He was a janitor at Frito-Lay making $4 an hour when he walked into a Fortune 500 company boardroom. On that day, his life would change forever.
According to Newsweek, Richard Montanez was “a son of a Mexican immigrant in Southern California. As a child growing up in the 1960s in Guasti, a farming community east of Los Angeles, Montanez picked grapes with his entire family, including his grandfather. The 14 members of his family shared a one-room cinder block house in a migrant labor camp.” 1
He told a reporter for the Washington Post, “I have a PhD of being poor, hungry and determined.” 2 He dropped out of school in the fourth grade and couldn’t read or write. He told of being in school when a teacher asked the kids what their dream job was. Other students shouted out their dream job of being an astronaut or a doctor or race car driver. But he had nothing to say. “There was no dream where I came from.”
Then one day a neighbor let him know of a job opening at a local Frito-Lay plant down the road. It paid $4 an hour and that would be more than Richard had ever made. “His wife filled out the application since Montanez struggled to read and write.” 3
His grandfather pulled him aside and told him if he was going to be mopping floors to “make sure that floor shines and let them know that a Montanez mopped it.”
Other students shouted out their dream job of being an astronaut or a doctor or race car driver. But he had nothing to say. “There was no dream where I came from.”
He decided he would be the best janitor Frito-Lay ever had. According to The Hustle, “In between shifts, he set out to make himself seen, learning as much as he could about the company’s products, spending time in the warehouse, and watching the machines churn our crunchy snacks in the lonely midnight hours. And eventually, his insatiable curiosity would pay off.” 4
The idea that would change his life forever came one day when a machine broke at the plant. “A batch of Cheetos didn’t get dusted with their standard orange cheese powder. Montanez took the plain Cheetos home and experimented with putting chili powder on them, an idea inspired by a street vendor in his neighborhood, who made Mexican grilled corn with lime and chili.” 5
His friends and family loved the new taste so he decided to share his idea with the CEO. He didn’t know you weren’t supposed to call the CEO, but got his assistant on the phone and she actually put him through. He convinced the CEO he had an idea that might be very profitable for the company and was told he had two weeks to prepare a presentation.
When the day came for the meeting he had dressed up in his best and wore a $3 tie to share his idea. It became a billion-dollar worldwide phenomenon: FLAMIN’ HOT CHEETOS.”
Today Richard Montanez is a bestselling author, executive vice president at Pepsico, sought-after motivational speaker, worth more than $20 million. His first book was A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie. His new book will come out in June 2021, Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive.”
What an amazing story and what an encouragement Richard Montanez is to every one of us.
Remember that as we get ready to begin a new year: 2021. And remember, Richard once said, “There was no dream where I came from.”
But there was … and he’s living it now!
What’s your dream?
© 2020. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.