You can learn a great deal from reading Supplier Stories about their journeys supplying major retailers. The one thing that is consistent among all inventors and small entrepreneurs is that they never give up.
Selling your product to large retail giants such as Walmart and target is not easy but it can be done because it has numerous times. Are you ready to become a Walmart vendor?
These supplier stories should help you in your journey.
After The Wal-Mart Deal
An entrepreneur lands distribution with Wal-Mart - then learns that breaking into big retail is just the start of her sales work.
By Cynthia Baker
First Published: February 28, 2008: 9:36 AM EST
COLUMBUS (FORTUNE Small Business supplier stories) -- I became an inventor while working two jobs and taking night classes in Columbus. Every Monday, to reward my efforts, I'd treat myself to barbecued Buffalo wings - extra-saucy ones - for dinner.
One night, as I was getting ready to eat my messy wings, I hesitated. I looked at the wings and then at my manicured fingernails. I thought, "There has to be a better way." That's when I came up with the idea of using small plastic tongs to eat wings.
After designing the product in 2005, I hired a local attorney and applied for a patent. I named my company Utensils, found a manufacturer, and built a website. With no advisers, I didn't know how to market the tongs. I was still building my business at night after work.
One day, during my lunch break, I ran to Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) to buy creamer for my office. When I walked by the registers, I noticed four employees wearing suits and Wal-Mart nametags. I passed them and then froze - I remembered that I had my wing tongs in my purse (I carry them everywhere).
I turned back, walked up to them, held up my tongs, and asked who could help me get my product into Wal-Mart. A store manager signed the papers that let me submit my supplier application.
At my first meeting with Wal-Mart executives, they were impressed that I'd already made the product, which they thought filled a market gap. Three months later my wing tongs were on the shelves of seven Wal-Mart stores in the Columbus area.
After the December 2005 roll out, I was thrilled: My tongs were in America's biggest store. I left messages with Wal-Mart's regional office to check on my product's progress but didn't hear back. So I figured I should be hands-off. I ignored the tongs and went to work every day, hoping I'd get word of a reorder. I expected a call, a fax, anything - but got absolutely nothing. A year passed, and my tongs were dead in the water.
At the start of 2007, I got a mass e-mail from Wal-Mart to female entrepreneurs. It set me off. I put my questions and concerns about my tongs into a response. To my surprise, I got a reply from Wal-Mart's main office and eventually obtained a meeting at the company's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters to discuss my wing tongs with the national housewares buyer.
From that point on, I became proactive.
I began regularly visiting stores to talk to managers about product placement and my tongs' progress. Instead of waiting for people to find my product, today I write hundreds of e-mails and letters to potential new retail outlets, such as home stores, and to other possible distributors - if your restaurant sells wings, I've probably contacted you.
I now know that I'm my best salesperson, not Wal-Mart.
Being hands-on has gotten my wing tongs noticed. A few months ago my product was picked up by Kroger (KR, Fortune 500)'s and put in 150 stores. The added exposure should boost annual sales, which were almost $50,000 in 2007.
These days I'm as involved as possible: I recently walked into a Kroger's and saw my tongs, which sell for $3.50, displayed in the meat section. I had them moved and placed near the barbecue sauce, where they're a better impulse buy. As an entrepreneur, you have to do more than bring a product to market: You have to make sure it succeeds.
Vendor and Supplier Stories such as the one you just read should motivate you to keep focusing on the prize and you will achieve what is right for you. Becoming a walmart vendor is not for everyone and you should determine if it is right for your business.
Sell your product to major retailers and become one of the successful supplier stories.