Opportunity

Growing Opportunities for Africa – and Its People

When Vivian Kleynhans was a child, apartheid law forced her and her siblings out of their small South African hometown. Twenty years later, the country’s changed political landscape opened doors for their dream of starting a business – and now, they produce wines that are welcomed by customers in not only South Africa, but on two additional continents.

Vivian’s business along with her sisters, Seven Sisters Wines, supplies products to more than 500 U.S. Walmart stores. Their wines are also exclusively imported by Heritage Link Brands, an African-American woman-owned company. By investing in Seven Sisters, we’re not only furthering the success of a woman-owned business – we are also supporting growth in Africa, a continent that has a rapidly expanding presence in our global economy.

Walmart made a significant investment in Africa in 2011 with our acquisition of Massmart, and our CEO Doug McMillon reiterated our commitment to the continent yesterday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum. He noted that our dedication to Africa reflects our mission of helping customers afford the things they need for their families. Our commitment to our customers means we are also invested in their communities and the issues most important to them, and so today I joined the second day of the Forum to share a specific way we’re investing in the African people – women in particular.

At the Investing in Our Future event, African First Spouses from more than 30 countries, plus First Lady Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, nonprofit leaders and others gathered to discuss the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships. Through Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, we’ve devoted resources to these very things to benefit women all over the world, and today, I had the privilege of announcing an aspect that will benefit 135,000 farmers in Africa – 85,000 of whom are women.


Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are pledging $3 million to train farmers in Rwanda, Zambia and Kenya. The funds will support the expansion of three projects organized by USAID and three NGOs -- Global Communities, Agribusiness Systems International and One Acre Fund. Through these projects, these farmers will receive high-quality farm inputs, such as seed and fertilizer, and credit and post-harvest support. This will mean they can participate more fully and fairly in the rural agriculture industry. They will also receive appropriate prices for their surplus produce, thereby gaining access to stable economic opportunity and becoming more active decision makers in their households.

As these farmers are able to produce higher crop yields, they will also be able to contribute to another important issue: eliminating hunger on the continent.

I was honored to be a part of today’s events and can’t wait to witness what’s next for Africa – and especially for its people.

Learn more about the Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative sourcing and training programs that we’re funding: Helping Women Live Better

Learn more about CEO Doug McMillon’s role in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum: Doug McMillon Speaks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum

5 Comments

Community

Meet Reagan, the Face of a Modern-Day Miracle

Seth and Kata DeLoach had no way of knowing that a trip to the pediatrician for their daughter would turn their world upside down.

After noting some concerns about the development of then 2-month-old Reagan’s head, the pediatrician directed Seth and Kata to a neurosurgeon at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis – a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. It was there that a neurosurgeon was able to diagnose Reagan with craniosynostosis, a condition where joints in the brain begin to close prematurely before fully formed.

When the DeLoach family received the news, Seth was working at a Walmart store in Indiana. He recalls with gratitude the blessings of prayer and support from his manager and fellow associates during the two-month wait until Reagan was old enough to undergo surgery.

The day of the procedure, Seth and Kata waited for two hours at Riley Hospital while a nurse updated them every 30 minutes on their daughter’s progress — a seemingly small act that will be remembered by the couple for years to come. Three days after Reagan’s surgery, the family was finally able to return home.

Today, Reagan is a happy, healthy 2-year-old. Since the DeLoach family’s incredible medical journey, they have been wholeheartedly giving back. Seth, now a co-manager at a Walmart supercenter in Owensboro, Kentucky, shared his daughter’s story with his employees, and the team rallied around Reagan.

“In the past, I would always give money when asked,” Seth said. “But after Reagan’s experience, it really hit home. I had been personally affected and was so grateful for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Riley Hospital for Children.”

Seth’s efforts have been instrumental in the Owensboro store’s fundraising campaigns for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. This year, they were able to surpass their fundraising goal and raise more than $8,000 for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

Reagan may be young, but her story – and those of many children like her – continues to inspire many to believe in the power of a miracle.

Since 1987, Walmart and Sam’s Club customers and associates have raised more than $870 million for 170 children’s hospitals in communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. To help children in your community, you can make a donation at the register at any Walmart store or Sam’s Club now until Oct. 9.

Be the first to comment on this article

Opportunity

One Walmart Associate’s Path to the Pentagon

Since 1997, Luke McCollum has lived somewhat of a double life, holding careers at both Walmart and the Navy Reserve.

While a retail role and a government job may seem like an unlikely pairing, he says the blending of both worlds is what has prepared him well for an exciting next step: Navy Vice Admiral, where he’ll serve as the Commander of America’s Navy Reserve Force. This is no small promotion – President Barack Obama had to appoint him to the role.

While this means Luke will be leaving Walmart’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to work solely at the Pentagon, he says Walmart is a big reason why he’s able to take this new step. Why?

“Working here has made me a better Navy Reserve officer, and vice versa,” he said.

As vice president of Walmart’s logistics services, one of Luke’s duties is to oversee new distribution centers coming to life across the U.S. – from picking the location, to seeing it all in action with excited associates. He most recently experienced this with a new fulfillment center in Chino, California, and a new distribution center in Mankato, Minnesota. To Luke, it was exhilarating to see everything unfold, knowing that this would help serve customers better and provide new opportunities for our associates.

While his work and processes at Walmart are different than those at the Navy, he’s found common ground at both organizations in dealing with the large, complex and unpredictable. “In the Navy, we can never get comfortable because it’s always changing,” he said. “It forces us to think differently and strategically. We have to do a lot of that at Walmart, too.”

What Luke enjoys about both of his teams is their desire to learn new things. “I would be sitting in senior meetings in the Navy, and they would ask me how Walmart would solve a problem. The same happened in my Walmart meetings,” he said. “They have the appetite to change and grow. Both have had to evolve over the years. At Walmart, we try to understand how our customers have changed and how we can operate better to serve them. The Navy is no different. They serve a customer, too – the American people and the men and women on active duty.”

Having a really strong support system at home and at work is what has helped Luke hold down two careers. He gives a lot of credit to his family. When most people are heading home for the weekend, Luke has to get on a plane to the Middle East or the Pacific for another full work week. With a 24-hour flight back home and jumping right back into Monday, he doesn’t have much downtime. “You have to know what’s important because you can’t do everything,” he said.

Why do two jobs? For Luke, it’s all about the people. He thrives on seeing people do things they didn’t know they could do. “One of the definitions of leadership is to define reality, provide encouragement on the way and say thank you in between,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do that in both organizations.”

Luke is honored, humbled yet excited to take on this new job.

“I’ll miss my Walmart team, but my experiences here have prepared me well to take this next step,” he said.

Be the first to comment on this article

Business

#PattiPie, New Cobblers and the Evolution of Our Bakeries

When Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie hit Walmart stores last fall, the demand for #PattiPie became so high we could barely keep enough of them on the shelves.

As a merchant for our fresh bakery, this was exciting news. It proved that the work by Kinna Thomas, our senior buyer of cakes and pies, and our entire team to provide premium goods baked with high-quality ingredients was not going unnoticed.

It also proved that taking the extra time and effort to think outside of the box whenever we’re developing bakery goods makes a real difference to our customers. Taking it to the next level for this holiday season, Kinna was reviewing Ms. LaBelle’s cookbooks and stumbled across one of her famous cobbler recipes. We knew how important it was to hit the mark perfectly.

After testing and trying out the product, I’m excited to announce that together, we’ve cooked up three premium cobblers in peach, apple and mixed berry flavors for #PattiPie fans to enjoy, starting Sept. 2. Not only are they packed full with quality fruit, they’re baked with two crusts – one on top and one on bottom – to ensure that sugary crisp bite.

Knowing that most cobblers on the market today are frozen, we worked to find the right supplier to create a unique fresh version. Turns out we had the right company with us all along: Twin Star Bakery out of Houston, who currently makes a number of decadent items for Walmart, including oversized sandwich cookies and specialty dessert cakes. As a matter of fact, the cobbler expansion will bring over a hundred new jobs to their factory.

In addition to the cobblers, we’re also bringing Ms. LaBelle’s apple pecan cake and sweet potato pound cake to select stores. The sweet potato pound cake was a joint venture to with a small Philadelphia business, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. We will offer this delicious Southern-style treat in select stores in the Northeast.

The success of Patti’s sweet potato pie – and the resulting expansion of her personal recipe-based product line – is just one example of how we are working to transform our fresh bakery offerings through innovation. We are so proud to offer amazing new items across our entire bakery. Just last year, we added about 60 new items and we continue to innovate. Today, more than half of our items are prepared in our stores, and we’ve enriched our teams across the country with bakery technicians who’ve been training and helping our store associates to ensure everything comes out exactly right. On top of that, we’re simplifying our processes so that we can bake many different items at one temperature, allowing us to produce more fresh-baked goods for our customers every day.

It’s a sweet time to work in Walmart’s fresh bakery, and we’re excited to see our customers’ reactions as we work to deliver every ingredient just right.

Be the first to comment on this article

Community

When Disaster Strikes, Associates Provide Real-Time Relief

When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.

Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.

While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.

Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.

With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.

Be the first to comment on this article