Walmart’s Newest ‘Shark Tank’ Attracts Big Crowd
By Thad Rueter, Progressive Grocer
Walmart's shark tank will be swimming with 850 entrepreneurs and small businesses on Oct. 1 when the retailer hosts its first ever virtual Open Call event.
The event is not new but has been pushed backed in this year of the pandemic, and has gone virtual, as have many other conferences and events, including a recent marketplace-focused conference from Amazon.
This year, more than 4,800 businesses representing 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia and Mozambique applied for the chance to pitch a Walmart merchant, a 44% increase in submissions from last year. The businesses selected to participate in Open Call will now start preparing for their 30-minute virtual one-on-one pitch meetings and their chance to realize the American Dream, Walmart said.
"As a female entrepreneur, who has been blending yummy spices for customers on the internet for years, I am excited to be selected to participate in Walmart's Open Call," said Sylvia Kapsandoy, CEO of Amboseli Foods, a specialty food seasoning manufacturer based in Utah. "This is such an incredible opportunity to potentially introduce more people to USimplySeason seasonings. It’s the opportunity I've been dreaming of."
Participants in this year’s first-ever virtual Open Call event could secure deals ranging from a handful of local stores to supplying hundreds of stores and Sam’s Clubs as well as Walmart.com and Walmart Marketplace. In addition to the pitch meetings, the one-day program includes a series of breakout sessions designed to inform, empower and encourage business owners of all sizes. Many of the sessions will be open to the general public as the virtual nature of this year’s event makes the program accessible to more businesses and convenient for them to participate regardless of location.
Walmart surprised several dozen unsuspecting applicants with their Open Call invitations in an extra-special way: Applicants were invited to join a Zoom meeting for their state on Friday morning, August 28, where they were told they would receive “updates and important information” about their Open Call application.
The unsuspecting business owners joined the Zoom meeting expecting to hear about next steps in the application process and were surprised with the news that they had already secured their spot at this year’s Open Call event instead. The reactions ranged from stunned to enthusiastic, as the big break these companies have been looking for was suddenly within reach.
Some of the businesses invited to this year’s Open Call include:
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