Charlie Kerbel is a kids’ clothing designer based in Los Angeles who has more than 20 years of experience. During the pandemic, she decided to start her side hustle making customizable grazing boxes. Her company ME’N’U Grazing LA is the sister company to ME’N’U Grazing based in South Africa. The mom of three sat down with Jessica Abo to share her journey and her advice for anyone thinking about starting a side hustle.
Jessica Abo: How did you come up with this idea for your side hustle?
Charlie Kerbel: Having three children, as well as engaging with kids and their moms in my day job, I often used to hear moms talking about the lack of party boxes and fun food options available. Many opportunities are often found when you identify a problem or gap in the market, so I took advantage of this and used my experience in the creative world and styling to develop a product that kids and moms would love, then broke into a niche market. We started developing a number of kids’ candy boxes that can also be personalized and customized, these have also evolved to all ages now as the boxes can also be used as gifts to convey any message in a fun, delicious and creative way.
What was the first step that you took to bring your idea to life?
So my best friend, Michelle lives in South Africa and she had started a grazing board company. We were chatting one day about elevating the grazing boards to the next level, after in-depth discussions and so much passion and excitement. We decided let’s do it. Let’s bring it to LA. And ME’N’U Grazing LA was born.
What made you pick grazing boards?
I’m a designer. I love food and I love giving gifts, I also love things that look good. So those things kind of just fit together organically. After doing a lot of research and listening to others talking, it was clear that not many gifts or charcuterie boards that you can customize or personalize at a fair price point exist. We decided to bridge that gap and bring something that was special and unique that was at an affordable price point to a market that also craves convenience.
It can be pretty overwhelming when you start a side hustle to find customers. How did you find yours?
My first customers were my friends who then referred me to their friends. I joined social media, Instagram and TikTok, and I met a number of incredible women through that platform that have really helped me along the way. Word of mouth and exposure and social media has really helped the growth and engagement of the brand.
What hurdles did you face along the way?
So many. So I was pivoting into a completely different industry. I had a lot to learn about food, wastage, ordering and then also how to be a great photographer, a great videographer. The COVID pandemic and lockdown restrictions also didn’t help when it came to suppliers and stock. Social media was completely new to me — not only that, but production and customer service. I had to learn all of these things in order to have a successful business, combined with the juggling act of looking after my home and kids as well as my day job.
Building on that, what have you learned from your journey?
As important as creativity is, so is the production and the manufacturing part. So it’s about all the steps in between as well that allow you to get it into your consumer’s hand, flawlessly and effortlessly. Taking things in your stride, focus, and balance are key.
What advice do you want to share with someone who wants to start a side hustle?
Start small, especially if you have a full-time career. Believe in yourself, you probably know more than you think you do. Be open to learning. You’re going to make mistakes. Sometimes good is better than perfect, but at least start and take the risk.