Entrepreneurs Compete ‘Reality-Show Style’ To Get On Store Shelves

By Kyle Arnold
Orlando Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Hundreds of small business owners are vying for spots on the shelves of major retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. To get there, some are going through “Shark-Tank” like pitch competitions, to get their foot in the door.

Orlando Sentinel

Looking to shake up the product pipeline, retailers are putting hundreds of small entrepreneurs and manufacturers through a process that increasingly resembles reality TV shows.

Janel Young, whose company makes all-natural dog treats and shampoos in Longwood, joined hundreds of other entrepreneurs in late June at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. They pitched products to buyers at the world’s largest retail company with hopes of getting their goods onto shelves.

Some of the biggest retailers, such as Winn-Dixie and Wal-Mart, are holding open calls to look for the next breakthrough product, with on-the-spot offers at stake.

Other retailers embrace technology to get new products. Target has partnered with a company called RangeMe, through which small companies can pitch products over the internet.

“My sense is that the retail industry is trying to figure out what the future is and bring in some innovation,” said Cari Coats, executive director for the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at Rollins College’s Crummer Graduate School of Business. “It’s really something that has come in the last year, maybe two, and you are seeing it everywhere now.”

Young doesn’t know yet whether Nava Pets treats and shampoos will be on Wal-Mart shelves.

She is hoping the pet treats will be a hit because they fit two growing retail segments: pets and organics. Her products already sell online on Walmart.com, through a third-party supplier, and on Amazon. They’re also in Lucky’s Market and a few Kroger stores in Georgia.

But a deal with Wal-Mart would put her products in front of millions of customers, she said.

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