Leslie Haywood, the inventor of Grill Charms, brought her product to market by manufacturing the invention herself – a route that’s different (but has the potential to be equally successful) than my specialty, licensing. What can we learn from her journey?
“At a dinner party in the spring of 2006, my husband lit his mouth on fire after failing to determine which pieces of chicken were spicy or mild. My invention, markers for the grill that indicate what is what, was born out of that incident. I started poking around and thought, ‘I can do this’. I didn’t know how, but I had faith I could bring my crazy little idea to the shelves,” Haywood explained.
Haywood was able to rely on the guidance of those before her, like inventor-mom Tamara Monosoff.
“The key, at the beginning at least, was to not get overwhelmed with the entire process. I looked at the process as a series of baby steps. I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My biggest frustration was feeling that I had a total lack of information and experience – you’ve got to do your homework, you’ve got to research. The more you know early on, the better. Don’t give up! Unless all of your preliminary research tells you to.”
Haywood also expressed the necessity of thinking outside the box. More often than not, plans “A”, “B”, and “C” didn’t work out – but a different, unexpected one did.
“I went through fifty different prototypes. When it was time for my first production run, there was a problem with the stem – it didn’t work. I was crushed. I thought I finally had the invention perfected! But with the help of my team, we figured out how to correct the problem and we moved on,” Haywood offered.
Manufacturing your own product is a more expensive process than licensing. But how much more?
“My start-up costs were around 50,000. Could I have spent more? Yes, but that was the budget I gave myself to work with. There were later times that I had to reinvest capital in order to maintain inventory, as well. But that amount was definitely sufficient to get the ball rolling.”
The idea for “Grill Charms” was born in April of 2006, and Haywood’s first product appeared on the store shelves in the fall of the following year.
“As an entrepreneur, it’s impossible to be completely risk-adverse. But I’m still a cautious and conservative businessperson. I started with small production runs, and sold in mostly independent stores.”
Those small production runs are making huge headlines. Take encouragement from Haywood’s success story.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.