We had the good fortune of connecting with Grace Ward and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Grace, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
30 years ago, I was running down a quiet dirt road in our small community. Past sleeping cows and crowing roosters as the sun came up beyond the horizon. I passed a woman running towards me, “Good morning” I called out, she nodded. A mile further down the road I passed a man, furrowed brow, intensely running up a hill, “Good morning” I called out, he smiled a huge smile and replied, “It is a beautiful day for a run”. I loved that so much – from furrowed brow to a big smile! As I continued my run, I couldn’t help but dream of a community where people knew each other, not just saying hello but knowing each other by name. When neighbors know each other, it provides a safer, happier community. Why not make that happen? I made myself a promise that day, that when I retired, I would build that for my community. A way for them to connect, while running/walking and enjoying this beautiful area on the lake.
When Covid hit, Southwest Airlines offered Employees a package to leave and help reduce some of the payroll pressures to help the Company survive the lockdown. I took that option leaving a wonderful long career that I loved, but knowing I was helping others keep their jobs. I set about to fulfill my promise of creating a way for people to connect while running and walking and enjoying the beauty of our community on the lake.
I drew out a timeline for the first year, created the logo, listed out challenges, contests, awards, put in place marketing and communication avenues.
Lake Cities is comprised of four cities on Lake Lewisville just South of Denton. The four cities are Corinth, Hickory Creek, Shady Shores, and Lake Dallas. I met with each city and explained my mission for the Lake Cities Run Walk Group. I purchased permits as needed, although nothing like this existed and in a couple of cases permits were not even available.
The Facebook page went live on January 3, 2021. Within a week we had 100 members – during the PANDEMIC! We now have over 1,000 members and meet-up several times a day all over the area to walk and run.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My first long term career was as a Fitness Trainer. I then moved into HR and Workforce Planning. Even though I worked in a professional business office for most of my life, I always found a way to incorporate fitness. Talking about running, running with others at lunch, talking about nutrition, or just meeting people at the gym. I am the happiest when running or in the gym. Having a desk job for so many years was a challenge, but I always gave 100%. My customers were internal, I did workforce planning for the Airports/Stations around the U.S. My passion to help my customers drove me to always provide the highest quality product. I loved every one of the Stations I worked with, such an honor to know them. Really great people, they work so hard every day. Ramp Agents are remarkable. It feels like all the pieces fit together and fell into place when I used both my Fitness background, HR experience and Analyst/Planning skills to create the Lake Cities Run Walk Group for my community. We have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. It is really exciting and wonderful.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Waking up we would grab some coffee at Liberation Coffee in Lake Dallas. Then head over to Big Sandy Boat Dock in Shady Shores and take in the glorious sunrise over Lake Lewisville as we walked a quick 5K down beautiful tree covered country roads. We would grab some amazing breakfast tacos from Taqueria Los Pinos and then take the boat out on Lake Lewisville.
The next day would be a visit to Doubletree Ranch Park walking among wildflowers and rolling hills followed by fun in the water at the splash park. Lunch at May’s Eats in Corinth would be both nutritious and delicious.
The next day would be shopping at the Galleria and NorthPark Mall followed by dinner at Silva’s in Lake Dallas then after dinner head over to Westlake Park in Hickory Creek at dusk to see all the deer as they graze in the tall grass lakeside. Watching the sun go down over the lake is a wonderful way to wrap up any day.
Waking up early again we would head over to the A-Train Rail Trail and run/walk 4 miles before picking up some refreshing watermelon smoothies at El Parasol right on the Rail Trail in Lake Dallas.
The last day would be relaxing and celebrating a wonderful visit on the balcony of Angelina’s in Hickory Creek. Enjoying a flight of mimosas and some huevos ranchero.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Over the course of those 30 years of running, my running partner, Angela Kimes helped me to brainstorm, and problem solve. She never seemed to tire of my chatter while running and as the years moved on, she never wavered, running by my side day in and day out, too many times to count. Sure, there were plenty of days when this idea sounded crazy, especially before the internet – flyers in stores? But Angela was always 100% supportive and helped me work past every obstacle.
In addition, I would like to thank Josiah Beam. He was my Leader at Southwest Airlines and such a positive influence on who I am today. When he took the package, I knew I would be taking it as well. He was the strongest, kindest, most supportive, dedicated leader I have ever had the honor to work with, he helped me to know I could be and do, more.