Richard Montañez, speaking at Hispanic Business Achievers Luncheon: Don't forget your last name

Published on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 16:10 - Written by

ROY MAYNARD, rmaynard@tylerpaper.com

 

It wasn’t the pay of the janitor’s job - a princely sum to Richard Montañez at the time, after he had picked grapes and worked in a car wash - that made him excel. It was pride.

Montañez, who is now a marketing and sales executive for PepsiCo North America, spoke at Wednesday’s Hispanic Business Achievers Awards Luncheon, held by the Tyler Hispanic Business Alliance.

Montañez said he told his father and grandfather as soon as he landed the job.

“My grandfather said when you mop that floor, make sure it shines so they know a Montañez mopped it,” he said. “My father said listen to your grandfather. Young people, how much money you make should never determine how hard you work. Your last name should determine that.”

Montañez is famous industrywide for inventing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and thus launching a line of spicy products aimed at the Hispanic market.

“If you took the Hispanic market in the United States and measure the GDP, it is the seventh largest GDP in the world,” he noted. “It’s above India. The Latina controls 87 percent of all purchases being made. And I know that for a fact because I’m married to one. And she’s backed up by the Latina who raised me.”

Yet at the time - in the late 1970s, when Montañez was still on the janitorial staff of a plant in California - the big corporations were missing that obvious niche.

“Here’s a warning to all you experts,” Montañez said. “Don’t be so expert that you don’t see what’s there.”

He related his story to relay a message - believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to take risks. As a janitor, he developed a new flavor of Cheetos and he called the corporation’s CEO to pitch it.

“In order to achieve your greatness you have to be willing to look ridiculous,” Montañez said. “I was willing to make a fool of myself.”

Now, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is a $1 billion-per-year product line and a trailblazer in the industry.

“You can do anything,” he said. “If you don’t forget your last name.”

 

TWITTER: @tmt_roy

 

The annual Business Achievers Awards were handed out on Wednesday to outstanding Hispanic-owned businesses:

- Micro Business of the Year: Fiesta Party Rentals

- Established Business of the Year: ABS T-Shirt Graphics

- General Contractor of the Year: Gonzalez Paint

- Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Irma Ochoa, Estética Irma

- Non-profit of the Year: Catholic Charities

- Restaurant of the Year: Lindo Mexico

- Profession of the Year: Pam Rodriguez

- Community Impact Leader of the Year: Vita Riner (Vita Latina magazine)