Grace Ward, who owns Crazy Good Spices, says the popular spice mix company “just happened.”
Ward has been cooking and baking for most of her life. When she became a stay-at-home mom, she started a home-based baking and catering business. “I did all the baking for Starbucks for about eight years, and restaurants and hotels,” she says.
Later she began working as a cook for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, travelling to remote locations with firefighting crews. She would make spice blends for the meals, mixing whatever was on hand.
“My Homestyle Rub was my first [mix] ever, many many years ago,” she says. ““I would take that spice with me to all the places that I would go to cook for the MNR.” People asked her for the mix, and she often gave it away for free, since she wasn’t sure what amount to charge.
When retail stores approached her about selling her spices, she went to the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, which helped her with tasks such as figuring out nutrition labels. “From there, stores started calling. I barely had to call any stores, they called me. Safeway called me, Metro called me, it was like, ‘What the heck was going on?’”
The Homestyle Rub is a paprika-based savoury spice blend, she explains. “I use it for my potatoes in the oven, and chicken - you just drizzle oil, sprinkle [the mix], bake it. My daughter uses it on popcorn. She hunts and eats deer, moose, so she uses it for wild meat, too,” Ward adds.
She expanded her offerings, creating Grace’s Favourite, an Italian-inspired mix, then she made Citrus Dill for her daughter, who also likes to fish. Crazy Good Spices now has 10 spice mixes and two cocktail rimmers (for coating the rims of cocktail glasses). The rimmers were sort of an afterthought, Ward explains, but they took off, becoming very popular on Amazon.
“When I started, it just happened, I wasn’t even thinking about demand,” the entrepreneur says. “Once, my daughter made chicken. She’d just gotten married. She put so much rosemary you couldn’t even eat it. So that gave me an idea; these kids need a little bit of help. So I did the work for them.”
Her goal is to “make life a little bit easier for people,” she says. Spaghetti sauce is easy when all you need is olive oil and Grace’s Favourite for seasoning. “If you have something you’re cooking and it needs something, you add a little bit of Grace’s Favourite and 100 per cent of the time, it’s bang on,” she says.
Crazy Good Spices also supplies Thunder Oak Cheese farm with spices to use in their products. The spice mixes are available at many local retailers, as well as Metros across Ontario and Safeways across the country.
Ward said she sources the best ingredients she could find, and most of them come from California. Crazy Good Spices has faced rising costs in recent years, with the packaging doubling in price and many of the spices becoming more expensive as well.
“If I fill my mixes with salt, I would make more money. But I choose not to do that,” she says. “I also have a salt-free Grace’s Favourite, to give people the option.”
It’s been seven years since Ward started Crazy Good Spices. “It’s rewarding to know that I’m helping somebody out to make their meals,” she says. She plans on making some cooking videos with her spices to share on social media.
She has worked hard to get where she is now, and she feels she can take it a little easier going forward. “I’m getting old, I’m 61. I have grandbabies. I want to slow down a little, to spend more time with them. I’m not searching for more business. If it happens it happens. I’m pretty comfortable the way things are now,” she says.