Home > Uncategorized > Hundreds Of Entrepreneurs Head To Bentonville, Ark., For Walmart’s Open Call For U.S. Manufacturers

Hundreds Of Entrepreneurs Head To Bentonville, Ark., For Walmart’s Open Call For U.S. Manufacturers

 

For the past four years, Walmart has set aside one day a year where manufacturers of American products – however small – could pitch their goods to a buyer at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. This year, the retailing giant’s open call day will be next Wednesday, June 28, and more than 500 companies from across the country will get a 30-minute hearing for their more than 750 products. (Forbes will be on the scene in Bentonville next week to tell the stories of some of the entrepreneurs who are there.)

Part business, part extravaganza (expect a lot of American flags), part Shark Tank-like pitch sessions, the all-day event offers entrepreneurs a way to get their products in front of a Walmart buyer, something that would be almost impossible for a small company to do at other times during the year. The event is part of Walmart’s push to increase American manufacturing. Underneath the circus atmosphere, however, this is serious business, and perhaps more serious at a time when Amazon and Whole Foods have agreed to join forces. Entrepreneurs that expect to win a space on the shelves of the Walmart will need to be prepared to talk about the costs of production – and to get pushback from Walmart’s buyers to make them cheaper.

Entrepreneurs that will be pitching their products include Jarvis Green, a former New England Patriots football player, whose Baton Rouge, La.-based Oceans 97 sells restaurant-quality shrimp; Sandra Alexander, whose Greensboro, N.C.-based Anndori Outdoor Art makes craft kits for holiday décor; and Kid Ease founder Jessica Gore, a Dallas mom who came up with the idea for a safe cleaning spray for sticky fingers.

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Nathan Failla, the 23-year-old founder of PocketGel

Nathan Failla, the 23-year-old founder of PocketGel

Nathan Failla, 23, a recent graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, will be pitching his PocketGel instant hair gel, a 5-millileter packet of hair gel that’s easy to carry. Failla came up with the idea one evening when he was headed to dinner in the rain and wished he had some hair gel with him, then developed the idea as a class project. Today, his one-man company, which relies on a contract manufacturer in Michigan, is reaching big in trying to get into Walmart before lining up smaller or regional stores. “I was like, ‘go big or go home,’” he says. “I’m more excited than nervous, but I’ll probably be nervous when I get there.”

Some entrepreneurs will win deals to get their products into all of Walmart’s 11,695 stores, others will get regional distribution only, while others will go home with nothing but a little advice for how to improve their product. For those with non-perishable products, there is one upside: They’ll likely get access to at least sell on Walmart.com.

For more on selling to Walmart, see “What It Takes To Sell To Walmart: Three Entrepreneurs Tell Their Stories” and “What It Takes To Sell To Walmart: A Senior Buyer Tells All.”

Follow me on Twitter @amyfeldman

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