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

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Innovation

Checking Your Grocery List, and Getting it Right

People want to save money and time, so it's no wonder online grocery shopping sounds so appealing. Open your browser, click the grocery items you need, and let someone else do the shopping for you – right down to loading them in your trunk, right?

That’s exactly why Walmart will be expanding its online grocery service to nine more new markets this month, such as Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Raleigh, North Carolina. But our customers want more than just the ability to click and shop from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces. They want to know the perfect tomato – or better yet, banana or avocado (because those can be especially tricky) – finds its way into their grocery bag every time.

Before we began expanding the service to more markets, we worked tirelessly for quite some time to pilot and modify our online grocery service – and that’s because we’re committed to getting it right every time. The key to how we build a trusting bond with customers rests with our managers and, most importantly, our personal shoppers. We select only the best of the best for this critical role, and each associate undergoes rigorous training.

Selecting great produce and meat is essential. Personal shoppers not only learn the art of selecting these items by look, but also by touch and smell. For example, when a customer selects strawberries, our personal shoppers peek through each side of the carton. Similarly, finding the perfect pineapple or cantaloupe requires extra time – and we make the time. When our personal shoppers are gathering frozen and refrigerated items, they work quickly to select those items and return them to a designated, temperature-controlled holding area to ensure quality is not compromised.

But all the training in the world can’t account for everything. That’s where personal relationships matter.

Our promise to customers is that we’re not just here to gather their groceries. We learn their names.  Over time, we’ll get to know whether they prefer softer or firmer avocados, because we understand that texture makes a difference if you’re adding a slice to a salad or mashing it for guacamole. And as we get to know our customers more, we can begin to know which customers are fans of yellow bananas, and which opt for slightly green for a longer shelf life.

We’re in the business of saving our customers money so they can live better. In our eyes, taking grocery shopping off a customer’s growing to-do list, while ensuring quality and convenience every time – that’s definitely living better.

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Opportunity

From Iraq to Egypt to the American Dream

It was an early morning in 2005, and Jalal Almomar was driving to his job with the United Nations in Baghdad. A bullet came screaming through his windshield. He was unharmed, but definitely shaken.

“I knew my family and I had to flee because extremists were everywhere,” Jalal explained. “Our lives were in danger, so we left quickly. So quickly, in fact, that many belongings – including my own wedding photos – were left behind.”

The Almomars fled to Egypt and, by 2009, made the decision to put down roots in the United States. But the American dream didn't immediately show itself. Even though he had two college degrees, Jalal quickly realized he was starting over. 

“We showed up in Michigan, without a car and without really knowing how we were going to make a living,” Jalal said. “But what I did have was ambition. I knew my degrees weren’t going to translate, but I needed to move forward. I just needed someone to open the door to give me that chance.”

Jalal spent the next six months walking as far as his legs would carry him, often times through the snow, to hand his resume to company after company. He kept his fingers crossed, and eventually, Walmart called.

“That call meant everything,” said Jalal, who gained U.S. citizenship in October 2014. “A Walmart store gave me a job working in its garden center. I was so thankful because that job allowed me to start providing for my family again. I was ready to start working my way up and, through its Lifelong Learning education programs, I realized I was going to have every opportunity to do so.”

Jalal used his ambition to not only earn promotions working in his store, but tapped into Walmart’s partnership with American Public University and earned his MBA in Global Business Management. As part of his MBA, Jalal interned with Walmart’s innovation department, and recently graduated from our Replenishment Leadership Program. He has transitioned to the corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where he now works as a replenishment manager. And, with support through the Walmart Dependent Scholarship Program, his children are pursuing their own college degrees.

“All I needed was a chance, and Walmart gave that to me and so much more,” Jalal said. “It helped me realize the American dream is alive and well.”

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Innovation

Open, Scan, Done: The Case for Walmart Pay

Thumbing through multiple gift cards at the register. Scrambling to find the one receipt you need to return an item. Trying to remember whether you need a refill for your prescription or not. We’ve all been there.

