Pie success: Walmart agrees to carry Henrico woman’s sweet potato pie
Walmart offered the Henrico County woman a deal on the spot for her sweet potato pie during a national open-call pitch event Wednesday at the global retailer’s headquarters in Arkansas. Hundreds of entrepreneurs and business owners from across the country attended the event looking for their big break.
The event is part of a Walmart initiative to purchase more products made or grown in the U.S. to sell online and at its approximately 4,700 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S.
Entrepreneurs pitched gadgets such as portable packets of hair gel for grooming on the go and a kit that lets you turn strings of holiday lights into decorative balls of light.
“This has been an amazing ride. They gave us the green light. I am so excited,” Lee said Wednesday by telephone from Arkansas.
Hours earlier, she had met with Walmart buyers and was able to convince them that her pie would fly off the shelves at Walmart stores, she said.
“We still have to do details,” Lee said. “They are going to call us on Monday and connect us with a manufacturer. … It’s going to be in all (Walmart) stores. It’s going to be a smaller pie, and it’s going to be exclusive.”
Lee works full time as a social worker and has a home-based business called Mary D. Lee Kitchen in which she makes and sells sweet potato pies that are based on her late mother’s recipe. Lee sells the pies locally for $10 each.
One of the details to be worked out is a timetable to roll out the pies.
“It won’t be in the store tomorrow,” said Lee, who plans to be hands-on in making sure the pies taste like the ones she makes at home.
Lee said she paid her own way to the event and it was worth it.
The open-call program included sessions on working with suppliers and talks by successful business operators.
Lee said the experience was a dream come true.
“They don’t mind looking at people like myself who have a small company. The message I want to say to people who are entrepreneurs is, ‘Don’t be afraid to do what I did,’ ” she said.
Information about Lee and her Mary D. Lee Kitchen operation is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marydleeskitchen.