David Mena, founder of Gaucho Ranch, saw an opening in the market and decided to fill it in 2005. He did not let his lack of relevant experience or training stop him and today in 2016, Gaucho Ranch has 12 employees making food products that are distributed nationwide. "We make authentic Argentinian sauces, spreads and snacks in the USA," he said. "We are pioneers in that we were the first, and are still the only, shelf-stable chimichurri sauce. We have no competitor there. In addition, we position our products for those who are unfamiliar with popular Argentinian cuisine. We are not sold in the ethnic products section for example. That's another differentiator of ours."
Mena came to entrepreneurship as frustrated employee with not much more than a hunch. "Gaucho Ranch is my first entrepreneurial venture," he said. "I thought I saw an opening in the market so I started making inquiries into what I needed to do to turn my idea into a reality. It was tough in the beginning. I was ignorant on every level - legal, financial, and licensing. I had no experience in retail or in food service. I was green in everything and it was agonizing. I grueled it out and made it happen."
And make things happen, he did. "We were only a few months old with a brand new website when we got a call from Fresh Market, which at the time was an up and coming chain with 100 stores," Mena said. "At that time we only had a 1,000 sq ft warehouse with one table and a sink. We had no equipment and no way to fulfill the Fresh Market order, but that was the impetus for us to really get growing. Now our production line is completely automated to the point that no one even touches the product."
Mena's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is threefold. "Don't quit your day job. Make sure your passionate and don't be a me too company," he said. "If you need facilities and equipment and have cost of goods sold, that is a significant amount of money and if you try to live off the little profit you're making in the beginning, you won't have enough to reinvest in your business to grow and you're setting yourself up for failure. So keep your day job for the revenue stream to live off while building your company. If you can do something you love, that is huge. Lastly, if you are not doing something innovative or different, you will find it very difficult to stand out and succeed. Don't be a me too company."
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