From Janitor to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Innovation

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Photo Credit: Rudi Lopez, M.A. | Copyright Protected 2017

By Rudi Lopez, M.A., Editor-in-Chief |

San Bernardino, CA. – San Barnardino Valley Community College located in the Inland Empire hosted a keynote speaker who was a former janitor who came from humble beginnings only to become one of the most iconic innovators of a product that is still popular worldwide. A conference room maxed at capacity resulting in standing room of SBVC students who were treated to the founder of their favorite snack Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos. The majority of the students were of Latino/Hispanic decent, along with students of other ethnicity welcome Mr. Richard Montanez,  Vice President of Multicultural Sales and Marketing North America for PepsiCo.

Mr. Montanez did not disappoint as he treated his audience with his authentic personal story of how he began as a janitor, the inspiration behind the Flamin’ Hot Crunchy Cheetos, his pitch to executives of Frito Lays, and his rise from janitor to Vice President. With humor, passion, wisdom, and at times divine spiritual encouragement, Montanez spoke with realism, conviction and such energize to ignite a fire in the hearts and souls of the SBVC students. Great with jokes and a natural storyteller, Montanez entertained the students who were laughing out loud, focused on every word that he spoke through the microphone. While the room was packed and standing room, more students kept walking into the conference room to capture a part of the amazing story that is hard to believe and yet one cannot ignore the fact that his rise had something to do with divine intervention and Godly inspiration. His story is so incredible that it belongs with other films of rags to riches stories and underdogs who have overcome personal adversity and challenges to capture the American Dream.

Regardless of your background, Montanez spoke of many themes that one could relate to, from destiny, empowerment, having a vision, and at times it felt as if you were at church listening to a preacher’s sermon speaking of divine wisdom and revelations that lead to his discernment and insight of the idea of adding hot chili flavors to a cheesy Cheetos. With the help of his beloved wife who helped come up with the recipe to add to the Cheetos, Montanez shared his new idea with family, friends and colleagues who immediately fell in love with the product and encouraged him to call the CEO and tell him about the idea. The story of how he contacted the CEO was hilarious and amazing boldness by a janitor with minimal education who could not read or write, let a lone be prepared to give a presentation to executives who were interested in hearing his idea.

Below is a brief video Richard Montanez speech at San Bernardino Valley College:

After the speech, students formed a long line to take photos with their hero who inspired them to believe in themselves and gave them hope that they too could have the opportunity to become the next rags to riches story and become a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things!


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