The road to a successful destiny is a lonely road sometimes, one not often filled with many people. If Richard Montanez had his way that road to destiny would be as jam-packed with traffic as a California freeway, filled with everything from lowriders to economy vehicles. “I believe that we all have the capability of being a genius when we are born, but somewhere along the line the world starts to tell you that you’re not, or you can’t be. I don’t think you should ever let someone else dictate how great you can be,” Richard says.
His enthusiasm is contagious, and his empathy for human struggle is genuine. He’s the product of a low-income Latino family and knows all too well what it’s like to work hard and barely make ends meet. Now he is far removed from that struggle, as Richard is the executive of multicultural sales and community activation at PepsiCo North America—a far cry from his initial job as a janitor with Frito-Lay. Lowrider magazine was honored to sit down with this visionary leader to learn how a janitor went on to create one of the most successful snack products of all time, while at the same time providing business opportunities for Latinos.
Richard grew up during the difficult times of the ’60s, a tumultuous time in America where the Civil Rights initiatives were taking center stage in America. Being a minority meant being treated very differently by society. “I remember my mom getting me ready for school and I was crying. I couldn’t speak English and I didn’t want to go to the school I was being bused to,” Richard says. “I got on the bus, which was green, and I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t we get on the yellow bus?’ All through town people knew what that bus meant. Again, it was society placing me in a different category.”
Richard’s mornings were rough, as he couldn’t understand his teachers’ lessons, so he was relieved at the thought of a lunch break. However, lunch proved to be even worse. “I pulled out my food and everyone stared at me: I had a burrito. They didn’t even know what that was at the time, so I’d just put my food away and didn’t eat because I didn’t want to be stared at for being different,” Richard says. “I went home and told my mom to make me a bologna sandwich and a cupcake like the other kids had. Instead she made me two burritos and told me to go make a friend. By the end of the week I was selling burritos for $0.25 a pop!” The experience was invaluable to Richard, as he had learned that what made him different actually made him special and was of value to his life. He remembered this experience during a fateful day in Corporate America that changed his life forever.