Leslie Haywood is the inventor of Grill Charms™, the absolute “must-have” grilling accessory that is revolutionizing the American cook-out. Leslie’s vision is to see Grill Charms™ as prominent in the American household as the wine charm. Read on to see Leslie’s entrepreneurial journey began.
How many hours do you work a week?
Approximately 40 hours in the office, but I’m never really “off work.” Because of the kid’s schools and activities, I work odd hours and always on weekends. It’s 12:17 pm on Saturday afternoon right now!
Tell us a little bit about Grill Charms and how you got started.
The whole crazy process started one sultry April night in 2006, my husband was grilling some fantastic boneless chicken breasts for my friends and I. The flavor of the evening was Jerk, which we all love. Some people happen to like their chicken “jerkier” than others. IE, more rub equals more spice and heat. Some of us like ours on the milder 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 “I wish there was a way to tell which chicken is which” and immediately I knew we had something. This was the light bulb moment.
You were on hit TV Show, Shark Tank; tell us a little bit about that.
The night the show aired was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life. There was so much adrenaline, excitement, and anxiety. I knew how it ended, but Pa was such a big part of the story and I didn’t know what they were going to show. There was a local film crew at my viewing party and I had no idea how the “Pa” part was going to turn out, so they got my sisters, mom, and me boohooing on the couch! Well … if you’re gonna put yourself “out there” that’s what ya get! Here is the viewing party on the news. The coolest part of the night was after my segment was over and it cut to commercial and my friends and family are all high-fiving and yelling and screaming and my phone rings … IT WAS ROBERT! I put him on speakerphone and he talked to us all and said congrats again to my family and friends … It was such a great night. I know Pa was watching and I’m sure got such a kick out of it.
(Oh and if you missed the episode altogether, here is the episode!)
The Shark Tank crew was unbelievable. I can’t thank them all enough for everything they did for me. And as a side note, none of the sharks had any idea that it was my second time. Before you walk out to do your pitch, they know VERY little about you (on purpose). The premise of the show is to get reactions and real first impressions to businesses, people and products. When I walked out there finally (in August) they had no idea that I almost walked out there in July. It was only after it all happened that I wrote/emailed/and told them the whole story that they knew about my prior experience. Then we ALL watched it for the first time on September 29. Not even the sharks see the episodes before they air.
Since the show, the sales have been wonderful. I more than doubled my monthly online sales average in the first 5 days following the show, I received more wholesale inquires in 5 days than I had all year and the hits on my website were about 6,000 in the hours following the show.
How would you rate your success from 0 – 10?
10! Success is such a personal concept. For me, success initially easy. First of all, I simply wanted to bring my idea to the market and start a company just to prove that I could, so I am fortunate that I have achieved early success. Now my definition of success is maintaining a profitable company while being able to have the freedom and time to spend with my family. I do have the freedom and the company is profitable, so I suppose I have achieved “success”, but I’m still trying to find that ever-elusive “balance” that everyone keeps talking about. If someone finds it, let me know!!
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
That is certainly the hardest part for me. I work in between being a short-order cook, a tear dryer, a taxi driver, a tutor, a nose wiper, and everything else that goes along with being a mom. I bring my laptop to ballet practice and work in the parking lot, I work after bedtime at 7:00 and in-between picking the little one up from preschool and the bigger one up from 1st grade. With their school schedules being so different, the longest stretch of time I get without jumping in the car is about 2 hours from 10:30 AM-12:30. I cannot imagine how successful the company would be if I actually could work for even 4 hours consecutively!
What has been your biggest business struggle?
Not having enough time to do everything that needs to be done and still do all the sales activities that I would like to do.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
It is really important to “get out there” well before you have your product. Create the buzz, talk to people in your field, and do lots of networking well in advance of your launch. When you already have a group of people that know you and your story, when the time comes to sell your product or open your business, these are the people that will have known you “way back when” and will be more than willing to help you succeed. It truly takes a village, and early on in this process, I started recruiting mine. I would not be where I am without their support, which they gave LONG before I launched my product.
Thanks, Leslie for sharing your story!