I was curious as to the inspiration for starting her business. Grilling is a big thing in the southern part of the USA as she said "my husband is a bit of a sauce/rub/marinade junkie, so he is forever having several different seasonings going at once. We had Jamaican Jerk chicken this particular evening and he knows that my friends and I aren't crazy about the extreme heat of the Jerk that his friends like. He made some milder pieces for my friends and I and by the time he cooked everything to perfection, plated it up and brought it upstairs for dinner, he couldn't remember which was which…." Can you guess what happened? She got the chicken that she THOUGHT was mild! Once things cooled down her husband remarked "Someone just needs to come up with a way for me to tell what's what!" So the natural next step was to invent something to solve the problem. Remember all successful products solve some form of consumer problem.
So let's explore her journey starting from the Kitchen (actually the grill but let's not split hairs) and what was the initial motivator that got the product out of her house.
"This might sound a bit contradictory but it was actually FEAR that motivated me to bring this product to the masses." according to Leslie. This did not surprise me in so far as every book I read or teach from lists this as one of the entrepreneurial motivators. The fear of regret was so much stronger vs. the potential of failure that got her going. How many times have we come up with an idea, not acted on it only to find someone else had the same idea and became successful?
OK, so she took and Idea and recognized the Problem and started to create a business Opportunity. You "hear" me all of the time state that just because you have a great tasting product, you still have to convince the retailer to put the product on the shelf. I call it the shelf wars! So what were her Strategies and Tactics worked in achieving Getting on the Shelf.
"I have found that doing the tradeshows for your particular industry is imperative if you want to be taken seriously from buyers in the industry." What many entrepreneurs don't take advantage of is calling as the owner… you are your brand… and Leslie sees that goes a long way with buyers… it shows commitment on your part. She knows that won't be feasible as she scales larger and that is where food brokers come into play in being your feet on the street. A good place to look for brokers in the food business is the Independent Food Brokers Association which is a division of the National Association for Retail Marketing Services. However, and take it from 35 years in retail food, for major accounts, you need to have a presence with the retail food buyer.
So as a food entrepreneur, you see the path out of her Kitchen and some successful examples of getting on the Retailers Shelf. So how did Leslie get on the Consumers Plate(the Grill), or more precisely how did she get people to try the product?
Leslie said "I am very active on the social media front." I can attest to that since I first saw her on my Twitter suggestions to follow, eventually several Blogs, her Facebook page and YouTube. Also being on Shark Tank was a big help as well. But here is my pet peeve in dealing with hundreds of food entrepreneurs: too many are grasping for the brass ring thinking all they need to get retailers to take the product on and get customers grabbing products off the shelf is PR. Too many food entrepreneurs are hoping for the "Oprah Effect", meaning getting your product on her show brings instant success. We Take The Cake was a food entrepreneur featured on Oprah's show, and subsequently featured on a CNBC Special, The Oprah Effect. They were the exception, not the rule and the media propagates these stories because they are intriguing, but frankly I find they are leading too many food entrepreneurs down the wrong path.