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Entrepreneuers Edge into Grill Category

Stephanie RichardsonStephanie Richardson
The 2012 round of trade shows is underway, and every year I find myself anxiously awaiting the answer to the question "what's new?"
     This year, for some reason, I'm even more curious about the "who" as much as the "what." Maybe it's because I've entered the second year of owning my own retail business, which requires hands-on attention every day, especially to product. It's different than the many things I've done before, and believe me, there have been a few. In fact, some of my friends refer to me as a "serial entrepreneur." A pretty cool moniker, but the one thing I have never done is waded into the deep end of the manufacturing pool. I've dabbled in the shallow end, and it was eye-opening enough for me to swim back to shore!
     So this trade show season, I have a much better appreciation for those who have an idea, create a product, and then put their money (sometimes substantial and life-altering amounts of it) where their mouth is.
     I was thinking about all the entrepreneurs in this outdoor cooking business, and the tenacity they must have in order to succeed. From grills to grilling accessories, lots of great minds continue to work very hard to keep our industry hot and top-of-mind with consumers.
     Bob and Kerrie Tucker recently started building MAK pellet grills here in the U.S. In the last two years, they've taken home three awards at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo (HPBExpo) and their grills are used by an increasing number of award-winning barbecue teams around the country.
     Do you remember early in the 2000s when Mike Griffin and pals arrived on the scene with Grate Chef products? Anyone who doubted their longevity shouldn't have - the company started with products such as a Steaming Grill Brush, moved on to Grill Wipes and most recently to a product called Flare Down, which won an award this year at the HPBExpo.

Grill Charms’Grill Charms’ Leslie Haywood is the current industry media darling after her appearance on “Shark Tank”.
 Ed Hamlin of Grill Innovations picks a pepper to demo the Grill Plate at HPBExpo. Ed Hamlin

     How about Grill Innovations? The company produces an insulated patented "Grill Plate" that makes it more efficient to bake foodstuff s such as lasagna, scalloped potatoes and cakes on the grill. Like a number of these new-age entrepreneurs, Ed Hamlin, creator of the Grill Plate, attends trade shows, participates in sponsorships, has an up-to-date and user-friendly website and leverages the power of You Tube to demo his product.
     Perhaps the most news-making personality and product has been Leslie Haywood with Grill Charms. Leslie created a great product at home and then entered the public eye thanks to an appearance on the TV show "Shark Tank", and subsequently has been included in many print and broadcast media stories.
     I don't think I'm alone with this fascination about "what's new" every year. Even the HPBExpo website says that that New Products Pavilion is "one of the most popular areas to visit on the show floor." But this year, I have a whole new appreciation for the faces behind the products, as I now have an even better idea of what it takes for them to continue pursuing the dream - day after day, and year after year. Maybe as retailers, we can help our creative, smart, hard-working industry entrepreneurs move forward with products that our customers can use.

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