Richard Montanez, innovator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, recently spoke at the 18th annual Release Conference in Big Spring, October 7-8th, 2019. The free conference was underwritten by Family Faith Center in Big Spring.
During the event, Montanez shared his story of humble beginnings working as a janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in 1976 to becoming the current Vice President of Multicultural Sales for PepsiCo’s North American divisions.
Montanez told KBest News that he was born on a farm labor camp, noting that he and his family had picked grapes for a living. After dropping out of school at a young age, he was later able to land a job as a janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in 1976, even though he couldn’t read or write at the time.
“Getting a job at Frito-Lay was a big break for me,” said Montanez. Years later while at Frito Lay, he came up with the idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
When asked if he was intimidated to pitch his idea, Montanez said, “Oh, yeah! It was probably the scariest thing that I’ve done in my life. Because, again, coming from my back ground, the labor camp, we were never taught that there was greatness within us. You know, at least my generation.”
“We were basically taught find a good job, settle down, pay your bills, work hard, and that was it. As far as your dream, there were very few dreamers in my generation,” said Montanez. “They became dreamers at an older age, like I did, but [in] the very beginning, [I was] very intimidated. I didn’t know how to start, to tell you the truth.
“Being Latino, the one thing that we have, is, many times, we just go for it,” laughed Montanez.
According to Montanez, he has spoken at some of the biggest companies in the world, mentored and coached some of the top CEO’s in the world, and has had lunch or dinner with every U.S. President since Ronald Regan.
When asked what he hopes people would take away from his presentation, he told KBest News that there are three things he hopes to do.
“I want to inspire people. I want to encourage them, and I want to remind them,” said Montanez. “To inspire means to breathe life into them. To encourage someone means to take courage and implant it, and to remind someone of who they are and the value they bring to humanity, their community, and their family.
“Those are the three things that happened to me. Not as a child, but as an adult. I want to make sure everyone knows that you can be inspired, you can be encouraged, and we need to remind each other. We need more unity in this country, and in my presentations, I’m going to try to do that wherever I go.
“I’m a firm believer in people. I’m an investor in people. I look at my life, no education, couldn’t read or write, but I tell people ‘Look how far I got without an education. Just imagine how far you can get with one.’”
Montanez has now written a best-selling book and has a movie coming out about it, plus, he’s currently working on his second book, and reported that a movie is being made about the first book.