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  • Writer's pictureAbe Cherian

What business should I start? (Story)

You probably never heard of Richard Montanez.

As the son of a Mexican immigrant who never made it past fourth grade, Richard lived with ten siblings in a one-room cinder block house in a migrant labor camp east of Los Angeles.

To help pitch in, the boy picked grapes with his entire family, including his grandfather.

He took other odd jobs such as washing cars, picking weeds and slaughtering chickens.

Eventually, Montañez landed a job as a janitor with Frito-Lay, the snack food giant. He needed help filling out the application because he couldn’t read or write.

For the next decade the young man was determined to become the best damn janitor Frito-Lay ever had. He operated under a single piece of advice from his grandfather: “Make sure that floor shines and let them know that a Montañez mopped it.”

One day, the CEO at Frito-Lay issued a video encouraging every employee to start behaving like an owner.

When one of the assembly line machines broke and some Cheetos were left bare of any cheese powder, Richard brought some home with him and decided to experiment.

With the help of his wife, he dusted them with the same sort of chili powder he had seen a street vendor use on a popular style of grilled corn known as elote.

After testing the flavor with his family, Montañez first pitched the idea to former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico over the phone and was given two weeks to prepare a presentation to the executive suite.

So Richard went to the library and checked out books about marketing and business strategies. He purchased his first-ever necktie for $3. He filled 100 plastic baggies with his concoction, sealed them with a clothing iron, and drew his own logo and design on every single package.

During the presentation an executive asked, "How much market share do you think you can get?”

Trying not to feel out of his depth, Richard replied by stretching his arms out and saying: “THIS much market share!”

The CEO had heard enough.

And now you know the story of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, a snack that would go on to become a multi-billion dollar asset for Frito-Lay.

Today, Montañez is the vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America and has been called the Godfather of Multicultural Marketing.

Most entrepreneurs don’t begin their journey by falling in love with the problem—they begin by falling in love with the solution.

That is to say, it’s not as common to find someone who sat down and thought, “What business should I start?” Rather, the majority of entrepreneurs recognize a problem that exists and build their business around a solution.



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