Michelle Johnson walked into the Walmart and couldn’t believe her eyes.
The Fairfield entrepreneur had recently made official her wholesale operation, MJ Supply Warehouse, specifically to see if the retail giant would grant her the opportunity of a lifetime — an open call to be featured in anywhere from one store to 4,600 stores.
That dream became a reality late last month when Walmart stunned her at its West Chester Twp. location with a surprise in-house announcement that she’d have her chance to do so on June 28 at the company’s global headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
“Obviously, gaining distribution in a large number stores would be life-changing,” Johnson said. “My company would certainly be able to grow and create jobs in order to support that level of expansion.”
“That is exactly Walmart’s goal, to support U.S.-made products that support U.S. families and communities,” she said.
Johnson said she operates MJ Supply Warehouse under two DBAs: “Buxom Betty” and “Tabled.”
She said she learned of the Open Call 2017 opportunity on May 12 through her social feed as she followed and submitted her products before the May 18 deadline.
Researching the program, she quickly learned of $250 billion commitment Walmart has made to strengthen their U.S. supply chain, she said.
After realizing Walmart was allowing new vendors the opportunity to submit products, Johnson used its online tool/dedicated portal to submit the two entries.
“I was very excited to learn about the opportunity for several reasons,” she said. “I immediately notified several friends and family members that have had viable products/inventions over the years of the opportunity, too. I wanted everyone I knew to take advantage of this because I understand the difficulty in being granted any meeting time with a Walmart buyer.”
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Entrepreneurs from across the country apply for the opportunity to pitch their product to Walmart at Open Call, according to a company spokesman.
This year approximately 550 companies were invited to pitch more than 750 products in Bentonville on June 28. Every shelf-stable product being pitched at Open Call will be offered to be listed on Walmart.com.
Johnson was one of eight entrepreneurs that the company chose to surprise May 30 with word that they would be given the opportunity to pitch their product in late June.
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She believes it is great that Walmart will list her products online, especially right now when the retailer is putting resources towards growing its e-commerce business.
“They are making waves in the industry, so it’s a great time to get on the boat,” she said. “Once the product becomes available, social media will be a key tool in driving people to Walmart.com to get these exclusive products.”
She called the decision to apply for the opportunity “a pivotal moment of choice” in her life where she could either make things happen or regret it for years to come.
“It’s not an accident that I learned about the Open Call in perfect timing to participate and was able to act quickly on behalf of the company’s future,” Johnson said.