The Big Kahuna November 07 2013
It was April of 2010. I had my utility patent, I had suppliers and quotes, and I had a working prototype. I decided the next step was to approach the big box retailers to get my foot in the door. Everybody wants to sell with the big boys, right? I needed to establish market interest before jumping into manufacturing. The logical first stop shop was the big kahuna – Walmart.
My thinking was that if I had interest from Walmart, they would place a big enough first order to justify the cost of manufacturing. I poured over Walmart's "Become a Supplier" section on their website, and I settled on going the route of becoming a "Local Supplier". This allows you to meet directly with a local store manager, show and discuss your product, and roll out at the local level first before launching nationally.
Working with the big kahuna (even on a local level) comes with big requirements including a UCC GS1 membership for UPC labels and a $2 million insurance package. The GS1 membership cost for me was $760 initially + a $160 annual renewal fee. The insurance cost was about $670 annually.
I found out through scouring their site that Walmart is trying to work more with minority suppliers, and women owned businesses fall under that minority umbrella. However, they require you to have proof that you are a woman owned business, and they prefer certification through the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). This isn't as easy as filling out some forms online and being approved. It was a three month process that included me sending them not only notarized business documents but also things like my birth certificate and three years of tax returns. It also included a personal interview in my home office with a representative from their company. My certification was approved, with a price tag of $350 annually.
So in three short months, I had spent about $1800 just to be prepared to call a local store manager and request a meeting. Everyone always says that you have to spend money to make money, right? Unfortunately, so true.