THE ENTHUSIASTIC ENTREPRENEUR

DECEMBER 2011

MY BIG WAL-MART MOMENT

Selling products to the multi-billion dollar retail giants certainly has its own set of challenges, but why not try? Why think small when you can “think big”? I was determined to be a Wal-Mart vendor, but all I seemed to hear from veterans in the industry was that I didn’t stand a chance of getting my product into Wal-Mart.  

Imagine the excitement that filled my entire being as I walked down an isle of a Walmart store and saw hundreds of my brightly colored products stacked on their shelves.

As I think back to all the days of what seemed to be momentous challenges accompanied by amazing small successes, I realized that all the hard work had finally materialized right in front of me.  The small successes that lead to this fabulous day needed recognition too.  I thought of all the minute details and the long hours of small accomplishments such as; a call back from a buyer, an email requesting information on my product or even squeezing in the time to attend a networking group  were daily accomplishments.

Often the hard working entrepreneur becomes so caught up with the daily stresses and activities of  “what’s next” we aren’t allowing ourselves to take in the benefits of those efforts.  Those benefits can be in the form of simple praises to one another, or a big smile as you leave the office, even a conversation at dinner recalling your day. In other words, bring back that great energy and enthusiasm you started with when you first began this journey.   Whether those efforts were steps forward or steps backwards they are all part of the steps that take us to our goals.

I had goals, with a clear vision for the outcome of those goals. Selling to the largest multibillion dollar retail store was one of those goals. I may not have known exactly how I was going to do this, but I had faith that I would figure it out.   Once I had those goals in place, I remained focused with a desire to succeed.

About six years ago, I attended one of the largest trade shows specifically for the beach product category. This would have been my second trade show.  At the time, I was selling my Beach Pockets ® Umbrellas and Anchors through my online website, QVC and Acme Markets.  I was ‘on a roll’ and excited to be at this trade show.   The second day of the trade show, I met the gentlemen across the aisle from me that were selling beach towels, boogie boards, and other surf items.  They were interested in my new product and we chatted.

I will never forget the response I received when I said “I can’t wait to get into Walmart”!  As soon as I made that comment, one of the older gentlemen pointed his arthritic finger at me and said with such conviction “You will never get into Wal-Mart—don’t even try.” I looked at him with a puzzled look and he continued, saying, “If you don’t know a buyer or a distributor who is already involved with Wal-Mart, they would never take a ‘mom and pop shop’ like you. And let me tell you, we have tried and I have been in this industry for over twenty-seven years, and I know what I am talking about!”  Well, can you imagine how his reaction made me feel?  I was shocked and disappointed . . . for about two seconds.  Then my own passion kicked in. I looked at this guy and said, “Well, you don’t know me,” and I walked away.

So how does this story end? Within two years after those negative comments, I figured out how to sell to Wal-Mart on my own. I was approved to sell to six districts first, and that year my patented beach umbrella invention did extremely well. The following year I went back to the corporate offices in Bentonville, Arkansas, and met with the buyer. I was then approved to sell to nine hundred and fifty of their beach, river, and lake stores. The rest is history.

This is a perfect example of a negative person creating an obstacle, making you think one way and at the same time crushing a desire or goal, but why listen to people like that? They are not you. They can only talk and give comments based on their own beliefs and experiences. If you take that negative energy and turn it around toward your passion, you will outshine them all.

 “There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in a man.” Sean Connery