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Opening Doors for Women, Opening Doors for Innovation

NewYork - We know we are at our best when we champion diversity and inclusion across our business. Women make up the majority of our associates and the majority of our shoppers, so it makes sense for us to use our strength to support women at all levels of the business.

So what does supporting women look like within the world’s largest retailer? It looks like including women in positions of leadership within the company, including on our board of directors. It looks like providing all associates, including women, with the opportunity to gain training and advance their careers. And it looks like empowering women suppliers to effectively work with us while growing their own business.

Over seven years, Walmart spent nearly $30 billion with women-owned businesses (for merchandising and services combined) through our supplier inclusion program. We’re proud of that number, but we know there is more work to be done as we strive to have our suppliers better reflect the communities we serve.

The innovation women bring to retail is absolutely crucial. I want to take a moment to highlight a few business owners whose courage and creativity, along with the support of Walmart, have helped bring innovation to their categories:

• Helen Lampkin founded My Brother’s Salsa in 2003. Having spent a successful career as a homemaker, she developed a recipe for the high-quality salsa made with fresh, flavorful ingredients. Her advice to other entrepreneurs is simply, “Do your homework.” For Helen, that meant becoming a student of the food industry and understanding recipe development, supply chain and how to position her product within the retail landscape. Helen worked with her Walmart buyer to ensure her business could grow at a healthy rate. “Our buyer wanted to see it succeed.” Her daughter, Ashley Pointer, is now CEO of the business.

• Dezarae Henderson had already earned an MBA when she founded Just Popped popcorn. She recognized a gap in the market and was confident customers would love her small-batch, brightly-colored popcorn offered at an affordable price point. She pitched the product at Walmart’s annual Open Call event three years ago, and today Just Popped is carried in 100 stores and on Walmart.com. When asked what she would tell a woman who is thinking about starting a business, she said, “Know that you are not alone. Other women entrepreneurs have paved the way for you.” Now she is working to pave the way for the next generation of women business owners.

• Andréa and Robin McBride entered into the winemaking business with big dreams and a lot of passion, but they soon realized they were entering into one of the oldest, most-male dominated industries in history. Undaunted, they used their relative inexperience to bring fresh eyes and diversity of thought to their business, McBride Sisters Collection wine. “Being a woman in this business forced us to be excellent – to deliver exceptional packaging and wine quality, and to really understand consumers' needs, especially the needs of women and minority wine drinkers,” said Andréa. “This has allowed us to be completely disruptive in a very traditional category.”

Each of these business owners recognized a place in the market where her product could perform, and each was brave enough to step up and claim that space. What might have been intimidating – doing business with the world’s largest retailer – instead served as an opportunity to develop her business with the guidance of a knowledgeable buyer.

By working with Walmart, each of these businesses had an opportunity to grow their business in a sustainable way and make an impact in the communities we serve. It was a win for the supplier because it meant access to the millions of customers who shop our stores and our website each week. It was a win for Walmart because it increased the innovation in our assortment. And of course, it was a win for customers because working together, we were able to deliver exciting and delicious new items that they love.

Thank you to our women business owners who were boldly courageous enough to follow their passions.