How a Texas Small Business Salsa Entrepreneur is Soaring from Scratch to Success (Updated 10/30/13)
Dennis Cohn is a lifelong friend of mine. Denny, as we have called him since we were kids growing up on the same block in suburban Houston, Texas, is a passionate and enthusiastic man of deep faith. He is also consistently and fiercely loyal to all of his friends.
In recent years, Denny has committed with all of his requisite and abundant energy and vitality to a venture now known as “Salsa, Texas”. It is a uniquely delicious Fire Roasted Salsa made with all fresh vegetables and Serrano peppers, and completely free of fat or preservatives.
Denny, together with his partner, Ron, has succeeded in taking “Salsa, Texas” from an intriguing idea to a multi-award winning product, including three First-Place "People’s Choice Awards for Best Salsa" at The '04, '05 & '09 Houston Hot Sauce Festivals, as well as "Best Salsa" at The 2010 Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. These are the two largest and most important events of their kind in the entire country.
"Salsa, Texas" is currently prominently stocked in nearly 20 combined locations with two of the premier grocery specialty retailers in the state of Texas, Central Market and Whole Foods. The product also lines the shelves of over 25 Kroger stores, another huge player in the consumer grocery market throughout the southwestern United States.
Recently, I posed a series of questions to my friend about both the exhilaration and the challenges that come along with building your own business from scratch to success, and what helpful words of advice he may offer to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Here’s what Denny has to share…
Where did the inspiration for "Salsa, Texas" originally come from?
I'm a native Texan, and in the early 90's I found myself living up in New York City without any access to great salsa. I would have my mom ship some up to me so I'd have some. This just sparked a dream that one day I'd like to create my own salsa where I would never be without it again. I sat on this idea for a good number of years until my wife told me to either "go do it or stop talking about it". Thus the journey began the VERY next day!
Starting your own company from scratch is a daunting task no matter what the product or service. What were some of the initial steps you took toward making your dream a reality?
I approached my good friend Ron to see if he'd like to join me in this venture, as I knew he had some talents that would compliment mine. I knew that I wanted to use a fire roasted tomato and Serrano peppers, and make it an all-natural salsa, however we did some further research to make sure this was the path that we wanted to go. After that we had to develop our salsa, which took a good number of months (trial batches in the back yard). After we finally developed our salsa, we now had to take our "kitchen" recipe, and develop a recipe that was a commercially shelf stable product. This meant numerous trial batches with our co-packer until we found exactly what we were looking for.
What challenges did you face as you began your own company?
Believe it or not, the biggest challenge we had from the outset was coming up with a name for our Salsa. This took months to do. We came up with a few different names only to find out that they were already being used in the market place, and thus we were right back to square one. We finally settled on "Salsa, Texas", which is a name of a town in Texas that we made up.
What do you find most rewarding about running your own business?
The most rewarding thing to me about this whole venture is that it's our baby. God placed this vision in our hearts, and he's blessed us with such a wonderful and unique product. It's been amazing to stand back and watch him work wonders with "Salsa, Texas". We know who's responsible for opening the right doors, and keeping the wrong doors closed. He's the one putting the right people in our path to help us on our journey, and I could go on and on about all of the wonderful things he's done on our behalf. We not only feel blessed that he specifically chose us for this venture, but that he's letting us come along for the ride.
What is perhaps the downside of "being your own boss"?
I wouldn't say it's a downside, but being that it's just me and my partner Ron at the present time we're having to wear multiple hats. We're sales, marketing, accounting, manufacturing, and every other aspect of the company. Takes up a lot of time!
What would you personally like to share with any aspiring entrepreneurs that may help them be successful in their own business ventures?
I am asked this question quite a bit. All I can say is life is way too short. One day you'll look back on your life, and the regrets you'll have aren't the things that you did, but rather the things you didn't do. Don't let fear take over, and keep you from taking action. If you have an idea for a product or a service, you have to realize that this came from the big guy upstairs. Just go for it, and don't let anyone tell you that you're idea is crazy. Than put in the work that needs to be done, and leave all the rest of it up to God.
What has been the biggest surprise to you personally in terms of building your own company?
Not really a surprise, but since it's just my partner Ron and myself running the company right now, we're having to wear so many different hats and thus it's extremely time consuming. This entails overseeing manufacturing, marketing, accounting, sales, and every other detail that needs to be taken care of in order for the company to continue to grow. We're starting to find the right people to help us take care of some of these details.
Can you give us an idea of what the future holds in store for Salsa, Texas, both short and long term?
Our goal is to continue to get the word out about our great product. The feedback thus far has been incredible.
The long term goal is to not only take our product national, but to go international as well. We have a lot of work in front of us, but we're up for the challenge and look forward to the doors that the good Lord will open for us.
***Update from 6/23/12***
We're presently getting into numerous Kroger locations in Houston and Dallas, which is the second largest grocer in the country. Our goal for this year (2012) is to continue doing what we've been doing and that's developing our brand across the state of Texas. Once we've done this we'll be in a good position to start exploring markets across the country. We're now in 153 Kroger locations in the Southwest Region that consists of the Greater Houston market, the Dallas-Fort Worth market and sections of Louisiana.
Thanks, Denny. And here's to continuing success with your beloved “baby”, “Salsa, Texas”.
May your story inspire others to move from “what if" to “get after it” with their own entrepreneurial dreams!
If you'd like to learn more about "Salsa, Texas", or order some to enjoy for yourself, check 'em out on The Web at this link:
Texans love their proud history. Let's learn a little here, shall we y'all?
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