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Meet Jennifer Wood of Herd Nerd Spice in Arlington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Wood.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My husband and I worked on the recipe for herd nerd SPICE for fun for more than 10 years. Every iteration of the recipe (with detailed notes) was tracked in a binder which dates back to 2007. Pretty nerdy, right?

At a certain point, I knew that everyone liked it, but it wasn’t until a mid-winter snowstorm when we invited our entire neighborhood over for herd nerd pork, and people were shoveling into their mouths like animals. Even people you wouldn’t expect to were standing over the stove taking thirds and fourths. I thought we were on to something, so I launched it into a business a couple years ago. At the time, I was working full-time at a media company and “herd nerding” nights and weekends.

Has it been a smooth road?
As someone with no sales experience, it hasn’t been easy beating down doors and putting myself out there. When I started, I would hear my voice crack when I cold-called shops. Over time I’ve grown thicker skin and have come to really enjoy it. I feel lucky to have met so many wonderful small business owners and makers along the way who cheer me (and so many others) on. I feel like they’re my people.

It took a while for the branding and packaging to feel right to me, and I’m always working on improving it. I knew I wanted something really bright so it stood out on store shelves and in cupboards. I also knew I wanted something that was just as good to look at and hold as it was to taste. When I was little, I would get a can of mandarin oranges (my favorite) wrapped in my Christmas stocking every year. I wanted to recreate that feeling — a simple gift that feels unique and special. Plus, who can resist a bespectacled cow?

It was also difficult initially getting the business off the ground while working full-time, and managing family time with my husband and then-8-year old son, but I feel like I’ve achieved something I’ve always wanted – work that doesn’t feel like work.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Herd Nerd SPICE is a smoky, spicy blend for meat, fish, and vegetarian meals. It’s an original blend of smoked paprika, chili powders, and more. You can think of it like sriracha — it’s great on anything.

It’s the perfect rub to smoke pork, bake chicken, and grill salmon and shrimp. I’m always discovering new ways to use it. It’s great on the rim of a Bloody Mary or spicy margarita, and my personal favorite is herd nerd aioli (seriously, you need to make the aioli and use it as a dip for french fries).

There are two varieties – herd nerd SPICE original and herd nerd HOT. The hot version uses hot smoked paprika (original uses sweet), so it gives a good kick but isn’t quite burning. Stay tuned for a new product launch later this year!

Customers buy the spice both for themselves and also for gifts. It’s been very popular everywhere from specialty food shops to gift shops. I also do corporate gifts with customized labels and clients. Clients love it since it’s something truly unique.

I’m most proud that I listened to my intuition to move forward on the idea. I thought that even if I don’t become a spice tycoon that following a passion would take me somewhere new. And it has. It’s rewarding to see that customers and shops are reordering and excited to tell me how they used it. I even had someone declare that he was a “herd nerd addict.” I had no idea what would happen when I launched the business, but now in almost 50 stores, an online subscription gift box, and two restaurant menus.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
The Boston area is a great place to launch a business. Shops are always looking for great quality, local products. I feel lucky that so many of my personal favorites have supported me along the way. I was fortunate enough this year to judge the Improper Bostonian’s Best of Boston issue. Just by doing that event, I discovered so many new makers. Everything from food to fashion, there are a lot of exceptional things happening right now in the Boston area.

Pricing:

  • $12-15 for herd nerd SPICE or herd nerd HOT
  • $32-35 for gift sets

Contact Info:

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