Got an idea for a home improvement product that you think would work well with Lowe’s shelving?
Maybe you think you have the next viral product but haven’t submitted it to ABC’s “Shark Tank” – or you haven’t heard from the show. Or maybe you are not ready to swim with the “Sharks” and give up part of your business.
Lowe’s is teaming up with the reality show’s Daymond John for a new series of “Making It … With Lowe’s,” a nationwide showcase program that will provide grants to small businesses and the opportunity to sell their products. products on Lowes.com and in stores nationwide. .
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John will host what Lowe’s has called the “second season” of the pitch competition and advise the finalists.
The first round took place in September and garnered over 1,300 product submissions. Applications will be accepted for the new cycle from Tuesday to July 30 at midnight PST at Lowes.com/MakingItWithLowes.
Lowe President and CEO Marvin Ellison said in an interview with USA TODAY that it’s all about empowering diverse small business owners the “ability to take their products and put them on the shelves. where we get hundreds of millions of eyeballs in our stores and on our website which can hopefully give them the opportunity of a lifetime.
The program is aimed at applicants who are members of the LGBTQ + community, minorities, people with disabilities, veterans and women with “innovative products in and beyond home improvement categories,” the retailer said.
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John, the founder of the FUBU clothing line, and has been participating in “Shark Tank” since 2009. He told USA TODAY that Lowe’s program is very different from the entrepreneurial competition on television.
“’Shark Tank’ has been around for over a decade and we have an average of over 40,000 applicants,” John said. “It’s very difficult to do that. It’s a bit like playing the lotto.”
And even for those who are on the ABC show, there’s no guarantee they’ll get a deal. Of the more than 1,300 candidates in the first round, Lowe’s works with more than 300 companies and John is involved in six.
But those who apply must have more than an idea. They need to have a business.
“If they have a business, this is a great opportunity because there is literally nothing to lose,” John said. “This is crucial start-up money.”
The grand prize winner receives a grant of $ 50,000. Even for companies that don’t win a grant, John and Ellison said they believe entrepreneurs will gain invaluable information and contacts.
Various small businesses invited to apply
Like other retailers, Lowe’s has strived to diversify its suppliers.
Ellison said that as one of the few black CEOs of large companies, this is important to him “because I understand the challenges that many of these diverse small companies face.”
Black-owned businesses and brands have seen more support in a push for social and economic justice following protests against police brutality and a renewed focus on the country’s racial wealth gap for decades after the protests against systemic racism and the murder of George Floyd. the nation last summer.
The pandemic has also proven to be a critical hurdle for businesses at all levels. .
“Even as the economy reopens, entrepreneurs face extraordinary challenges in relaunching their businesses,” Ellison said. “Data tells us that almost a third of small businesses in the United States were made non-operational last year due to the pandemic, and that number rises to 55% when you put them in the managed business classification. by women or minorities. “
Last year, Lowe’s provided $ 55 million to fund grants to small minority and female-owned businesses, as well as small rural businesses, which have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation, also known as LISC, has distributed grants to more than 2,700 small businesses.
“We understand that as a large company we want to be part of the solution,” said Ellison. “We also want our suppliers to reflect the unique demographics of our customers. “
How to apply for “Making It … With Lowe’s”
Hundreds of diverse contractors will be assessed for the opportunity to sell their product on Lowes.com, then 75 suppliers will be invited to meet with Lowe’s merchandising teams to be considered for further promotion.
These best arguments will be posted online and consumers will be invited to vote for their “fan favorite” among the top 15 suppliers. The field will then narrow down to the top five suppliers and the favorite, who will pitch their products to Lowe’s executives for an opportunity to receive mentorship and a chance to land on Lowe’s shelves and website.
Unlike last year, which was held online, Lowe’s plans for the finalists to attend an in-person presentation event at a Lowe’s store in the Charlotte, NC area later this year.
Learn more and apply at Lowes.com/MakingItWithLowes.
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