Sway-Oh, LLC, Shirley Washington
I invent tabletop products that serve skewers in an elegant, classy, and exciting fashion that creates a wow factor and leaves a lasting impression.
I was planning a bridal shower for my niece several years ago and included fruit skewers on the menu. I wanted to serve them standing in an awe-inspiring display, not lying flat on a platter. I searched online and went to several retail stores, but I couldn’t find the kind of serving utensils I had in mind. After the bridal shower, I couldn’t stop thinking about my idea. I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it, until I decided to take a leap of faith and work to turn my idea into a reality.
Our main goal is to create unique skewer servers that are fun, exciting, and give our customers an opportunity to add their own personal touches to their skewer displays. We believe special occasions should be extra special and memorable. We value our customers and we value our community. Our goal is to support programs that give back in meaningful ways that are significant, intentional, and impactful.
When I came up with the idea for the Skewer Food Server™, it was just that - an idea. While I was excited about my concept for a product, I didn’t know where to go or what to do to turn it into a reality. I read books and magazines about innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs. I also researched manufacturers and learned the process of turning ideas into products and bringing them to market. It was thrilling and overwhelming too because I was treading in unfamiliar territory and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just knew I needed to keep moving forward, learning, growing, and enhancing my knowledge. I also needed to learn how to file patents and trademarks and how to draft a business plan. One of the greatest high points was seeing my products on Amazon and being recognized by Amazon as one of their Hot New Releases.
I attended a weekend workshop designed for people interested in starting a business. One of the guest speakers mentioned SCORE as a valuable resource for business owners no matter which stage of the process they were in at any given time. At that point, I was still learning the process of bringing a product to market and starting a business. I figured I could find a mentor to help me accomplish my goals and I did.
I am fortunate to have several amazing SCORE mentors. I found Dana Connon on the SCORE website, sent her an email, and then set up an in-person meeting. Dana offered resources, support, and encouragement. Later, while bringing my product to market I contacted Sally Cohen via email. Sally provided more information, including how to price products. After I set up my business online, Linda Bailey helped me with Quickbooks to help keep my finances in order. I have the pleasure of working with some of the best SCORE mentors. They are patient, kind, knowledgeable, and some of my biggest cheerleaders. I am extremely grateful for my SCORE mentors and for their support.
My mentors are always there for me no matter when I contact them or how I contact them via email, phone, or virtual meeting. They respond quickly and always have a wealth of information. When my mentors don’t have answers to my questions, they connect me with other SCORE mentors who do. I am glad to have a strong group of SCORE mentors who are supportive, awesome, and always there.
I think the first piece of advice I would give to someone thinking of starting a small business is to get a SCORE mentor. A mentor can help guide you through uncharted territory, offer a wealth of resources you may not even think about, and help alleviate unnecessary stress. Another piece of advice I would give is to do your homework, learn as much as you can about as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to apply your knowledge. Lastly, network, network, network. Attend workshops and webinars and reach out to business owners who are in the same field as you are, pick their brains, and trust your instincts. Don’t be afraid to try or to fail because failures are tools that help build success.
I have learned so many valuable lessons from my experience as an inventor and a business owner. One of the most significant lessons I have learned is the importance of paying attention to detail. Overlooking little things can make a big difference to your bottom line. Read documents carefully and make sure you have a clear understanding of what is presented. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and keep asking questions until you get the answers you need. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to act on it. Make it happen.
26 years manufacturing experience (Vice-President, Director Taiwan/China Division), Retail National...