Since the beginning of the year, numerous companies have launched different initiatives to promote more diversity within their workforce and the clients they do business with. This week, retail giant, Lowe’s, announced that they will be teaming up with investor and Shark Tank judge Daymond John for a new virtual pitch challenge to help small businesses from diverse backgrounds get their products onto the retailer’s shelves.
The “Making It With Lowe’s” pitch challenge will go on from Sept. 15th – 25th where businesses can apply for the chance to pitch their brand to John and a team of Lowe’s executives to have their products sold at the major retailer.
“Prior to COVID-19, Lowe’s was making efforts with its grant program to onboard more diversity and [offer more opportunities to] diverse suppliers,” said John in an exclusive interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“Whether I’m on Shark Tank or I’m in the private sector, I love bringing the spotlight to deserving people with great products and who are putting companies together…they came up with this idea to go out there and highlight these [entrepreneurs] digitally on our platforms and in stores then let’s get deeper and invest some mentorship and time into the ones that really rise to the top.”
The program has already started and through Sept. 25, diverse small business owners can apply. Lowe’s will start by identifying an initial 375 small businesses, and then the pool will narrow down to 75. Those selected will be invited to submit more in-depth stories via video. It will also provide a shot at gleaning mentoring, advice, and support from the FORTUNE® 50 retailer.
“To know that 375 people or companies will have the ability to be highlighted in some form I think that makes it unique knowing that the net is spread really wide,” John added. “Knowing that these entrepreneurs will be able to pitch Lowe’s executives directly and be able to tell their stories is unique.”
“When Lowe’s introduced our grant program for minority-, women- and rural-owned small businesses impacted by the pandemic earlier this year, we were humbled by the overwhelming response for the grants and we were impressed by the creativity, passion, and vision from hundreds of thousands of applicants—and we instantly knew we wanted to do more,” said Lowe’s President and CEO Marvin R. Ellison in a press release.
“Offering our customers greater access to products being created by diverse small business owners allows Lowe’s digital and physical shelves nationwide to better reflect the diverse communities we serve and ensures our customers have access to the most innovative and valued home improvement products in the marketplace,” Ellison continued.
The search will end with a one-day virtual pitch challenge which will be hosted by John where five of the diverse small business owners will pitch their product “live” to Ellison and other Lowe’s executives for the chance to become a Making It… With Lowe’s small business partner. John will mentor the group as they prepare for their biggest pitch ever.
The finalists will be announced and featured on Lowes.com later this year, and the Making It … With Lowe’s results will be revealed on Lowe’s social channels in early 2021.
—Additional reporting by Cedric “BIG CED” Thornton