Richard Montanez was a janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in Rancho Cucamonga, California. At a recent graduation ceremony at Citizens Business Bank Arena he shared his story with the graduating class of Chaffey College. Montañez recalled grabbing corn from the elote man. Biting into the corn, with all the fixings, he had his revelation. “That looks like a Cheeto. What if I put chili on a Cheeto?’ ” he said.
He and his wife made chili, and he garnished his Cheetos. Next thing he knows, he’s calling the CEO and pitching his idea. The CEO tells him he’ll see him in two weeks.
The rest, as they say, is snack food history. Montañez was a high school drop-out and by the age of 18 he had worked several jobs from picking grapes, cleaning cars at a car wash, working at a poultry factory and as a gardener. Going to school proved difficult because he only knew how to read and write in Spanish.
With the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos he started to climb the ladder in management. Then the Ontario native with no high school diploma was given an honorary associate degree from Chaffey College. Today Richard Montanez teaches leadership classes at universities. When an MBA student recently “Where did you get your degree?” His response was the University of Cucamonga. Puzzled, the student asked where that was, to which Montanez countered with, “Never mind, it’s a private school and you could never get in” then he added “But I do have a Ph.D. - I’ve been poor, hungry and determined.”
Richard Montanez did not have a simple journey, but the good ones never are. Montañez likes to say all you need is one revelation that will lead to a revolution.