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Nikki Guerrero

Hot Mama Salsa

Nikki Guerrero

4:27 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Hello, everyone. And welcome to the Shades of Entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I'm here with Nikki Guerrero. Nikki, how are we doing? Doing great. I'm excited. I've actually met Nikki at one of our nonprofit events. She's one of the local Portland foreign entrepreneurs, but we're going to be talking about her company today, Hot Mama Salsa.

5:11 - Nikki Guerrero

But before we get into that, Nikki, I would love an opportunity. Go ahead and introduce yourself. Who is Nikki Guerrero? All right, well, who is Nikki Guerrero today, I guess? I'll talk about who I am today.

5:26 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I think I'm getting my already.

5:29 - Nikki Guerrero

So I am a Chicana living in Portland, Oregon, born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a mama to a 13 year old daughter named Chatea Rose. And I'm the owner of Hot Mama Salsa. I'm a great swimmer and water lover. And I'm pretty good at balancing flavors. And making sauce. I'm also a really big chili. pepper fanatic and a big advocate for our local farm and food system.

6:07 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Nice. So I'm going to talk about both of those things, but first, let's talk a little bit about what is Hot Mama Salsa.

6:14 - Nikki Guerrero

So Hot Mama Salsa is a small handmade sauce company running out of Portland, Oregon. We have four product lines to date. We started out as a fresh sauce company, and we're now also making hot sauce, Mexican style chili oil, and the best corn tortilla chips around.

6:37 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

The best folks. I'm telling you, these things have been flying off the shelves locally. I am not lying at all. Now, one of the things you kind of mentioned too, as part of your business is you kind of really work with a local Oregon farmers.

6:49 - Nikki Guerrero

Why is that so important to you? And I'm just very community minded and small business minded and it enables us to kind of create a full circle system and keep our dollars in our local economy. So I guess I'll back up to when I came to Oregon. So I moved to Portland in 1999. I was working as a commercial photographer at the time. And I couldn't find my food. I searched high and low. I was on a trek for two years to try out every talkery I could in town looking for a green corn tamale. And they still don't exist here. But but I really miss my food and I and I knew that. Maybe the people of Portland would like to try it. And I had a girlfriend who owned a little produce company, a little grocery store locally. She was also from Arizona and was always telling me to make salsa for the for the store. And when I started hot mama salsa. couldn't find the ingredients I wanted to use. You know, it was still during the time when salsa in the grocery store shelf was one flavor, chunky tomato salsa, three different heat levels, right? So that was not what I knew salsa was. Salsa was like a different combination, a different chile, a different flavor for all these different salsa's and then the heat came with the chile and whatever kind of salsa it was. So I wanted to find Oaxios and chilead aarles and that wasn't here and so I met in my second year of business. I met a farmer who was who had just come back to Portland. His family owned this fellow piece of land on Savi Island that hadn't been used for like 20 years and he came back and was gonna farm heirloom melons and I said well what about chili peppers? Do you like red chili peppers? And he goes I don't know I don't know if it's gonna work. I told him the chilies I wanted, which were a lot of Mexican chilies. I don't know. I don't know. It's hot enough. But he went ahead and planted all the ones I asked for just to see and tell me. And it turns out, so the island was a great place to grow peppers. And he became a huge pepper head, and we just took off running for the next, like, three or four years. And we were trying to, all these different chilies we could get our hands on growing them, testing them in the fields. And both of us just got a huge education. And I think that kind of spurred my love of, like, being on the farm and knowing where exactly your food's coming from. And then I really saw the benefit of my company being able to support his company, you know, and his company being able to support my company. So that's kind of how it's how that kind of philosophy started.

9:59 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

So, you know, you mentioned that. You get in your own education with a farmer. Why don't you go ahead and educate the listeners a little bit? Tell us a little bit about the different kind of peppers they are, because it seems like there's a lot.

10:09 - Nikki Guerrero

Oh, my God. It's countless. And, I mean, I don't think you could ever get a full education, but you know what? It's fascinating about Chile's is you can learn the history of the world through them. I mean, they've just traveled the world and really been the basis for a lot of different kind of cuisines. So, we have a lot of Chile's that are native to the Americas. And then we have Chile's that are native to like South and Central America. Those are usually called the ajis. And usually those are more of like a have a fruity floral profile. You know, of course, there's Chile's native to Asia and India. So, there's just so much variety, so many different flavors, so much depth of the flavor and then you have the Mexican chiles that have three different names depending what different name of the trash is a different name of its dried different name of its smoked you know so essentially you get three chiles out of one chili.

