Monday, April 4, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Leslie Haywood of Grill Charms

I first learned about Leslie Haywood, the creator of Grill Charms, after watching her on television.  She was on Shark Tank.  If you missed her appearance, here it is:

Don't forget to tune into this season of Shark Tank to get up update on Leslie and her company.  But, in the meantime, I am excited and honored to share with you, my Spotlight on Mommy interview with Leslie.  And, don't forget to check in this Friday, when I will be doing a Feature Friday post on Leslie's grill charms and offering a 10% coupon code especially for Inspired by Savannah readers.

And, now on to my interview with her -- Enjoy!

Name:  Leslie Haywood
Company Name/Product/Service: Grill Charms™ by Charmed Life Products LLC
Company Location: Charleston, SC         
Company Website:
Facebook URL:
Twitter Handle: @grillcharmer
Age of Company:  3 years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes: Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse!
Favorite Book: The Mom Inventor’s Handbook by Tamara Monosoff

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc.:

I am one of those crazy people who had it all and wanted more.  I never thought of myself as the Entrepreneurial type, as a matter of fact, my whole life I pictured myself working for a few years once I got out of college and then I knew I would leave whatever career I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom and in my mind, best roll model a young daughter could have.  I followed my “plan” to the letter UNTIL….  After 9 years of working for a company, leaving that company to start a family and 3 years into my dream of “stay-at-home”-hood I hosted a dinner party that changed my life and thrust  me into the world of a entrepreneurism. In 1 instant my life went from very happy stay-at-home to entrepreneur in the male dominated “sport” of grilling! I am Founder and President of a grilling gadget empire, when my whole life all I ever thought of being the President of was MAYBE my daughter’s PTA.  My daughters are now 6 and 8.

Briefly explain your business: 

I invented Grill Charms™.  Grill CharmsTM offer an entirely new concept in outdoor entertaining.   They are dime-sized solid stainless steel charms that are placed in your food BEFORE grilling. The serrated stems hold them in securely while flipping, moving and grilling food like you normally do. Grill CharmTM  food prior to cooking to distinguish spices and flavors, steak temperatures, or to avoid health or allergy issues. Grill Charms™ identifies your food before, during and after grilling so when dinner comes off the grill, simply look for your Grill Charm™, and everyone knows which one is theirs.   With four collections for different purposes, they are the perfect gift for Father's Day, Birthdays, Groomsman, Valentine’s Day, the holidays, Housewarming or Hostess gift, you name it! 

How did it come about?:

Like most ideas, NECESSITY!!  Like so many of us here in the south, we grill year round and it’s a huge part of our life.  There is nothing like getting together with friends and the smell of dinner thick in the warm spring air!  On this particular April evening we were grilling Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  My husband and his friends like things spicy and my friends and I tend to walk on the milder side.  After dinner was plated and served at the table, the spicy Jerk looked exactly like the mild Jerk.  My loving husband mistakenly put a BLAZING HOT piece of chicken on my plate.  It took 1 bite for me to realize that while he had cooked the food to PERFECTION, he lost track of which was which and my mouth was paying the price!  He made the comment “Well…. Someone needs to come up with a way for me to tell what’s what!”…. SO I DID!

What is a typical work day like?:

Up at 6:30, out the door by 7:15, kids at school by 7:45, at the gym by 8, home and showered by 10, work work work, leave the house at 2:45, pick the kids up by 3:10, then any number of after school activities ie, tap, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, then homework, dinner, bedtime.
What has been a struggle while starting up your company?:

In the beginning it was finding the time.  When I had my light bulb moment, my daughters were 1 and 3 so I had to be creative with  my time.  I called myself the nap time entrepreneur.  I tried very hard (and succeeded) in timing their naps together so I could work a few hours in the afternoon uninterrupted.  Now with them by in school this year for the first time, I feel like I get SO MUCH DONE!  I can’t imagine how successful the company would be if I had had 8 hours a day every day from the beginning!

What did you do in your past work life?:

I worked for an import/export company in sales and customer service for 9 years before leaving to start a family.
What have been some of your major successes?:

Recent highlights have been being on Shark Tank and one of Rachael Ray’s fav grilling tools in the June/July grilling issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray.

What have been some of your major challenges?: 

When bringing a new product to market, I have to say, one of the biggest challenges isn't how complicated it is to get a patent, or finding a manufacturer, or packaging design or any of the hundreds of other tasks that are required when going from light bulb moment to store shelves.  I am learning that the most challenging task is simply product awareness.  I spend more time on that one task then I do on any other aspect of my business.  It is my job 24/7 to #1 inform the public that my product exists and #2 educate them on how to use it.  One of the biggest advantages of inventing a new product is that you have the only thing out there that does what it does, how it does it.  The biggest disadvantage to inventing a new product is that you have the only thing out there that does what it does, how it does it.  Although you are at an advantage because you or the only one selling your widget, it is an uphill battle to let people know that your product is even on the shelves. 

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  When my daughters go nuts seeing mommy on TV or when asked what mommy does, they say “mommy is an Entrepreneur.  We’ve been talking about “inventing” since they could talk.  They think everyone invents things.  When my oldest was 4 she asked my sister… so Aunt Brandy… what did you invent?  Wanting to be the best role model I can be has a lot to do with my motivation.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?:

I can’t tell you how many times people ask me about how I “balance” family and business my answer to that question is 2 short words…. I DON’T!  It is a juggling act and I have yet to achieve the ever elusive “balance”.  There are times when my family pays the price for having an entrepreneurial mom and my business certainly pays a price for its founder and president having children. That’s just the way it is, and my job is make sure my business can be profitable and successful within the constraints of the time I am able to spend on it and that my children do not suffer or pay too heavy of a price for mommy owning a business.

Sometimes my business needs more attention and sometimes my family does.  It’s never a perfect balance and the juggling act that I do is adjusted on a daily basis.  When my oldest daughter was 5 and told me she wanted to invent “crayons”.  I knew the impact I was having on my girls was worth it.  They truly believe with all their little 6 and 8 year old hearts that they can DO ANYTHING,  I think in part because they’ve seen mommy do it,  and for that reason, I will continue to try to keep all the balls in the air.

What is next for your business?:

I’m continuing with the retail side of the business, but I’ve started dabbling in the promotional products, premium incentives and ad specialties market.  Companies put their logo and tag line on the Grill Charms™ boxes and use them as incentives, promotional items and giveaways.  It’s a market that I have never really focused on and I love it!

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business?:

If you have a dream, you CAN follow it.  Even if you have no idea how you get to the end, simply put one foot in front of the other.   I think the reason a lot of people throw in the towel is they make the mistake of thinking about the “big picture” too early.  You need to have some sort of big picture idea, but if you think too much, it becomes overwhelming.  This is where many people just give up because the scope what they want to do is just too much so they just don’t do anything.  As with everything in life, building a business is nothing more than a process.  It is a series of steps that get you from point A to point B.  Once you break it down into small baby steps, it’s not so scary.  You simply put one foot in front of the other and the path will appear.  But be ready… the path that appears isn’t always the one you had intended to take!

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