At Walgreens, our mission is to thread diversity into everything we do. When our shelves reflect our local communities, it benefits everyone, providing customers with access to a wider selection of products while expanding opportunities for diverse suppliers. When national brands have access to financial resources and followers to aid in their marketing efforts, how are minority owned brands supposed to compete? We sought to provide these diverse owned businesses a platform to share their stories, focusing on both their struggles and successes transitioning into a major retailer, and introducing them to our 5MM+ collective followers across five social platforms in the process.
Through our video series Shelf Life, we highlighted a variety of businesses, uplifting voices in underrepresented communities and showcasing how Walgreens supports the growth of entrepreneurship, community development and job creation.
To complement Shelf Life’s launch, Walgreens also published a diverse supplier resource page to support other diverse business owners that are working to make it into a major retailer. The landing page featured Shelf Life episodes, free tools to power businesses through the Diversity Advantage Program and information on how to register for the Walgreens sponsored Top Shelf Incubator program helping minority-owned businesses learn how to partner with large retailers and build supply capacity.
Each episode was also accompanied by a unique Walgreens newsroom article that further detailed the relationship between the diverse businesses we featured and Walgreens, social content to extend reach across our followers and prominent placement on Walgreens.com to encourage product purchase.
For businesses owned by diverse groups and individuals, opening the door into a major retailer is often a key strategic goal that can significantly impact the trajectory of their company. But it can also be a daunting and challenging one to accomplish. Supplier diversity has been an increasing point of emphasis for Walgreens over the last several years. We’ve committed to increasing sourcing from suppliers that are at least 51 percent owned, operated, and managed by individuals who are disadvantaged, disabled, military veterans, LGBTQ+, minorities, and/or women.
With more than 9,000 stores located across the United States, Walgreens has the power to curate shelves that reflect our communities and support the wellness and connectivity of them as well. Through profiling the founders and owners of Mielle Organics, Otis Dental and Black Girl Sunscreen, we were able to bridge the gap between community and our shelves. Each episode uniquely chronicles each founders’ journey into Walgreens:
Identifying these amazing founders was a minor challenge compared to the major task of creating a safe space for them to speak openly about their personal struggles that have affected their journey into our doors. Securing funding, balancing life and career and constantly educating themselves were topics shared by all participants. They also spoke about more specific ways Walgreens can improve in helping diverse suppliers. As a business, Walgreens is using our in-depth conversations with these business owners to create change when it comes to onboarding diverse suppliers, and have already implemented immediate updates and procedures as as direct result of these conversations.
Given our roots as a small corner store on the southside of Chicago, telling stories straight from small and minority business owners helps us to live out our history. We ask ourselves how we can develop business opportunities throughout the communities we serve, and we seek to use our platform to uplift the next generation of business owners.
By uplifting the diverse owned businesses we carry and dedicating storytelling efforts and resources towards them, not only did we attract supplier and consumer attention, but also made headlines. Forbes, Essence, Black Enterprise and more wrote about Shelf Life and the positive relationships Walgreens has with Monique Rodriguez of Mielle Organics and Shontay Lundy of Black Girl Sunscreen, equating to a UMV over 65MM. Both articles in particular spoke to the critical role Walgreens played in validating and fostering consumer trust in Mielle Organics and Black Girl Sunscreen products.
In terms of video performance, the content outperformed historic Walgreens YouTube channel benchmarks. In the first two months after posting the launch video, its views were nearly 10x the channel benchmark. The content continues to garner increased views and engagement throughout the series.
Since launching Shelf Life, its social impact has been immense. Separately, we’ve seen a year over year increase of nearly 30% in the number of diverse suppliers in our stores. In addition, the conversation that Shelf Life ignited even on an internal level helped in part to usher in an additional diverse supplier program called the Retail Ready Program in partnership with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. This new partnership is a pilot program in Washington DC modeled after the success of our Top Shelf program with the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago.