Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Oct. 25 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Theresa Barrera-Shaw was responsible for supplier diversity and development at Walmart before leaving the retailer in 2013 to establish a company that supports diverse retail suppliers.
Following a 27-year career with Walmart, Barrera-Shaw is now a partner at Bentonville-based retail consulting firm The Barrera Shaw Group. She established the business with her husband, David Shaw, who’d spent 28 years working at Sam’s Club. She said she works in sales and with clients, while her husband handles the “back-end work.”
Barrera-Shaw, 56, said she started the company to help diverse suppliers do business with Walmart. She explained that the firm helps by writing their business strategy, representing them at supplier meetings and consulting.
Clients also tap into 56 years of combined Walmart experience between Barrera-Shaw and her husband: “Stuff that was just right at the tip of our tongues, people didn’t understand,” she noted.
When the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Barrera-Shaw to the Forty Under 40 class in 2003, she was vice president, divisional merchandising manager, responsible for stationary departments in more than 2,870 Walmart U.S. stores. In 2005, she became responsible for the seasonal business of Walmart U.S. In 2007, the retailer promoted her to vice president of supplier administration, responsible for supplier diversity and development.
In 2011, Walmart announced a $20 billion commitment to purchase from women-owned businesses, and Barrera-Shaw was on the strategic leadership team for that commitment. Under her leadership, Walmart increased supplier diversity spending from $4.2 billion in 2007 to $11.8 billion in 2012. She also oversaw updates to supplier agreements that reduced the amount of time to complete an agreement to 10 days, from 90 days.
Her highlights with Walmart were in 2003 when every member of her team was promoted, including herself, and in 2006, when her team was named buyers of the year. Another highlight was “bringing supplier diversity to fruition… making sure we communicated and what that meant, not just for Walmart and for diverse suppliers, but what it meant for everybody,” she explained. “Walmart helped lead the charge for supplier diversity, not just in Walmart but globally.”
Barrera-Shaw said her strengths include meeting with people and networking, and for more than a year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people didn’t want to meet.
“You lose that personal touch,” she explained. “Everything was on Zoom, and it was harder to meet new buyers and get new clients in for about a year. Now, it’s getting better. It’s getting back to normal. You’re just doing business differently.”
She and her husband comprise the staff at the firm, and she hires workers to help on projects as needed.
“We are as busy as we want to be,” she said. “We’re happy… and we’re brand new grandparents. We have about five clients that we maintain and service. That’s a really good balance for us.”
She pointed to her business when asked about her career highlight. She said her successful and meaningful career with Walmart allowed her to travel the world and led her to start a business.
She’s proud to look back on her accomplishments with integrity, be recognized as a thought-worthy leader and share her experiences with women.
As a mother with daughters, she said, “the only thing you want to make sure is your daughters have the same opportunities you have. And that life in the business world is easier for them than it was for you.
“Things have changed so much from when I started in the business world,” she added. “We used to have to be at a meeting at 7 a.m. To be a mom, drop your kids off at school and be at a meeting at 7 o’clock; it’s impossible.”
Barrera-Shaw also is a coach and facilitator for the professional development firm Inseitz Group in Bentonville, which provides leadership training for women. She facilitates a class for the firm, and more than 100 women have taken it. The next course is slated for spring 2022.
She and her husband reside in Bentonville and have three daughters and a son. Barrera-Shaw supports Rogers-based nonprofit Open Avenues. She enjoys spending time with her granddaughter and playing pickleball.