But why? We live in a digital world. We receive alerts about news breaking around the world in real time, rather than waiting for the Sunday morning newspaper. We can control temperature in our homes, lock doors and set alarms from our smartphones. So it’s time for the retail industry to step up – to allow customers to shop in new ways.

With the development of Walmart Pay – a new feature built into the Walmart mobile app that allows customers to use a smartphone to pay for in-store purchases – we weren’t focusing on payment for payment’s sake. We set out to marry our physical and digital assets to create a more seamless shopping experience for customers. We designed Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type, even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. And beginning this summer, it will work at every one of our stores across the U.S.

So, if you take a moment to activate the new Walmart Pay feature on your Walmart App, your next checkout really will be as simple as one, two, three.

If you discover the shirt you bought a few weeks ago doesn't fit, there’s no more keeping up with a paper receipt. It’s now stored electronically and at your fingertips because you’ve used Walmart Pay. Have a handful of Walmart gift cards you’ve been meaning to redeem, but hate the thought of handing them over one by one? Load your gift cards into Walmart Pay, and your balance will be ready with a single scan the next time you check out.

The best part is that none of your payment card information is stored on your phone or at the point of sale. Everything with Walmart Pay is stored in a secure, cloud-based environment. No payment credential is ever transmitted at the physical register, so you can rest easy knowing those details are safe and protected.

More than 20 million customers actively use the Walmart app each month, checking in to pick up an online order at a Walmart store, refilling pharmacy prescriptions, finding an item’s location within a store, and tapping into our popular Savings Catcher feature. When we set out to develop Walmart Pay, we’d asked ourselves how we could make shopping even faster, easier, more convenient and secure for our customers.

We’ll continue to find new ways of merging our physical and digital assets to produce a better, more convenient shopping experience. That’s what our customers demand and it’s what they deserve.

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Community

Bakers Rise Above Small Business Setback

Bake and decorate 1,000 cupcakes in two hours. That was the final challenge Southern Girl Desserts co-owners Catarah Coleman and Shoneji Robison faced when they competed on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”

As the last bakers standing, the duo took home the top prize and the title “Cupcake Wars Champions.” But the TV competition was a piece of cake compared to some of the challenges these entrepreneurs have faced since founding their Southern-inspired bakery in Los Angeles in 2007. Like many small business owners, they had the drive, ingenuity and grit to be successful, but they struggled to access the capital they needed.

Both Catarah and Shoneji had too much pride to ask their families for money to start their business, so they launched using personal savings. Eventually their families helped out, as Southern Girl Desserts was growing and doing well. They got an opportunity to develop a location in a high-traffic mall, but because the move would require building out the space and hiring new employees, they needed more funding.

While Southern Girl Desserts and its owners had banking relationships, banks would not loan them the working capital they needed. They found a broker who arranged $45,000 in financing from a lender they had never heard of, and they had the money within a week. For a while everything flowed, but when business slowed due to seasonal changes, and they realized the interest rate was exorbitant, they couldn’t keep up payments.

“We didn’t realize interest rates were over 50%,” Catarah said. “And that put us in a really hard place.”

Despite their payment issues, they continued to receive offers for more loans and accepted them, hoping an infusion of capital would ease their tight finances. However, as they sank deeper into debt, they quickly realized that the loan payments were eating their profits, and, despite increasing revenue at their new location, Southern Girl Desserts didn’t even have the money to pay their 14 employees.  

That’s when they found Opportunity Fund, a Sam’s Club Giving Program grantee. Opportunity Fund offers reasonable interest rates and works with businesses to match the right loan product to the business need.

Opportunity Fund helped Southern Girl Desserts refinance its debt, which gave them cash flow and a better way to managing their business overall. They now credit Opportunity Fund and Sam’s Club with saving their business.

In celebration of National Small Business Week, Sam’s Club is making another big investment in small business success.  As part of the Small Business Economic Mobility Initiative announced last year, the Sam’s Club Giving Program is awarding $8.8 million in new grants to nonprofits committed to helping small business owners — especially women, minorities and veterans.

By bringing together expertise, initiatives such as the recently announced Business Lending Center and philanthropic investments, Sam’s Club and Sam’s Club Giving are helping small businesses like Southern Girl Desserts achieve their dreams. 

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