Leslie Haywood

Mompreneur® of the Month 10/09 – Leslie Haywood of Grill Charms

Leslie Hayward

Charleston, South Carolina

Mom of two daughters, 4 and 6

My Hot Biz: Founder and Creator of Grill Charms and President of Charmed Life Products LLC

Grill Charms are cool grilling gadgets that are inserted into food before cooking to indicate desired doneness, seasoning, and other specs. They give every eater the chance to get their steaks, burgers, chicken, etc. done just the way they like it—not too spicy, not too rare…just right!

Business Birth Date: April 2006

My Sizzling Idea: My husband, the BBQ chef in our family, has a repertory of about 50 rubs/marinades/sauces. One day, we had friends over and he put some very spicy Jamaican Jerk chicken and some mildly seasoned chicken side by side on the grill. By the time he brought everything to the table, he couldn’t remember which was which and I ended up with a very spicy piece that blew away my taste buds!

That night, the light bulb lit up! I started sketching prototypes for the coolest grilling gadget and most awesome guy gift on the market: Grill Charms™. I have felt what I can only describe as a compulsion to insure that every American gets what they want— how they want it—hot off the grill. So now I am 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 two while trying to build an empire!

How I Ignited My Passion: I did a ton of research. I have to give credit where credit is due—and that’s to Tamara Monosoff for writing The Mom Inventor’s Handbook. That book pretty much outlined the step-by-step process of bringing an idea to market. My research also led me to Mompreneursonline.com which helped me build what I call “my village” of supporters and fellow entrepreneurial moms to bounce ideas off of. Thinking about the big picture of bringing an idea to market can be overwhelming, so it’s important to break it down into steps; just take things one baby step at a time and have your own “village.”

Fanning the Flames: I naively thought that Press = Sales. That is not that case at all (unless maybe you get on Oprah). I thought that a few big hits, a national cable TV appearance (The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch!) 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’ fashioned 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!

Keeping the Home Fires Burning: I have tried very hard to balance family (passion #1) and business (passion #2). I hope to make our two daughters proud one day, and even though I am making some sacrifices now (trying not to make too terribly many as they are only babies once), I hope that in the future they can look at what I have done and know that their opportunities are limited only by their dreams.

Any Tricks for Balancing Work and Family? The littlest one is in preschool and the older one is in kindergarten, so I work while they are at school. When they are home, there is a little more TV watching then I’d like to admit so shhhh…. Don’t tell anyone! I also try to set them up with different arts and craft projects. Now that they are 4 and 6 and naptime no longer exists, I’m having to get creative. They have a little art center they like to work on and just LOVE to watch home videos. Watching themselves as babies and going on family vacations usually buys me about an hour. The household chores…ummmm…. They don’t really get done. My kids come first, my husband comes next (and thankfully he requires very little), my business comes third. That eats up every single other ounce of time and energy I have on this planet, and the house and “housewifely duties” come in a distant 4th. Folks can look to me for a lot of things, but as a role model for a perfect work/kids/household balancing… that’s not me.

What’s So Hot About Being a Mompreneur®? The flexibility of being my own boss, being able to be home when the kids are, allowing myself to go on field trips with their class or taking a day off when I’d like and to being able to go on family vacations when I want. But there are downsides, too. Not knowing when or how to “turn it off,” having to take my work on family vacations and never really being able to leave work behind. I pretty much AM my company and sometimes my kids pay a price for that.

Latest Thrill of the Grill: My appearance on Shark Tank! I now have a $50,000 cash infusion from Robert Herjavec to take my company to the next level. In exchange, I have given him 25 percent of my company. But I still feel that my opportunities are limited only by my dreams and imagination. I have markets I have yet to tap, and I have strategies I have yet to implement. In my business plan alone I outlined a 5-year sales and marketing road map so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I can strive to grow the company into a Fortune 500 empire or I can decide to remain a small “boutique” business. The opportunities are endless and even I am curious to see how this story ends.