Here’s the thing. The products my team and I rep – well, I think they speak for themselves. I could spend all day everyday telling you about how great these products are, but what you can’t tell from the company websites, are how great the PEOPLE are. The people who invented these ideas, who took the time to figure out how to bring the products to existence – they are truly amazing people. And I have the pleasure of knowing them.

Today I want to tell you about Leslie Haywood, founder of Grill Charms™ . If you watched ABC’s Shark Tank, then you’ve seen her. She was the one in the red dress with black polkadots – and yes, she got a deal with Robert who has helped her take Grill Charms™ to the next level.

I first met Leslie out in cyberspace when I was working on a past business. We had a great conversation and I found out she lives in my favorite city – Charleston, SC. She grew up all over (her father was in the Navy and they used to say, “Home is where the Navy sends us.”) After college in Florida, she returned to her last home of Charleston, SC and settled there with her husband and her two girls.

I’m in awe of these people who know how to figure out how to get something made. As I said in my last post, I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to start. So, I sat down with Leslie (you know, she sat at her computer and I sat at mine) and we talked (ie, emailed) about the day she came up with the idea for Grill Charms™.

The whole crazy process started one April night in 2006. My husband was grilling some chicken breasts for my friends and me. The flavor of the evening was Jerk, and 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 “Someone needs to come up with a way for me to tell what’s what!” and immediately I knew we had something. This was my very spicy light bulb moment.

Ok, so she had an idea…now what? What was the first thing she did to get started?

After we cleaned the kitchen that night, I started sketching prototypes on a piece of scrap paper on the counter. I then read Tamara Monosoff’s “The Mom Inventor’s Handbook,” followed it to the letter and came across www.mompreneursonline.com where I found my “village” that helped me all along the way.

Pretty cool… she makes it sound so easy. I’m sure she had sleepless nights, trying to put the final touches on, fingers crossed that everything would go according to plan. I asked her, “What was the first big break you got as far as a ‘big sale’?”

It’s funny…. With all the recent media, it might look like there would be a “big break” but it’s really been a series of little breaks over the years. I think one thing new entrepreneurs and inventors look for (mistakenly) is that 1 big break and they think once that happens, its life on easy street. NOT SO! EVERY sale is important and no reorder or customer is guaranteed to stick around, so every day you need to try as hard as you did the day before. Okay… sorry… didn’t mean to get so philosophical on you… I’ll answer the question.

The biggest sale early on that stands out in my mind is when Grill Charms™ was picked up by Solutions Catalog It was such a thrill to see my little ol’ product in a catalogue that had been coming to my house for years. Her kids were 1 and 3 when she started this company. Prior to being a mompreneur – she was a mom. And that’s no small job!

On to the fun stuff – get to know Leslie.

Here are some questions I posed to Leslie and her responses:

Me: What’s your favorite vacation of all time?
Leslie: When my husband and I were newly married I took him back to a place we had lived (Honolulu) and we stayed for a week. Between the childhood memories and Hawaii being pure paradise, I would say that is my favorite vacation of all time.

Me: What’s the one place you’d love to go with your family?
Leslie: Australia. I went to school in Sydney for a while and just LOVE it there! I would love to show my family that beautiful continent!

Me: Where do you want to go and leave the kids home?
Leslie: Asia. That is one part of the world I have not been to and I’m not 100% sure I’d venture there with kids in tow.

Me: What’s your favorite restaurant in Charleston?
Leslie: Oh my goodness, that is HARD!!! Charleston is known for its culinary prowess. I’m going to give you 3, but know my list of favs is at least 10 long!!

Steaks: Oak
Seafood: Hanks
Fine dining with TONS of Southern charm: Circa 1886

By the way, in case you are wondering, my favorite restaurant in Charleston is SNOB (Slightly North of Broad). Mmmm… good stuff.

Here’s Leslie’s elevator pitch about Grill Charms™ :
Grill Charms™ 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 Charm™ 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!

And… did you know… as a survivor of breast cancer, Grill Charms™ donates 10% of the sales from her Pink Collection to the Susan G. Komen Foundation?

Leslie – it’s truly my pleasure to know you, and to share your story with others.

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