Entrepreneurial janitor moves from mopping to marketing [The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.]
(Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 23--On occasion, success springs from unexpected places.
Just ask former janitor Richard Montanez, who leveraged a crazy idea into a global marketing phenomenon by creating Flamin' Hot Cheetos, which have become one of snack food maker Frito-Lay's top-selling products.
Now a senior marketer in the company, Montanez was in Memphis on Friday to spread a personal message of perseverance among the city's youth.
Three decades ago a purchase from a street vendor selling spicy corn-on-the-cob led Montanez, then a janitor at a Frito-Lay plant in Cucamonga, Calif., to try a similar recipe on his company's snack products. After perfecting his formula through several taste tests using family and friends as critics, Montanez contacted the company CEO and pitched his idea to create a spicy version of the popular Cheetos brand.
The recipe was a hit and the one-time floor mopper soon found himself elevated to an executive position in the company. He later led the Hispanic marketing division of Frito-Lay Brands, a $13 billion food business inside New York-based PepisCo.
Today Montanez is PepsiCo's top Latino executive and oversees the multicultural sales and community promotions for PepsiCo's North American divisions.
"Sometimes greatness comes from ridiculous ideas," Montanez said. "Sometimes you become successful by doing things that you're not afraid, but that no one has told you that you're not supposed to be doing," Montanez said.
Montanez was keynote speaker before more than 400 business and community leaders at the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club on Friday. The night before he delivered a keynote address promoting his philosophy of perseverance to more than 200 teens and community leaders at Bridges, a nonprofit Memphis advocate for diversity and leadership.
"I was from a migrant family and we picked grapes for a living, but when I got a job as a janitor making $4.60 an hour I thought I had it made," Montanez said. "I worked hard and was proud of what I did. I wanted people to walk on floors that I'd cleaned and wonder who made them shine like that. It's that kind passion for every job you do that determines success."
Calling for more diversity in the corporate world, Montanez encouraged Memphis business leaders to create a community where all residents have opportunities to succeed. And he emphasized the responsibility of those with much to help those with little.
"How many cars do you need? How big does your house have to be?" Montanez said. "Build a stronger community by giving back to it and supporting a society where anyone regardless of background can succeed."
The message resonated with Dave Carlson, communications director for Smith & Nephew.
"Here's a man from humble beginnings who had an idea that ultimately changed his life and created great opportunities within his company," Carlson said. "It's a testament to the leaders at his company that they listened to him and valued his contributions. That kind of collaboration and vision can change the world."
Johnny Pitts, chief manager of Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, agreed.
"Richard is an inspiration to all of us because he's an example of overcoming adversity and ascending to the very top ranks of his company," Pitts said. "The lesson for all of us is to believe in what we do and do it to the best of our abilities. That's a proven recipe for success."
(c)2013 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at www.commercialappeal.com
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