The Story of Spicekick®
On one late-summer weeknight of 2019, I was cooking dinner for my family using a basic taco seasoning packet because my daughters loved it. I was amazed how it was ready in 15 minutes and all I had to add was meat and water. What I didn’t feel great about were the fillers, sugar, and other mystery ingredients in it. I thought there had to be a better way. That is when the idea hit me for Dash Dinners, what would be renamed and rebranded two years later as Spicekick.
Most spice blends on the market, even the “natural” ones, list sugar and salt as the first two ingredients, but not mine! I knew that I could create my own spice mixes with wholesome ingredients I use at home with more herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables, no added sugar, and just a touch of sea salt. I wouldn’t rely on artificial coloring or flavoring, preservatives, or fillers.
At dinner that night, I explained my idea to my husband, and he loved the concept. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve come up with a lot of ideas and they rarely get him this excited.
Birth of my very first spice packets
Within a week, I began my quest by converting a popular recipe for Shredded Chicken Tacos from my first cookbook but using only dried ingredients to flavor it. I cooked a batch and sampled it to my girlfriends as we were sitting around the pool that late afternoon while watching our kids swim.
I explained to them how it worked. They tasted it and very seriously responded with, “I’d buy that.”
I set off to make 20 spice kit samples presented in hand-taped parchment pouches with the recipe stapled to the back and distributed it to my mom friends and neighbors. One of my friends, a busy anesthesiologist and mom texted me, “I need to buy 10 packets right away.” Within weeks, I created three more flavors—Stir Fry Lettuce Wraps, Chili, and Curry—which all originated from my previous recipes, but in the dried spice kit form.
With each batch of samples, I surveyed my test subjects and they all said that they would buy it. Bingo! That’s when I knew it was time to get proof of concept, so I applied to be a vendor at the Carmel Farmers Market, a popular Indiana market just 10 minutes from my house.
Going all in with a commercial kitchen
I figured I could launch the business from my home kitchen. Alas, I discovered that I was required to make the spice kits in a commercial kitchen certified by the health department to sell food products at my farmers market, online, and across state lines. It was time to level up before I started!
I gained approval to start producing packets in my church’s certified kitchen. We hand stirred and hand-scooped every single spice packet. My culinary assistant was eager to help and I begged my very-pregnant personal assistant to heat seal the packets—stool provided.
October 2019: Debut at the Carmel Farmers Market
My MVP (Minimally Viable Product) was ready. It tasted awesome and looked cute in its kraft pouch with home-printed labels. The night before the market, I figured out how to accept credit cards. I was nervous but excited!
My husband and I both worked our booth, vying to get all the shoppers’ attention to come over and try Dash Dinners. It was my first time selling anything besides my cookbooks. While I was a bit terrified, our first day exceeded our expectations. In the weeks to come, customers came back and repurchased! We were on to something.
March 2020: Pandemic hits, kitchen goes into lockdown
While the rest of the world was hoarding groceries at the beginning of the pandemic, I sold my spice kits into the first retail store at a local butcher shop. Success!
Things hummed along until school closed, including the cafeteria kitchen I used along with it. I had to find another certified kitchen immediately. Fortunately, I found one just 15 minutes away in Fishers, Indiana, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because they had a mixer that could blend up 1,000 packets at a time to service our growth. Silver linings.
December 2021: Spicekick Replaces Dash Dinners
As for the name change, while everyone told me they loved the name Dash Dinners, there was a spice company who wasn’t going to allow us to trademark. After 14 months, we finally earned the trademark for Spicekick®! Another blessing in disguise, my Spicekick Tuna Salad spice kit quickly rose to become our number one seller. Since it’s a flavor typically used at lunchtime, the new name enabled me to branch out to all meal and snack occasions.
Next Steps for Spicekick Seasoning Packets
I am getting Spicekick into high-quality butcher shops and seafood markets around Indianapolis, online farmers markets across the Midwest, and independent grocery stores carrying local products, and we ship across the country from California to Maine.
My next goal is to get Spicekick into a natural-food grocery store chain. Wish me luck!
ABOUT SPICEKICK FOUNDER MICHELLE DUDASH
As a Cordon Bleu-certified chef, registered dietitian, and author of two cookbooks, creating new recipes is a passion. And when it comes to cooking at home, I’m always happy to share tips on how to make things easier in the kitchen without sacrificing taste or quality.
My hope is that you feel more connected with the “why” behind our seasoning packets, and that Spicekick can help you serve nourishing, homemade, flavorful meals with minimal time and effort.