Leslie Haywood has something to teach us all having grill business. If you’re a momtrepreneur full of fear, listen to Leslie. If you’re a momtrepreneur who wonders why you got into the game, listen to Leslie. If you’re wondering how valuable press is for any company, listen to Leslie. And by all means, watch her in the video at the end of her interview!
What business did you start up?
I invented Grill CharmsTM. Grill CharmsTM offer an entirely new concept in outdoor entertaining. They have been featured numerous times on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, ‘Daytime’ with Dave Nemeth and Cyndi Edwards, Inventor’s Digest Magazine, Parenting Magazine, Health Magazine, Charleston Home Magazine, Fancy Food and Culinary Products Magazine, Tailgator Monthly, NBC’s Chicago Affiliate Channel 5 news, NBC Augusta news in the morning, and many more.
Grill CharmsTM are dime-sized solid stainless steel charms that are placed in food BEFORE grilling. They have serrated stems which hold the charms in securely while flipping, moving and grilling food like you normally do. You Grill CharmTM your food prior to cooking to distinguish spices and flavors, steak temperatures, or to avoid health or allergy issues. They stay in the entire time, so when dinner comes off the grill, you simply look for your Grill Charm, and everyone knows which one is theirs. They are the perfect gift item for Father’s Day, Birthdays, Groomsman, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Housewarming or Hostess gift … you name it!
The whole crazy process started during a dinner party I hosted in April 2006. My husband was grilling some boneless chicken breasts for friends. The flavor of the evening was Jerk, which we all love. Some people happen to like their chicken “jerkier” than others…that is, more rub equals more spice and heat while some of us like to walk on the mild side. Once all the chicken came off the grill, arranged on a serving plate, brought upstairs and served to our guests, my husband couldn’t tell which chicken was spicy. Wouldn’t you know it… me being a “mild” person; I bit right into the hottest one of all! He said “Someone needs to come up with a way for me to tell which is which” and immediately I knew I had something.
What motivated you to do grill business?
Well, this is going to sound a little strange, but it was actually fear. That very night, I knew I couldn’t NOT do it. For me, the fear of seeing MY vision, MY product, on store shelves two years down the road, knowing that that was my idea and I never acted upon it was more than I could stand. The fear of the regret of doing nothing was so much stronger then the fear of failure that I had to do it. I didn’t have a choice. I knew that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t give it a shot. I weighed the worst-case scenarios. You know, let’s say I don’t do anything and I’m safe and I save all that time and money, but then I see someone else do it…well, I couldn’t live with myself. To me, failure – if that were to happen – that was a better option, so I just said, “I’m gonna go for it! I can’t not do it. I can’t not see where this takes me.”
How many children do you have, and how old are they?
Two daughters, now 4 and 6.
How long have you been running your grill business?
The dinner party was in April of 2006. I spent over a year and half in the research and development phase and actually had a product launch in November of 2007.
How long did it take you to start becoming profitable and/or successful, however you chose to measure success?
Hmmmm….. successful and profitable are two different things, and “profitable” in and of itself is subjective. Does the company make money month-to-month? Yes. Do I view myself and the company as a “success”? Yes. Have I paid back all the money I loaned myself to get this crazy thing off the ground… not even close! I can’t speak about any other business except “bring a product to market” and what I have found in speaking with other inventors and product developers. Year 1, you hemorrhage money. Year 2, you hope to break even. Year 3, you might actually be able to cut yourself a paycheck.
How did your family react to you starting your own grill business?
They were supportive, but I think initially in that “awwww, isn’t that cute, Leslie thinks she wants to have her own little grilling gadget company” way. I’m not sure they really thought I’d actually do it. I mean really… doesn’t it sound crazy? “Stay-at-home mom from Charleston, SC, invents hottest grilling gadget of the year.” I’m not so sure I’d believe me either.
Easiest part of your job?
Sales and marketing.
Hardest part of your job?
Accounting/bookkeeping and “techy” stuff.
What skill would you most like to improve?
My technological handicap.
What, if any, advice do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I naively thought that press = sales. That is not that case at all (unless you get on Oprah, maybe). I thought that a few big hits, a national cable TV appearance and a few national magazines would mean life on easy street. NOT SO! Press lends credibility to your business but it does not necessarily equal sales. There is no substitute for good ol’ fashion pounding the pavement. Making sales calls is where my money comes from, not from an article in a magazine. Had I understood that sooner, I would have made a lot more sales calls early on and wouldn’t have been so preoccupied with the press. Don’t get me wrong, PR and marketing is important, but you have to understand what it is and what it does. It is NOT instant millions!
Can you recommend 3 essential websites for moms in, or going into, business?
The Momtrepreneur Maven (Thank you!)
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
Conquering one of the largest tradeshows in my industry singlehandedly. I did The International Home and Housewares show in Chicago last month, all by myself. From booth set up to break down and all the stuff in between, I rolled up my sleeves and did it all.
Favorite part of a typical day?
I live on the excitement! I love never knowing what I’m going to walk into. I come into the office, which is right in between my daughters’ bedrooms…I walk upstairs into my office, turn on the computer, and I never know what I’m going to find. When the phone rings, is it going to be Rachael Ray – finally! – or is it going to be the head buyer for Williams-Sonoma? I never know! I love that feeling and I love that thrill. Some people aren’t really crazy about that rollercoaster ride, because it is a rollercoaster ride – but I thrive on it. I love it. That’s my favorite part.
Anything else I should have asked you that you should answer?
Okay… here is a question you forgot to ask… Has it been worth it? Has it been worth the time and money and the mommy guilt and the bribing kids with treats to keep them quiet during conference calls, and missed soccer games and constantly switching hats from Founder, President, top sales rep, bookkeeper, Chief potty trainer, janitor, head nose wiper, collections, PR and marketing guru, taxi driver, short order cook and everything else that goes along with being the mother of 2 while trying to build an empire… and my answer is YES! It became worth it the first time my daughter (then 5) went to school and announced that “my mommy is an entrepreneur.” And then again when she came to me and said “Mommy… I want to invent something too… I want to invent crayons”. We then had a very long and quite mature conversation about the meaning of inventing and what it means to create something brand new that didn’t exist until you created it. It became worth it when I knew that my daughters, in their heart of hearts truly believed that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to doing. That’s when I knew it was worth it.
A few more questions, just because American Express should be featuring more momtrepreneurs…
Childhood ambition….To be a teacher.
Fondest memory….growing up in Hawaii.
Indulgence…. beef jerky. Actually… House of Jerky’s Black Pepper to be exact. I can’t help it… I’m a carnivore through and through.
Last purchase….Summer clothes for the girls.
Favorite magazine…..Bon Appétit.