11:14 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Now is this your first business hot mama salsa?

11:18 - Nikki Guerrero

No it is not I think that my first business was called silver tooth jewelry and I import I would buy silver jewelry and bring it back to Arizona and sell it.

11:35 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

So let's talk about you know let's talk about your entrepreneurial journey how did how did you get from you know New Mexico selling jewelry to hot mama soles today?

11:45 - Nikki Guerrero

Oh it was Arizona or Arizona yeah I think I don't like being told what to do so I always had to treat my own boss I think that's really how it happened but Yeah, just I think curious of how to make my own way and do things differently. I think I always was trying not to or maybe not trying not to. I didn't feel like I ever fit into the systems and so I was trying to find a new way to make my way. So yes, I ran that business for a few years and I went to school to study art. I studied photography and I love photography as an art practice and worked for many years commercially and did have a photography business as well. But in the end, didn't like the competition and the man's world that it was, but kind of end up realizing they all are.

12:50 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Do you feel those past experiences has helped you be successful in this current entrepreneur endeavor?

12:57 - Nikki Guerrero

Well, no, I mean, yes, in that. You know, I learned that maybe it is possible to make your own way and do do something you want. But nothing to the I mean, I didn't learn anything to the extent I have running hot momma salsa because this is really my Forry into, you know, having employees and yeah, working within a whole manufacturing and distribution system. It's a whole another game.

13:24 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

You know, you briefly mentioned, you know, coming through different entrepreneurial things. It's kind of a man's world you mentioned, right? Talk about being a Chicano female the difficulties of that being in corporate America and then being an entrepreneur.

13:38 - Nikki Guerrero

Whoo, that's a big question. All right, let's dial it down first to being a Chicana or even just a woman in the hot sauce industry which is in a real big industry in America and really dominated by white male culture. Interestingly enough, yeah, weirdly enough this whole industry based on Chile's that come from all over the world dominated by a white male culture. So yeah, you don't get taken. I don't get taken seriously, people like to say, oh you're the little mama, you know, like derogatory things to like make sure you know you're not being taken seriously, things like that. That happens a lot. Oh did you know, do you have a partner who makes this for you? You know, never like never write off the bat considering. Oh, kind of the cultural history of Chile's and cooking is a woman's, you know, history. But so it's discounted a lot. And I think, you know, I have never worked in the corporate world and never Now I do a lot of volunteer work and I've had some kind of access to the corporate world and it's been really interesting. You know, I guess I just intuitively knew I didn't fit in that realm, but it's been it's been pretty interesting. Getting access to that realm and kind of looking at it like from a jicana thinking like culturally like what are our beliefs around money that. Really don't translate to this like white cultural world and seeing how directly it corresponds to access that people have for getting loans or even believing like. How you can run a business. I mean when I started this business and to this day I still run this business as you know bootstrapping like if we can afford it we do it. I in my wildest dreams could never imagine. Oh the first thing you do to start a business is go raise a whole bunch of money like I didn't. I've never heard of that concept until I got further along this route, right? So I lost my train of thought where I'm going with this. Oh, and then it's also been really interesting to, um, I really am interested in equity work and have done a lot of it. And so therefore, you know, sometimes get pulled in and like, okay, why am I getting asked to do this committee or this advisory thing? Oh, then I get in the room. Oh, they needed someone Brown. So it's an honor to be in that space, but then it's also like a disappointment that you're the only one.

16:48 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I completely agree. You know, I work in healthcare and that's one of the things we discuss often. It's, you know, see their travas, you just say nothing about us without us. You know, and essentially what it means is, is when you, when you go around these corporate table, We look around the table and there's nobody that looks like us around the table making decisions for us. It's very difficult for us to continue to fall along like we need people like you. We need Nikki out there to be in those positions because you seem to be in the position. You know, some of us that don't have that opportunity. And I think it's important to see a lot more of Latinos and Chicanos, Mexican Americans, people of color, right? Our underserved community in these positions to be able to provide their lens because everybody's route is different, right? We all get to this differently. Now, speaking of routes, what has been difficult? You know, you mentioned this is kind of the food industry's relatively new. What has been difficult about starting Hot Mamas also?

