The Russell Innovation Center of Entrepreneurs (RICE) received an $800K grant from Walmart through Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity as part of Walmart’s and the Walmart Foundation’s commitment to contribute $100 million over five years to help address racial disparities in the U.S. The grant aims to support the recent launch of RICE’s new and innovative PayPal Retail Academy that educates entrepreneurs on every aspect of successfully starting and scaling a retail business.
In celebration of the grant announcement, Walmart hosted a full-day activation on the RICE campus. Kicking off with morning activities outside, RICE and Walmart welcomed RICE Stakeholders, Walmart executives, and members of the press to not only celebrate the generous $800K check presentation, but to also experience the “Walmart: Made Local” trailer filled with prizes, a fun photo activation, information on Walmart’s Open Call program.
Afterwards guests headed inside for afternoon activities including a delicious brunch catered by RICE stakeholder Mother’s Finest Catering and delightful beignets prepared by Orleans Foods. The afternoon also included a special town hall discussion with a curated panel featuring Jay Bailey (President/CEO RICE), Monique Carswell (Dir. Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity), Mark Espinoza (Sr. Director Walmart Public Affairs), Torarie Durden (Sr. Director Walmart Business) and Heidi and Micah Stampley (Walmart Open Call winners and owners of Orleans Foods Ltd.). The conversation was moderated by Walmart health partners Kurt and DeAnna Mangum of CoupleyFit and focused on the work at RICE, their impact on their stakeholders, and the benefits of Walmart’s Open Call program.
One of the greatest highlights of the discussion was Heidi Stampley of Orleans Foods Ltd, who spoke about her experience of applying for Walmart’s Open Call two times prior and being able to land a deal with Sam’s and Walmart on the third time. Their famous beignet mix is a hit and sold in select Walmart locations across the nation. Attendees also had an opportunity to participate in a Q&A session and network at the end of the event.
Walmart is currently in a multi-city celebration of the company’s 10-year, $350 billion commitment to U.S. manufacturing, which will culminate at their annual Open Call event in Bentonville, AR on Oct. 24-25. Open Call provides hundreds of small business owners and suppliers that sell products made, grown or assembled in the U.S. with an opportunity to pitch those products to be sold on Walmart or Sam’s Club’s shelves, or on Walmart.com.