Wal-Mart’s ‘American Idol’-style contest is back

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CNN Money  By Parija Kavilanz  July 1, 2013

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Wal-Mart is reaching out to entrepreneurs again, holding its second annual crowdsourcing contest to find the best new products to offer its customers.

The world's largest retailer is repeating its "Get on the Shelf" competition -- an "American Idol"-style contest that gives any U.S.-based small business, entrepreneur or individual inventor a shot at winning placement on its store shelves or virtual shelf space on Wal-Mart's website.

Entrants can submit products in any category Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) currently carries -- including anything from toys and electronics to clothing and household goods.

Entries, which must include a video pitch of the product, must be submitted by July 31 at Getontheshelf.walmart.com. Businesses with American-made products are especially encouraged to enter this year, Wal-Mart said.

A top 20 will be chosen by an online vote. The finalists will be featured in a web series on the contest website.

From that group, viewers will select five winners, and their products will be sold on walmart.com. Those that generate the most pre-orders online might also be named grand prize winners and sold in select Wal-Mart stores.

Wal-Mart's crowdsourcing contest is a departure from how the retailer typically selects its products.

The retailer typically requires vendors to meet Wal-Mart buyers in small rooms along a corridor referred to as "vendor row" at the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Businesses get a strict hour or less to pitch their products.

"This contest doesn't displace that traditional process. It complements it," said Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com. "In this age of technology, the contest is a great way for us to engage our customers and small businesses in a different way."

The contest drew more than 5,000 entries last year and over 1 million votes to determine one grand prize winner and two runners-up.

HumanKind Water, a Philadelphia-based bottled water company that touts its social conscience, won the most votes -- and the top prize of having its product sold in nearly 200 Wal-Mart stores.

"We were a brand new company before the contest, working on our five-year business plan," said T.J. Foltz, president of HumanKind. "Nine months after we won, we were in Wal-Mart. We're living a dream."

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