Think of it as American Idol or The Voice, but for small business owners and inventors: Walmart (NYSE:WMT) is once again giving entrepreneurs a chance to meet with one of its company buyers at its annual Open Call, scheduled for June 13 at its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters.

The event is an effort by the chain to get more American-made products on its shelves. Deals made at previous Open Calls have resulted in products getting exposure at a range of levels, from a handful of local stores to thousands of Walmart locations.

"Walmart's investment in U.S.-manufactured products goes beyond the shelf. The investment is also in the entrepreneurs' dream, and that can be an emotional experience for everyone involved," said Vice President of Merchandising Services Cindi Marsiglio in a press release. "By investing in products that support American jobs, we're able to bring new products to our shelves and new jobs to our communities."

A crowded WalMart

WalMart wants to add more American-made products. Image source: WalMart.

How does it work?

To participate, small business owners and entrepreneurs must apply by May 4 at Those who are accepted will spend the day at Walmart's headquarters, meeting with and pitching to a buyer, as well as taking part in networking events with their fellow entrepreneurs.

Walmart does have a few requirements for its would-be suppliers. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Federal Tax ID number
  • Minimum of $2m in Liability Insurance
  • Dun & Bradstreet number
  • Ability to submit products for third-party testing
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
  • GS1 Membership number
  • Product must meet criteria for U.S. country of origin to be included in the "open call process"

The retailer has set a goal of purchasing an additional $250 billion in products made, sourced, or grown in the U.S. by 2023. That would create around 1 million American jobs, according to a study from Boston Consulting Group.

Why is this important?

The Open Call gives companies that otherwise might never come to Walmart's attention a shot at a direct pipeline into its stores. That can change the course of a business and touch many lives. That's what happened with Dera Industries when its Dera-Tie reusable zip ties were picked to be added to the chain's shelves at a previous Open Call.

"The deal we secured has led to a large increase in production, which resulted in new jobs for the community," said Dera Industries Managing Member Jason DeYoung. " The product is now licensed, manufactured and distributed under the name One-Tie by Tailor Made Products, located in Elroy, Wisconsin."

This is smart business

This promotion works for Walmart on multiple levels. First, it generates good publicity in local media, and goodwill in every market where a company makes the cut. That positive media will also highlight the chain's efforts to sell more American-made products.

Second, Walmart will likely find some unique merchandise it can add to its shelves both locally and nationally. That could drive traffic to its stores as consumers won't have any other convenient way to buy these products.

Walmart is, in essence, hosting a reality show with a highly tangible prize. Getting on the massive retailer's shelves can turn a business from a small or struggling concern into a significant, successful one. That's valuable for the retailer, the companies it chooses, and the communities where those businesses are located.

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