17:44 - Nikki Guerrero

Well, I love that question because I think that we get so hung up on established routes. You know, that we don't realize that there can be other routes. And I entered this industry knowing nothing. about the food business. And it was at a time when there weren't a lot of, you know, in Portland, we're so lucky in this actually our whole region. We're so lucky we have a lot of business development groups here now. And then people have a lot of access to business education. But at the time I started, that wasn't true. And so I just tried to figure things out on my own. And then once I'd been running the business for about maybe four or five years, I started really learning about the industry. And I realized, oh, there, there is a prescribed route that most people take when they're operating a food business. So the general consensus is you have an idea, you want to produce this product, you raise the money, you get funding, you do testing for the product, you find a co-packer that will then make the product for you, you find a distributor who will take you on. And then you do the sales to get in the stores that they're the distributor will land you, deliver you into. And I think if I would have known that before I started a food business, I would have said, Oh, maybe this isn't a business. I want to get it because I wanted to make the food. I wanted to be on the farm, work with the farmer. I wanted to sell the food to my customer. You know, so we were doing we and we still do farmers markets. Huge part of our business because that's the connection we want. Like that's the community. Connection that's important and kind of what makes hot momma salsa what it is. And that's what I started it as. It's like bringing salsa to my new community. I wanted to share that like family food, those recipes that I grew up on and love so much. And I still want to connect with those customers. So it's like intentional what we're making food for them, right? What do they want? But but as far as like prescribed routes, you know, it's very hard. to have a food business when the route is designed for big business. So the distribution models are all designed to only work with big business. Most of the grocery models, now we're really lucky here to have a lot of specialty markets that do want to promote local, which you know I think in other places it wouldn't be so easy. But it's really hard to be able to run a small or medium-sized food business in that industry. So you really have to find ways to make things work outside of that prescribed route. And I'm, how about the sell is, is just turning 15 years old. Congratulations. I feel like with that accomplishment, thank you, factoring business. Like it's been 15 years. I can... pay myself, I pay the employees, we're always slowly growing. So I would love to be able to share that and just help other people know that there are other routes and you can figure out what you want to do for your business and it doesn't have to be the norm or the established route.

21:23 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

That is a very, very great point. You mentioned a few different things. You mentioned a funding venture capital is funding. You also mentioned grassroots. How did you go about starting your business?

21:34 - Nikki Guerrero

Did you go about a grassroots effort or did you go with funding? Oh no, I never took any funding until I built my first kitchen and I took out a loan to buy equipment.

21:47 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Love it.

21:48 - Nikki Guerrero

Yeah, so I just did at grassroots. I think I borrowed like $5,000 from my parents.

21:54 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

That is incredible. And folks, I hope you guys are listening to this. Success doesn't happen overnight, right? Nikki's mentioned she's. 15 years in the game and Phil, she's finally at it, right? And finally very good at it. To the point she's paid herself and employs success doesn't happen overnight. So I know we see a lot of the social media channels that looks like you make a million dollars overnight. That is not true. It's a lot of work and a lot of things go into it. And Nikki, you mentioned a lot about community. Why is community so important to you?

22:23 - Nikki Guerrero

Well, let me first say it didn't take 15 years to pay myself.

22:27 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

That would be way too. That would be way too fun to keep at it. So don't take that long.

22:33 - Nikki Guerrero

So it's very funny.

22:35 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Fair enough.

22:36 - Nikki Guerrero

But why is community so important? Well, people need people, you know? So it makes us happy. And that's why we people who love making food generally love to make food because we like to make people happy. And we're doing it, you know, as a form of love. And, um, and Even more so nowadays, I think that community in business is so important because things are getting harder and harder to sustain on a smaller level with all the interruptions with supply chains and inflation and employee volatility. I kind of see the path forward as collaboration being beneficial to many businesses and sharing resources is invaluable. We can't go at it alone, or we can, but it'll take us much longer and be much harder.

23:39 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I agree. And it's a lonely route entrepreneurship itself, I think is already a lonely route adding to that loneliness to now. Now, you have you ever had a moment as an entrepreneur of self doubt?

23:53 - Nikki Guerrero

On the daily. Overcomes self doubt A lot of Self-talk Montrose making lists Realizing, you know that Each challenge is a learning opportunity But yeah, I mean, I'm constantly feeling like I'm swirling in chaos and I don't know what's gonna shake out the next day Now how do you continue to put yourself forward? What what continues to motivate you? Well, I love making food. I love My staff like really being able to feel like I can provide a good place for people to work and a company that people believe in is super motivating and also being able to bring up other women and and Other Chicano women, you know, my staff is in I really managed by women and the majority of my staff are women and I'll always want to work with women in Authority positions because they're just more collaborative in my experience.

25:13 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I Like it now. What where's hop mama salsa in five years ten years?

