Small Business Success Story: Rico Brand
Entrepreneur Jorge Fierro shares what separates him from the competition, tips for businesses facing challenges, and his bestselling products.
It’s the American dream: A young man leaves Mexico seeking opportunity in the U.S. Though he struggles at first to get by — even living for a period of time in a homeless shelter — he seizes on an opportunity and turns it into a multi-million-dollar business.
That’s the story of entrepreneur Jorge Fierro, the founder of Rico Brand, a multi-million-dollar Utah food distribution company that’s currently expanding into dozens of stores in the Intermountain West.
It all began when Fierro found himself dissatisfied with the quality of beans available at the grocery store, and decided to offer his own version — based on his mother’s recipe — at Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market. Today, his preservative- and additive-free product line includes tamales, burritos, guacamole and salsa and can be found in stores across the Wasatch Front.
Here, Fierro shares what separates him from the competition, tips for other businesses facing challenges, and how he’s pivoted his business because of coronavirus.
What do you want people to know about your company?
Rico Brand offers ready-to-eat Mexican food in supermarkets primarily along the Wasatch Front. Our products are made by hand and don’t contain additives or preservatives.
Thanks to a relationship with Associated Food Stores, we will soon be expanding and selling Rico Brand products in the frozen foods section of dozens of supermarkets throughout the West.
What separates you from your competitors?
Our product is authentic, local and handmade. I refuse to use any preservatives — even natural preservatives — because they alter the flavor of the product. Our customers can always have faith in the fact that I would never use preservatives or additives in any Rico products.
Our company is also extremely community oriented. When I came to Utah in 1985 I didn’t speak any English, I didn’t know anybody and I ended up staying at the Rescue Mission and local shelter. It broke my heart to learn that a lot of the people who were in the shelters back then were veterans, and that touched a nerve. That’s one of the reasons I started The Burrito Project, a group of dedicated volunteers who get together to roll burritos and feed the hungry and homeless in downtown Salt Lake City.
How can people help support your small business?
If you live in an area where Rico Brand products are sold, give them a try, and taste the flavor of something very unique and wholesome. I encourage people who do their grocery shopping in places where they don’t carry Rico products to talk to their local supermarket so they can carry them.
What is your best-selling/most popular product?
Our top five bestsellers are pico de gallo, pork tamale, chile verde burrito, guacamole and salsa dorada.
What tips do you have for other small businesses facing hardship/challenges?
This is a time for people to be creative and to see how they can provide a service or a product. I would like to inspire people who think that they want to be entrepreneurs that this would be the right time to start a business.
For existing businesses, don’t sit waiting for a customer to come over and approach you, try to see how you can get to the customer at their house or at their business. Reinvent yourself. Tap into social media so you can grow. We are facing a different market than we have ever before.
How have you pivoted/adjusted your business or business model in light of coronavirus?
We had to train our employees to use masks and face shields because we have to protect each other. I don’t allow anybody into my building if I don’t know who they are and if they have not been tested. We have an obligation to protect employees and customers as well.
What was your experience working with your banker and Zions Bank on your Paycheck Protection Program loan and how did it help your business?
I don’t care how long I live, I will always be a Zions Bank guy. My relationship manager Michael Brussock was so quick and assertive in helping me with my PPP loan. I was able to get it in the first round. I had to have my accountant do some paperwork but other than that it was totally effortless. I’m so grateful because it has allowed me to have stability and know that if any employee comes down with the virus, I can send them home with full pay.
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Nicola McIntosh is Social Media manager for Zions Bank.