One of Mission’s own has reached statewide success with a food product that is being sold in H-E-B stores throughout Texas. Pilar Gonzalez had her chip dip hit the shelves July 5, moving her work from the home kitchen to an industrial plant on the outskirts of Mission.
The Valley native spent most of her child and teenhood in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Gonzalez has lived in Canada, San Antonio and Miami. She is an Emmy winning journalist who worked for Telemundo and Univision. She is a former owner of local restaurant Tamales y Mas, a current owner of the lawn service company My Green Garden, and she is the public notary for Alamo Home Finance.
“I’m tired all day,” she said with a smile after a long day of training with her employees.
Gonzalez’s dip was originally created by her mother’s sister. After learning how to make it, Gonzalez tweaked the recipe and tailored the flavors to Valley tastebuds. She sold the dip to local mom-and-pop shops before her friend Rafael Pacheco persuaded her to join Ruby Red Ventures. Her first time through the program, Gonzalez won $25,000. The second time, she won $15,000.
“My life started changing right there and then. And it’s not much the money, it’s the support that these guys have given me,” the 50-year-old said of the Mission EDC team. “From the very basic things to finding me a place to put the plant; they’re amazing. They put in your hands all the resources that you can imagine for you to succeed.”
Gonzalez entered her dip into H-E-B’s Primo Pick contest where Texans have the opportunity to get their product sold in stores. The Missionite earned second place out of more than 700 applicants.
“I panicked. I called Mission EDC, the Ruby Red, the chamber of commerce…I said, ‘Listen, guys. You put me in this position and now you have to help me. I won’t be able to do it by myself. I do it in my kitchen. I know how to handle my kitchen,’ she explained. ‘But this is a huge operation and this great opportunity that they’re giving me, I don’t know where to start.’”
It took Gonzalez two years to finally get her product on the shelf because she had to comply with regulations and turn her at-home passion into a full-fledged business. Dip It is in 55 H-E-B stores and is expected to be in 70 more by October. Gonzalez is also working out the details to have her product sold in Spec’s Wine Spirits and Finer Foods. In addition, about 10 local non H-E-B stores also carry the dip.
Even though she has three jobs, Gonzalez said she hopes to eventually be able to devote her time solely to Dip It. At the moment, she said she can’t afford to give up the lawn service or finance gig.
“As long as I’m making enough money to pay my people, it’s okay. I need to find another way to make enough money to support myself. Until I have that covered, I don’t think I’ll be quitting the other jobs, even though it’s a lot of work.” Gonzalez said. “I work Sundays, I work Saturdays, I work early mornings and late nights, but I need the money right now. I’m not economically independent, yet. But I will be.”
Gonzalez said she sees her company as a way of giving back to Mission, a community that she considers herself lucky to be a part of.
“I’m trying to give back to my community because I know that if I give better employment for the people and pay them better, their life will improve and so the life of their kids. It takes a whole town to put this product on the shelves,” the Dip It inventor said. “I wouldn’t want to live any other place. Everybody knows me and supports me and helps me and invests in me and believes in me. They’re making it so easy and I’m very grateful to this community.”