While Richard was handling his janitorial duties at Frito-Lay’s Rancho Cucamonga, California, plant, he saw a corporate videotape made by then company President Roger Enrico and then Vice President of Sales Al Carey which said, “We want every worker in this company to act like an owner. Make a difference. You belong to this company, so make it better.” This revolutionary corporate stance inspired Richard who also benefitted from a stroke of luck: a broken machine in the Cheetos assembly line. “Some of them were missing the cheese because the machine had broken, so I took some home. I put some chili powder on it, and it tasted good! So I mixed up some more chilies and began trying to create my own seasoning. I let my coworkers try a few and they loved them. Then it hit me, I had an idea!” Richard took the company president up on his offer from the videotape. “I called up President Roger Enrico, not knowing I wasn’t supposed to do that. His assistant picked up the phone and asked my name and where I worked. I told her I was Richard Montanez, and I worked as a janitor in the Rancho Cucamonga plant. She was a visionary for even putting me through to Roger. He got on the line and said, ‘Hi Richard, I hear you’ve got an idea?’ He told me he would be down at the plant in two weeks and wanted to hear my idea.”
Richard’s excitement was met with opposition among his coworkers at the plant. “I was greeted with, ‘Who do you think you are calling the president like that? Now we have to make the plant presentable.’” Richard was stunned, but instead focused on the fact that he had two weeks to organize a presentation for a new product launch, knowing nothing about how to do it! “I designed my own graphics, made about 100 bags, and I went to the library and checked out a book on how to build a marketing and sales strategy.” The time had come and the company president and top executives showed up at the plant for his presentation. The president was so impressed with Richard’s packaging that he thought they had already designed the product. “I was nervous but doing well until an executive in the meeting threw me for a curve when he asked me, ‘What size market share do you think we should get with this product?’ It hit me that I had no idea what he was talking about, or what I was doing. I was shaking, and I damn near wanted to pass out. I thought hard and envisioned the sales racks that you see at the bodegas or the grocery store and realized what those shelves looked like, and I opened my arms to about as wide as the rack displays were and I said, ‘This much market share!’ I didn’t even know how ridiculous that looked. They could have laughed in my face right then and there, but the CEO stood up and put his arms out the same way and said, ‘Gentlemen, do you realize we have a chance to go out and get this much market share?’ Then Al Carey (who is currently the CEO of Frito-Lay) stood and asked his sales team with hand open, ‘Can we get this market share?’” Needless to say, Richard’s idea worked and that’s how Cheetos Flamin’ Hot were born—with a little Latino ingenuity.