There are many ways we bring each other joy during the holidays.
We visit family, bake cookies and holiday treats, and of course, give each other gifts. But you may be surprised to know that some of the presents you’re leaving under the tree are bringing joy in a completely different way: creating jobs across the country in communities just like yours.
Through my job buying toys for Walmart, I have a unique perspective into the gifts people give each other. Winter holidays are a big toy season in the retail business, and to make sure we have toys kids will love at an awesome price, we depend on toymakers just as committed to high levels of quality as we are. This year, one of those amazing suppliers was American Plastic Toys, who worked with us to create some of the season’s most popular toys like My Very Own Gourmet Kitchen and the “Spark. Imagine. Create.” Dollhouse – all here in the U.S.
Our work with American Plastic Toys may be one of the longest relationships between a manufacturer and a retailer – we’ve worked together since 1962, the year Walmart was founded. They even opened their second factory location to accommodate our growing needs in the ‘80s.
Today, they continue to grow with us as a part of our $250 billion investment in products that are made and assembled in the U.S. Between American Plastic Toys’ two facilities – one in Walled Lake, Michigan, and one in Olive Branch, Mississippi – 150 new American jobs were created this year.
Seeing the change our investment makes in people’s lives is personal for me. When I joined the Walmart team seven years ago, I was leaving the manufacturing industry and had experienced firsthand the devastating layoffs that follow factory closures. I knew that if I ever had the ability to make a difference, I would.
Supporting American jobs is the right thing to do not just to help my company meet its goals, but also as a way to invest in the towns and cities our customers call home. Through this holiday season and beyond, it’s incredible to see how much of what we do impacts the people in communities so close to us. We’re all American workers who want the best for our friends and families, and it’s exciting to experience how we all come together to make a change.
It’s a classic love story: Boy meets girl, falls madly in love and proposes to her in front of millions on one of 2018’s most popular Netflix shows.
Okay, so that’s probably not how it happens for most of us. But, for William and Shannan Mahnken, it’s all part of their real-life love story that started five years ago after they met at a Walmart assistant store manager training session in Woodstock, Georgia.
The Netflix reality show reboot, “Queer Eye,” has taken pop culture by storm. The show’s “Fab Five” – Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby – have won over viewers’ hearts across America by taking the show beyond its basic premise and diving into conversations about identity and self-confidence that inspire viewers and participants alike.
Before Shannan submitted William to be one of the makeover contestants on the show’s second season, the grocery department manager was a shy aspiring actor and screenwriter who named ’90s sitcom character Frasier Crane as his style icon. In his own words, “I was hiding behind my beard and all that hair.”
It’s not always easy to embrace your full self or wear your heart on your sleeve, but despite William’s reserved personality, he had a great time on set. “The guys are all so great,” William said. “They just walk up to you like they’ve been friends with you forever. I felt so comfortable.”
Bonding with the Fab Five even helped William feel comfortable enough to seek their help in planning his proposal to Shannan. He set to work with Karamo, the “Queer Eye” culture consultant, to craft a grand proposal that would sweep her off her feet.
“I was trying to think of a word that meant more than love,” said William, “and eventually I realized that there was no single word or phrase that could describe how I feel about Shannan. I decided that the only way I could describe it was with her name.”
That’s right. William invented a new way to say, “I love you” – and he did it using his future bride’s name. “I Shannan you.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I highly suggest grabbing a box of tissues beforehand.
Last month, William and Shannan finally tied the knot in a small sunrise ceremony on the beaches of Amelia Island in Florida. Since the show aired, the lovebirds say that although married life is a little different, the couple have stayed pretty true to who they are. They now work together as department managers at the same Walmart store in Cornelia, Georgia, and William continues to create short films and act when he can.
So, what was the biggest lesson he learned on the show?
“Confidence is a big one,” he said. “I learned how to open up to people. I don’t feel hidden anymore; I feel like I can open up to people about who I am. If I feel myself reverting back into that old pattern, I remember something that Tan said to me: ‘You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for her – the person you love.’ I think about that and it inspires me to be the best version of myself.”
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.”
Going back to school with confidence is as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.
Whether you’re shopping for a kindergartner or a college student, Walmart is making it easier than ever to get all the supplies you need in-store and online with a variety of new tools and products.
The best part: You don’t have to sacrifice style for convenience or saving money. Around 25% of our school supply assortment is new this year, and you’ll find these on-trend items offered at our everyday low prices.
Over the years, the Budweiser logo has come to represent many things beyond just beer: the Budweiser frogs, the greeting “Wassup?” and, of course, the majestic Clydesdales. But soon you may be seeing a new Budweiser logo that symbolizes even more.
Anheuser-Busch, which first introduced Budweiser Lager Beer in 1876, is taking a serious look at how the way beer is produced can help make a difference for our planet.
To highlight its commitment, the company created a special “Brewed with 100% Renewable Electricity” logo that now appears on all Budweiser sold in the U.S. Just as iguanas Frank and Louie became popular mascots for the brand, the new logo will hopefully become a recognizable mark of social responsibility.
These efforts don’t end at the logo, however. The company took its ambitious sustainability goals and joined Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our supply chain by 1 billion metric tons by 2030.
The brewer set its own goals that it hopes to meet by 2025. Its four areas of focus are:
Renewable electricity and carbon reduction
“Achieving ambitious goals requires cooperation from stakeholders across the board. When you add efforts from wholesalers, suppliers and consumers to those from companies like Walmart and Anheuser-Busch — companies who are committed to the cause — you’ve got a chance to make a real difference,” said Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability procurement at Anheuser-Busch, North America.
A major milestone was reached when the brewer announced a wind energy partnership with ENEL Green Power in 2017. Since January of this year, 50% of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased electricity has come from a wind farm at Thunder Ranch, Oklahoma. That’s enough renewable electricity to brew more than 20 billion 12-ounce servings of beer in the U.S. each year.
The Budweiser brand carries the flag for the renewable electricity goal pledged by the brewer. “When you consider the Budweiser beer volume in North America, we sell 15 million 12-ounce servings every day, and we have 15 million opportunities with each one to get customers involved in conversations over a beer,” Angie said of Budweiser’s consumers. “We also want to encourage other companies to be inspired to do more. The new symbol is available for other companies to show how they’re using renewable electricity in their brands.”
The wind farm hits on another shared interest between the brewery and Walmart: creating American jobs. Angie said the development of the farm is a 15-year project, and around 400 temporary jobs were created at the peak of construction. Some jobs will remain long term.
“We are proud to call the United States our home and are proud to continue to brew America’s best beers,” said Angel Beasley, manager of trade marketing supporting the Walmart business. “It makes sense especially to amplify our American heritage with Walmart’s Made in the USA program. In fact, 98% of the primary ingredients used in the beers Anheuser-Busch proudly brews are grown in the U.S.”
There are more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Budweiser’s production alone requires over 1,700 people, Angel said.
The next time you pass a Budweiser display in your local Walmart store or crack open a cold one, you’ll know that it’s more than an adult beverage – and that the company is doing more than coming up with clever commercials.