25:19 - Nikki Guerrero

Well, I'm glad you asked we're working on Big expansion of our chip line so right now we're trying to find a new manufacturing space and And we hope to grow this chip line because people are going bonkers over it and and in this Search for manufacturing space we may have come upon a really big opportunity to To create more than just our manufacturing space and we may maybe looking at creating You know a manufacturing hub that can be a resource for other small food producers so Oh, bigger things to come, but you know, always furthering the growth of the community. The organic growth of pop mama salsa, I mean, it's never been the goal to have our products in every grocery store, across the country, because at a certain point, we lose the ability to work with our local farm community and really have manufacturing under our control. So, want to keep it small enough that we can manage it and still be closely connected to it.

26:36 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I love the hub idea, right? Being able to bring in other entrepreneurs to kind of help scale them as well, that may not have the means to go out and purchase their own building at that time or anything in that nature. Now, you mentioned your current goal is not to get into every store, but how does, how do you currently get into, how do you market yourself, how do you brand yourself, who is the typical consumer?

27:00 - Nikki Guerrero

consumer of Hot Moms also or the chips gosh, well, it's really been such a like a grass roots like community effort for marketing so I really use like wherever we're public facing as a marketing opportunity So farmers I would when I first started getting into stores I would also try and do farmers markets and events like in the area of those stores so that we could cross promote Where people could guess year round I mean of course we use social media for Marketing, but we never really have had any professional marketing So it's been really really dependent on being connected to community That I think that kind of goes back to the power of networking Yep power of networking and making good food, you know if you make people happy to tell their friend That's very true people I think consumers will tell you really quickly if your product or food or service is good or not. Yeah, and then also, you know, leveraging food industry things that you get pressed for. So like awards, you know, entering contests and things like that is always helpful.

28:16 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Now what advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneur?

28:23 - Nikki Guerrero

So I think my first piece of advice would be really think about what kind of business you want to run and what part of the business you enjoy doing and are good at doing. And then don't hesitate to hire somebody to do the things that you are not good at doing.

28:50 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I feel like that's the advice I've been getting a lot. I'll source the things that you're not good at.

28:57 - Nikki Guerrero

Yeah, and really think about what is it that you what kind of business you enjoy. business do you want and realize like you get to make your business. You don't have to make a business that someone else made or that you're told is the right way to do it. You can do what you can it's your business to run it how you want.

29:17 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

You get to run it how you want and you don't have to listen to anybody. I love it. Now for the folks at home that want to learn more about Nikki, you want to learn more about Halt Momma Salsa.

29:26 - Nikki Guerrero

Where can they find you? What's the internet social media sites? How can they find you in stores? So we are in grocery in Oregon and Washington mostly the specialty grocery chains such as new seasons, Whole Foods, Market of Choice, PCC markets, Metropolitan markets. So look for us in your neighborhood market in Portland. Look for online at And also on Instagram and Facebook at or just at hotmamasolsa.

30:08 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

I love it. Hotmamasolsa, Nikki Garell, thank you so much for coming on. I'm really excited. I'm gonna actually have to get some more of those chips. I actually had a bag a couple of weeks ago. I'm gonna, I have not been able to find that new seasons. I usually get them over here.

30:22 - Nikki Guerrero

Well, no, they're not at new seasons yet. That's the hope for the, by the end of summer, but you have to go to Zupans for the chips. Zupans. I don't know why we didn't think of having you eating chips and salsa ahead of time. While you're, while you're on the, while I'm on the air, that might be a little distraction for the listeners.

30:41 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

At least at the very end, a little crunch at the very end. There you go. In fact, folks, this is the perfect time to plug the newsletter because I will have information about a hotmama salsa on the newsletter so you can go ahead and subscribe by visiting the shades of You can also follow us at the shades of e on Instagram. book and tiktok. Nikki, do you have any last words you have for our audience for our listeners?

31:06 - Nikki Guerrero

Yes, go to your farmers market, your neighborhood farmers market, support your farmers and your local food artisans.

31:14 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

When, when, in fact, when is your next farmers market?

31:17 - Nikki Guerrero

Where will you be? On Saturday, we'll be at PSU Hollywood and Beaverton and on Sunday, we'll be at King Milwaukee and here first folks.

31:31 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

And do you do those weekly or you're constantly at those farmers market?

31:35 - Nikki Guerrero

Yeah, every week we do six.

31:38 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Wow. Wow. Folks, this is the life of the entrepreneur.

31:44 - Nikki Guerrero

It never stops. I'm telling you Nikki.

31:47 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Nikki, Nikki, thank you so much again for being on the show. For those listening, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram and tiktok. Thank you and have a great night.

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