I had the pleasure of interviewing independent inventor Leslie Haywood about her product, “Grill Charms”, several months ago. The charms are used to identify different pieces of meat on the grill – instead of wondering what spice went where or whose piece is whose, the charms easily hold themselves in place as markers. Haywood was recently featured on ABC’s new television show, “Shark Tank” garnering much success! Participants on “Shark Tank” are given the opportunity to pitch their product to five different investors, who decide if the product is worth pursuing and supporting. I was excited to congratulate her and get a behind-the-scenes perspective on the taping.
“Did I have as much fun taping it as you did watching it? I sure hope so!” Haywood said with a laugh.
I’ve never watched a contestant generate so much interest from the “sharks”. Haywood admitted that the episode I watched (along with the rest of the inventing community) was actually her second go – her father passed during the first taping and she left immediately after getting the news.
“Getting that call felt like a literal kick to my gut. I’d never experienced something so traumatic. When I returned to do my pitch for the second time, it became so much more than a business opportunity. I needed to prove to myself I could get out of bed, that I could still do what I knew best in the face of a tragedy. And it also gave me some perspective; I was nervous, but I also knew it just wasn’t that important,” Haywood explained.
Shaken up or not, Haywood looked impressively at ease and experienced on film.
“I ended up having a really good time. I was nervous when I started doing the pitch, I was a little shaky handling the meat off the grill, but as soon as they grasped the concept of the product, I knew the hard part was over. I got to enjoy the moment. And it was an amazing moment!”
Haywood has made her pitch enough times to cruise into what she calls “autopilot” – when the pitch becomes less like a sale and more like second nature. She came onto the show having done a lot of research on each shark; she knew ahead of time whom she hoped to work with. And she did receive several offers!
“Ultimately, I felt like Robert had my best interests in mind. He’s become my mentor and go-to person. We probably e-mail several times a week,” said Haywood.
Has her phone been ringing off the hook since the show aired? Absolutely.
“I had about 600 emails in my inbox the morning after. I’m taken aback by all this attention! But it’s also one of the most exciting times of my life. What’s next? We’ll see. Robert has the right connections to take things further.”
Does Haywood have any advice for other inventors hoping to make it on the show?
“Be prepared. It’s not called ‘The Bunny Tank” for a reason. The questions are hard. The interviews last anywhere from one to two hours – you only watch four or five minutes on TV. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”