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Marketplace Op-Ed Series: Texas Brew Salsa 'I Built That


This column is part of our ongoing series of op-eds this election season from small business owners working with The Marketplace by TheBlaze. We often hear politicians talk about what small business owners want, and if elected, what public officials could do to help these entrepreneurs. But we haven’t heard enough from small business owners themselves. This series will feature small business owners discussing their business, 'how they built that,' and what it has been like trying to sustain and grow their business over the last 4 years. 

I remember listening to the news late one night while sitting in traffic on my way home from a salsa demonstration in Austin,  and hearing President Obama's words "you didn't build that." I couldn't believe my ears. Surely he didn't say that. I knew of his apparent disdain for small business, but to hear him say those words was to remove all doubt.

I was raised on a farm in Kentucky, where meat, taters and hard work were the everyday occurrence and money was scarce. My father ran the farm and worked full time so we could eat. He expected nothing less of me. He never asked for anything and always provided, but never compromised his integrity. My father's work ethic is "the lesson" I learned very well and have carried into my business.

Texas Brew Products started from an overabundance of garden tomatoes and a need to scratch my entrepreneurial itch. Three years ago with the encouragement of a friend and in spite of the recession I wrote a $500.00 dollar check to another Texas company who took a similar chance nearly 25 years ago. With that risk my salsa moved from the backyard grill to stores and the web.

It was not that simple, nor did I expect it to be easy. Many people told me I was crazy to think I could make a successful business out of selling salsa in one of the leading salsa capitals of the world, San Antonio Texas. Yet each year, more and more people wanted to buy my product. I took the mixed bag of risk and desire, and did what I do best; made salsas of uncompromising quality.

With all this in mind, sitting in traffic, tired and worn out, I tried to absorb President Obama's words "you didn't build that." What did that mean? If I didn’t build my business then who did?  I felt like I was being shooed away like some ugly duckling that had the audacity to think that she was a swan. Growing from a start up ugly duckling into a successful swan these last three years has been hard enough already.

When will enough be enough? I already have to calculate everything I might plan or do for my business especially relating to taxes. An accountant is not an option; I need a CPA to check which items bought for my business are considered taxable. Are napkins used at demos taxable? If I put salsa, a food item, in a gift box is it taxable? The list goes on and on.

I am a one woman company who is blessed and supported by a husband who is gifted with multiple talents and trained by the military to never shy away from hard work. He holds a full time job, does my bookkeeping, banking, graphics, websites, logistics, and transportation and is a bang up salsa salesman. Neither of us receives any pay, putting all the proceeds back into growing Texas Brew Products (Salsa) in the hope we can hire others and continue to grow in the days to come. But growth produces more challenges than normal in today's political and business climate.

What will it mean to hire people? How will I be penalized for creating a successful business? Should I only hire contract labor? What about healthcare? What should I do about needing to charge more for my wholesale price to small struggling businesses who sell my salsa because of gas prices? I need to build my own warehouse to save on costs, for that I need a loan. What is going to happen to interest rates because of the national debt?  How much should I save? How much risk can I afford to take?  How much of my hard earned money, will be taken away from me because "I didn't build that"? How will my ability to support charity be affected?  These concerns are just the tip of the iceberg threatening my small business, and I am sure there are many more surprises and hurdles yet to be revealed.

Sitting in traffic after hearing the president gave me a long time to think and to remember the hot days of picking tomatoes in my garden, fire roasting veggies in 100° weather as I perfected my salsa, or standing eight or more hours sampling salsa at shows and grocery stores. I don't remember anyone from the government being there in the heat with me.

When the traffic cleared, I was jolted out of my reflection only to notice the passenger seat next to me was unambiguously empty. I was alone building my business one customer at a time. Then the light came on and I realized the president's words were an incentive filled gift…a gift that would reverberate through the highways and byways of this nation with a continuous resounding loud roar.

The only real failure in life is the refusal to try. Giving up is not an option. Therefore, I choose to let the president's words embolden me, challenge me and provoke me to continue to stand up and help create a change I can believe in.

As founder and owner of Texas Brew Salsa, I join with other small businesses and add my voice to the loud roar and say "No Mr. President, I Did Build It"!


Brenda Craig ©2012

Texas Brew Salsa

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