The Enthusiastic Entrepreneur


About Barbara Bigford…

Barbara Bigford’s success story is an entrepreneur’s dream. Her manufacturing company grew 400% in just two years with annual sales projected to reach ten million dollars after a recent licensing agreement. Exposure for her product has ranged from presentations on QVC, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Walgreens, A&P, Super-Valu and hundreds of retailers across the country. Her company was highlighted in an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read previous excerpts from Barbara Bigford, the Enthusiastic Entrepreneur.


The Eleventh Commandment

Barbara Bigford finally broke through the doors of Walmart. What she found inside was not the ugly beast ready to gobble her up as she would have expected by accounts heralded from the media and the collective naysayer, but, instead she found a partner ready and willing to help her succeed. Barbara experienced a side to Walmart few ever talk about and even fewer write about.

This chapter; “The Eleventh Commandment” is about the essence of the human spirit. We have all experienced those moments when you visualize a meeting with that one important person. We rehearse what will be said, how it will be said, then schedule the anticipated meeting. We even rehearse what is known as “The 30 Second Elevator Speech” for those unplanned moments when we come face to face with that one important person.

In my experience, I have found that rehearsing is a good thing.  However, there is no way you will know what will actually happen until you are in the moment. I have learned over the years, that no matter who I was meeting, I found each individual to have their unique style of receiving a meeting or presentation.  In other words, I would tune into the moment and adjust my presentation according to my customers’ situation. For the most part, customers and potential customers don’t want you to spend too much time taking up their busy day.

I learned real fast, that short, informative words with a touch of enthusiasm, getting to the point worked like a charm. Sometimes a customer that I was meeting made it clear to me they only had a few minutes and at that point I would confirm that I fully understood and proceeded with my presentation… and at times, I actually timed it saying “ on your mark, get set, here I go..”.  It worked.

Listening to your clients and respecting their requests will give you more rewards than any entertaining rehearsed spiel.  After my first year selling to a few districts with impressive sales performance, Walmart buyers in Bentonville, Arkansas authorized my company to sell to 940 of their beach, river and lake stores around the country. I was ecstatic, I am sure my heart skipped a beat. The very next week, I set out planning my travel schedules to see how I could visit as many of the 940 stores as possible within a five month selling period.

I flew from one airport to another lugging my umbrella and anchor samples over my shoulders. There were times I had my beach chairs samples too. I rented one car after another, booking hotel rooms and  traveling to cities I’ve never been. I remember navigating six to eight lane highways and thanking the Lord that the GPS was invented.  During this time, I experienced the most beautiful sights as I drove up and down the coastal shores and inland areas visiting 120 of the 940 Walmart stores.

Traveling on my own, giving presentation after presentation introducing the new innovative beach umbrella that doesn’t blow away- Beach Pockets ® Umbrellas was often exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. The best part of it all is that I received a purchase order at every one of those stores that saw my products. This was a huge accomplishment and made all the hard exhausting traveling worth it.

After several months of traveling, lifting and carrying samples in and out of car trunks, walking across massive parking lots, heading back to the airports and racing down the endless terminals to catch a plane and doing it all again the following week, I started to develop moderate size grooves in the bones of my right and left shoulders from the weight of carrying all my samples. I would often think of the saying “you get out what you put in”. I knew that this process wouldn’t be easy, but I had an abundance of energy that was sparked by my passion and a vision to see my company and invention succeed.

I was also receiving purchase orders from other large retail stores such as SuperValu, A&P, Walgreens, Ace Hardware, and many other retailers including QVC.  Although these stores contributed to the growth of my business, I knew that it was Walmart that brought my sales to another level.

I read about the success that Sam Walton experienced over a life time. He had his own “Ten Commandments of Business”, which I saw quite insightful and admired. I added to those Ten Commandments with what I experienced while working with Walmart employees as I sold my product from coast to coast. “There is neither a person too small, nor an idea too insignificant to successfully navigate the halls of Walmart.” The most impressive moments during my recent years selling to Walmart were the department managers and the store managers. I would be asked to talk more in detail about my product during my presentations and how I came up with the idea. My enthusiasm must have captured the entrepreneur spirit in all of us, because I would often have several more managers be called into the meeting to hear my story and view my new product.  I was impressed by their genuine desire to see me succeed.

Their appreciation to have the “inventor” come in to their store for the meeting was evident. With all my nervousness starting out, each member of the Walmart team always made me feel comfortable and genuinely welcomed, even when time was an issue.

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” Sam Walton