Wal-Mart’s reality-show contest will help entrepreneurs, expert says

Talent contests are abundant these days. Whether it’s singing, dancing or cooking, it seems someone is always on the lookout for the next “super star.”

WalMart Stores, Inc., have even entered the fray, announcing a reality-show like plan to find the next “it” product, a move an innovation expert at Washington University in St. Louis applauds.

“This is a great idea for Wal-Mart on several levels and I think would be a prudent move for other large retailers,” says Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin Business School.

“One, it will get Wal-Mart first dibs on what could be some great new products. It will also help to soften the image of Wal-Mart as a corporation known to be tough on its vendors,” Holekamp says.

Wal-Mart’s “Get on the Shelf” contest will allow anyone in America to submit an online video pitching his or her idea. The products will be voted on by the public and three winners will have their product sold on Walmart.com, with the grand prize winner getting shelf space in select stores.

“Opening up an avenue to the shelves for entrepreneurs helps Wal-Mart to stay better connected to the community,” Holekamp says. “It shows that even the largest corporation in America has an appreciation for small business and entrepreneurship.”

Wal-Mart is accepting submissions until Feb. 22 and online voting will take place in March and April. The winners of the competition will be announced at the end of April.

Holekamp says the contest provides Wal-Mart a platform to create a social media marketing campaign.

“Through social media, the engagement of the participants in the competition will help to spread Wal-Mart’s story virally,” he says. “Companies today are being challenged to find ever more creative ways to connect with their consumers and I think this contest is an innovative way of going about that.”