart associates. Our cosmetics buyer was sold on Megan’s invention – flexible plastic stamps that apply liquid or gel eyeliner in sharp, matching wing shapes in seconds.

Flying high after getting a deal, she was selected for a live pitch session called “Bring It,” where businesses vied for crowdsourcing to identify which products would get placement in Walmart stores. Megan’s Wings went up against Mighty Good Pizza Saver – a microwavable plastic container that keeps leftover pizza fresh – and the competition was intense, with the Pizza Saver taking the lead by one point seconds before the polls closed. Megan wasn’t out of the game though. Her Wings pulled through and the contest ended with a tie.

2. Sparking Interest. Warren Brown, a lawyer-turned-baker from the Washington, D.C., area, attended his first Open Call in 2017 and ultimately landed a deal for Don’t Forget Cake: a single-serve layer cake with frosting in a jar. This year, he presented a healthier snacking option called Spark Bites. Warren said these whole-grain snacks are gluten- and allergen-free, high in fiber, low in cane sugar and come in five different flavors. His Spark Bites were referred to another buyer in a category that better fits the product. As for Don’t Forget Cake, two flavors launched in March and will soon be available in 1,000 Walmart stores.

3. Ugly Dates Deserve Love. This story begins all the way in Israel. When David Czinn and his friend and business partner, Brian Finkel, were studying abroad in the Middle East, they both fell in love with the region’s alternative to honey: D’vash date nectar. The sweetener has been a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, David said, and the duo wanted to bring it to the States – but they wanted to cut the sugar and make it environmentally friendly. Thus D’vash Organics was born. Their dates come from Coachella Valley farms in California. “We buy the ugly ones that wouldn’t otherwise be sold,” David said. The nectar is vegan, has 25% less sugar than honey and can add flavor to tea and coffee, marinades, salad dressing and much more. David, a second-time Open Call participant, said he got positive feedback and was excited for the future of this ancient delight as he prepared for more meetings later in the day.

4. Party to Go. With the summer heat just getting started, ready-to-go cocktails sound like a great idea for parties and relaxing evenings outside with friends. YUMIX has quenched the need with three flavors – Orange Mango, Margarita and Sea Breeze. Everything needed is in one bottle: Simply twist off the bottom chamber that holds the alcohol, pour into the bottle and mix. Alex Garner, founder and CEO, started the day off right when he walked out of the pitch meeting with a deal for these adult beverages.

5. The Heart of the Deal. Not everyone was at Open Call with products in tow. Businessman Ray Doustdar was back for his second year with advice and a listening ear. In 2017, Ray pitched his liquid multivitamins, Buiced – a play on “boost your veggie juice” – and didn’t immediately get a deal because the product was too big for Walmart’s shelves. Ray took the buyer’s feedback home, adjusted the size of the packaging, approached the buyer again and got his “yes.” Two flavors of Buiced, citrus and fruit punch, are now available in 3,000 stores, and the experience has been life-changing for Ray. “I knew I wanted to come back as a success story and help other people prepare for their meetings,” Ray said. “This experience has made me be better at my business,” he said, and being able to pay it forward as a mentor is important to him.

Ray said it best: “The stories coming out of Open Call are proof that the American dream is alive and well.”

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U.S. Manufacturing

Diary of a Dairy Farm: Meet the Dirksens, Who Supply Milk to Walmart

Growing up in rural Ohio, Tina Dirksen doesn’t remember picking up many things at the store. Aside from toothpaste, her family’s farm produced everything else that their 14-person household needed.

Modern life is a bit different, she explained, but it’s clear that she means that only with regard to her family’s shopping habits. A lot of her life actually remains the same: She’s still in the farming business, with multiple operations that produce pork, grain, corn and dairy. And she’s still a part of a big family, today the mother of eight children who all love animals and the land.

“I ask them what they want to do in the future and each one of them tells me they want to farm,” she said. “They know no other life. They truly enjoy it.”

While the Dirksens somehow find time to do their own gardening, canning and butchering some of their own meat, Tina says they make two trips to their local Walmart per week. So when the opportunity arose for them to sell milk to Walmart’s new dairy plant in nearby Fort Wayne, they were excited. They would be shipping their milk just a short distance, and by working directly with a retailer, they could oversee more details themselves.

“It totally made sense to me,” she said. “Farming is changing, and the dairy industry as a whole needs more outlets for their milk. This new plant offers that.”

Local farmers like the Dirksen family are critical to Walmart’s entry in to milk processing. Nearly 30 farms across Indiana and Michigan have signed up to provide milk to the 250,000-square-foot state-of-the-art plant, which began construction in 2016 on the heels of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s strategy to increase the volume of dairy processing locally. In opening this facility, Walmart joins a majority of other grocery retailers who run their own milk processing operations.

For the Dirksens, doing business in dairy is an investment for the future. Their 8,000-hog pork farm provides the majority of their income, while any profits the dairy farm produces are put back into improving it alone. Tina keeps up with industry innovations and implements those that are beneficial for the cows, the business and the environment.

“Sustainability is accountability,” she said. “If you don’t make a farm that is sustainable, it won’t be very profitable to you. It’s not something that we take lightly.”

The Dirksens care equally about their relationships with the people and the animals who work for them. While Tina’s responsibilities on the farm are mostly administrative, she oversees veterinary care for the cows and has been known to help out her employees by even babysitting their kids once in a while. Her family even spends time with cows on their off hours – they’ve had a pet, a Jersey cow they named Good Golly Molly, for 7 years.

“What I love most about farming is that it provides us the opportunity to do what’s best for our family,” she said. “To us, working with Walmart is an exciting adventure.”

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