TAFT, Texas — For many veterans starting their own business is a lifelong goal, while for others it just kind of happens.
That's the case for one local Vietnam-era veteran who's making his mark on the picante sauce market.
It started with Gil Olivarez wanting to recreate the picante sauce his mother made when he was a child. What it's become has surpassed his dreams.
“It's a premium product,” Olivarez said.
You can forgive Olivarez for being biased. After all, it's his face on the jar. But Gil's Picante started from humble beginnings, as Olivarez made his early batches for buddies at work.
“People said they really liked it, so it went on from there,” said Olivarez.
After getting plenty of feedback, Olivarez tweaked his recipe. The rest is history.
“One thing after another led up to me making a great picante with my own recipe, and them telling me I needed to go further with this,” said Olivarez.
That led this former U.S. Navy Corpsman to start his own business. Because Olivarez's business involved food, he needed someone to help him pack his product in line with FDA regulations. That's when he found U.S. Army veteran David Smith.
“Gil and I personality-wise hit it off very, very well,” said Smith.
“He had everything I needed, including being nearby,” added Olivarez.
Olivarez is from Taft, where Smith runs his business, Pcklesmith. Their partnership is the stuff salsa dreams are made of.
“I think I might have told him on a couple of occasions that I can't tell him what to do, but I surely can tell him what not to do,” Smith joked.
Working together, Gil's Picante has taken off. The product line has expanded, most recently adding bread and butter pickles and squash. His products... can be found in two HEB stores among other places.
A source of pride in a product that's 100% local.
“It's made here in South Texas, all the more reason to try it out, at least one time,” Olivarez said.
Among the places you can find Gil's Picante are the HEB Plus on Saratoga, the HEB at Weber and Holly, and the i-g-a on padre island. Olivarez also has a store on his website.
Also, if you're a veteran looking to start a business, the Department of Veterans Affairs has several resources on its website to walk veteran entrepreneurs through the process.