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Integrated Teams at Walmart Drive Success with Goldbug, a woman-owned apparel company

January 2013 proved to be a watershed moment for Goldbug, a distributor of infant and children’s accessories located in Aurora, Colorado. Katherine Gold recently gained full ownership of the company, started in 1968 by her father, Bill. Under his stewardship, the company had grown into a large U.S. distributor of infant and children’s accessories. After his passing in 2012, Gold keenly felt the responsibility of ensuring the financial health of Goldbug continued. She found Walmart’s counsel and support invaluable. “I became confident that Goldbug would prosper because the integrated teams at Walmart supported my growth by providing me with learning opportunities and access to customers. I believe that partnering with small diverse companies like mine is truly embedded in Walmart’s culture.”

Diversity is woven into the fabric of the Apparel team
Patricia Snyder, vice president of girls, boys and baby apparel agrees. “Supplier diversity has become part of the fabric of what we do at Walmart.” Snyder has been strongly committed to diversity throughout her career, serving on the board of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) for the past three years. According to Michael Byron, senior director of supplier diversity at Walmart, “Patricia is deeply committed to diversity and women-owned businesses. Her business acumen and willingness to share her expertise has helped us develop many diverse supplier relationships.”

Snyder’s team is comprised of planners, product developers and buyers who are assigned to companies like Goldbug. Her team does a lot of groundwork to prepare and educate potential diverse suppliers and strongly encourages them to register on the supplier diversity portal. “We want to demystify the process and guide suppliers on how to introduce their products. To do this, we partner closely and often with our Supplier Diversity and Women’s Economic Empowerment teams to make sure that together, we set the stage for success among diverse suppliers Snyder said.

Gold has seen firsthand the influence of Snyder’s team. “Patricia and her team’s involvement have truly made a difference in Goldbug’s success.” Gold said.

Long-term investments are making a difference
Paul Burke, the senior director of baby, apparel merchandising at Walmart, works closely with Gold. From his perspective, “We try to take a long-term view of investing in companies like Goldbug. Learning more about Katherine, her team and how her business is structured has helped us provide the support she needs throughout the year. Companies who want to work with Walmart often don’t realize it can take up to nine months to go from idea to getting a product on the shelf. There can be 80 or more steps in the production process for a single apparel item. That’s why we educate suppliers on financing, pricing and cash flow.” Burke finds that diverse suppliers have different strengths, weaknesses and potential, but setting objectives and metrics for success is a critical step for every company.

“Collaborative suppliers who are willing to accept advice based on customer and market demands are likely to thrive while working with Walmart. Katherine is a great example of a partner who asks specific questions about how to improve and is humble enough to act on our feedback.” According to Burke, all of the effort and collaborative hard work pays off. “The approach we take in Apparel to supporting diverse suppliers is not unique within Walmart. We truly believe that an equal playing field is better for everyone.”

To show Walmart’s commitment to Goldbug, Snyder and Burke, recently visited Goldbug’s headquarters in Colorado and ate lunch with the warehouse team. According to Byron, visiting suppliers is important. “Directly connecting with employees reinforces Walmart’s brand because we think of companies like Goldbug as more than just a supplier – they are our customers, too.”

Accelerating growth at Goldbug
Walmart recommended several key actions that would accelerate Goldbug’s business: creating a joint business plan, gaining national certification, and attending a business school program for diverse suppliers.

Planning for the future – together
Guiding Goldbug’s short and long-term plan happens through frequent collaborative planning with Walmart. The topic of diversity was the catalyst for the first joint planning session. Participants included Snyder, Burke, Byron, and Apparel team buyers and planners. Insights about customers helped guide the conversation and provide Gold with a framework for fine-tuning her products and marketing.

The Apparel team is in constant contact with Gold and they meet in person regularly to discuss current projects and future plans. Gold says diversity is discussed during every meeting, especially when Snyder is involved. “Because I am a woman-owned business, female customers feel a connection with our products and our story. We tailor our packaging and even the words we use to describe our products to her,” Gold said.

The Supplier Diversity and Women’s Economic Empowerment teams reach out to Gold throughout the year to keep her apprised of initiatives and events that can connect her with customers and other diverse suppliers. Gold finds that “The Supplier Diversity and Women’s Economic teams are accessible, open and innovative, and their partnership with the Apparel team makes sure I focus my attention on things that will resonate the most with our customers.”

Female customers relate to women-owned businesses.
Michael Byron, who leads the supplier diversity team at Walmart, encouraged Gold to gain certification through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Once Goldbug was certified as a woman-owned business, Walmart promoted Goldbug using the WBENC designation. “Michael urged me to seek certification to increase our credibility among women who buy our products. We know women customers relate better to women-owned businesses. I’ll admit the certification process was rigorous but that’s why it’s such a valuable distinction for us.”

Sponsoring learning opportunities
Each year, Walmart sponsors a small group of diverse suppliers who attend a weeklong accelerated business program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Walmart nominated Gold, but she was hesitant to commit to a week away from the office. “Frankly, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the program. But once Walmart reiterated how important broadening my perspective and business acumen would be, I made the commitment. Walmart’s investment in my development turned out to be a life-changing opportunity. I met business owners who had similar challenges and opportunities.” Dartmouth professors reviewed Goldbug’s financials and provided an analysis of her value chain, invaluable tools that Gold often shares during meetings and presentations.

Teamwork + commitment creates a successful partnership
According to Gold, Walmart’s partnership has enabled Goldbug to become the successful company it is today. “With Walmart’s help and support, we are able to scale our business and keep growing. With the insights of Walmart’s Apparel, Supplier Diversity and Women’s Economic Empowerment teams, I will continue to learn from and support other diverse companies, just like Walmart supports Goldbug.”

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