What is All Over Your Hands?

A Salty Story of Entrepreneurship

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. For like two years, they were the bane of my existence. I had to listen to relentless begging from my kid. All my friends eat them. They aren’t bad for you. I swear I didn’t eat them (despite the distinct hand swipe stain on her uniform pants). Listen. I don’t personally have anything against Hot Cheetos. My kid just happens to be allergic to cow’s milk, so these are super no bueno for her. And that cheezy stuff gets all over your hands which is sort of annoying.

Why am I even talking about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Shouldn’t I be talking about Christmas (sorry, Holiday) Carols or seasonal baked goods? Well I re-read the story of Richard Montanez twice in the past week and wanted to share. Many of you may already know it, but too bad. You should hear it again – it is good.

Spoiler alert summary – Richard Montanez, a high school dropout, invented one of the most iconic American snack foods of all time, for Frito-Lay, while he was employed there as a janitor. Montanez called up the CEO with his idea. Yup, the janitor called up the CEO – and was put through! Today Montanez is the Vice President of Multicultural sales for PepsiCo America, and he teaches MBA classes at a college near his home in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

The story has been told before, but my favorite version is from The Hustle, my favorite newsletter. (I plan to keep giving them shout outs until they agree to let me guest blog, or send me a cease and desist letter — whichever comes first.)

Recently, a student asked him how he was teaching without a Ph.D.

“I do have a Ph.D.,” he responded. “I’ve been poor, hungry and determined.”

In case you missed the two hyperlinks to the article posted on The Hustle, you can click here to read it.

What I love about this story is the idea that every employee can make a huge impact on their company no matter their role. I also love finding and hiring people that exhibit traits of GRIT — guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity. And Richard Montanez is a prime example of this. Mental grit is what powers a person through personal tragedy, and IMHO, will get you farther than anything else. (Further reading — The Power of Mental Grit.)