MILFORD — Being laid off from her job as a quality engineer for software became a dream come true for Shelly Wolcott, who always wanted to start her own business, and Healthy Solutions Spice Blends is the result.
Wolcott, 59, worked in the high-tech industry for 27 years, ensuring the software that was produced functioned, without any bugs.
"Being a quality engineer for software is the furthest thing career-wise from spices," she said. "But I always envisioned having a business that involved food. All the stars fell into line, and it just happened."
Wolcott worked closely with the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center to find the right fit. She toyed with purchasing a scone business, but after analyzing the business with her advisers at the center, she decided scones weren't the best option. But then she was connected with a woman who started Healthy Solutions Spice Blends and was selling it after 15 years, and she had found her future.
Wolcott bought the company name and its assets last spring and started putting her skills as a quality engineer to the test, trying each of the spice blends, seeking improvements, finding vendors who could provide fresh, organic ingredients, and working with a marketing team to update the packaging.
"I have not had more fun doing something," she said.
To stay true to her New England roots, Wolcott started getting her spices from a company in Gloucester, Mass., and she packages and ships her products through a company in Framingham, Mass. She fills Internet orders from her home, taking over the dining room and part of the kitchen with boxes and envelopes.
"I love getting up and walking to work every day," Wolcott said.
The spice blends she sells are designed for people who like to cook, but don't have a lot of time to spare. "I was a working mom so I know how hard it can be to make meals for a family," she said.
A simple ingredient like a piece of salmon, ground beef or chicken breast becomes a flavorful entree when the spices are added, she said.
But the spices also can be used in different ways, to make dips or side dishes or anything a creative cook would like to make.
"My friends never use them for what they were intended for," she said. "They play with them the way I do."
Wolcott is selling Healthy Solutions Spice Blends in Market Basket, Whole Foods, Hannaford, Harvest Market and at small local businesses such as Two Happy Butchers in Milford and the Meat Shop in Amherst. She has recently been approached by a supermarket chain in California that would like to carry her products in all 1,400 stores nationwide.
"I can't wait to get that order," she said. But as the company grows, Wolcott said she's relied heavily on one very important person.
"I have a wonderfully supportive husband who still goes to work each day so we can eat," she said.