TAFT, Texas – For many veterans, starting their own business is a lifelong goal, while for others it just happens.
This is the case of a local veteran of the Vietnamese era who made his mark on the picante sauce market.
It all started with Gil Olivarez who wanted to recreate the hot sauce his mother made when he was a child. What he has 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 pot. But Gil’s Picante started off from humble beginnings, as Olivarez made his first batches for his friends at work.
“People said they really liked him, so it just continued from there,” Olivarez said.
After receiving a lot of feedback, Olivarez tweaked his recipe. The rest is history.
“One thing after another led me to make a great picante with my own recipe, and they told me I had to take this a step further,” Olivarez said.
This led this former member of the US Navy Corpsman to start his own business. Because Olivarez’s business was around food, he needed someone to help him package his product in accordance with FDA regulations. It was then that he found US Army veteran David Smith.
“Gil and I hit it off really well on a personality level,” Smith said.
“He had everything I needed including being nearby,” Olivarez added.
Olivarez is originally from Taft, where Smith runs his company, Pcklesmith. Their partnership is the material of which salsa dreams are made.
“I think I might have told him a few times that I can’t tell him what to do, but I can surely tell him what not to do,” Smith joked.
By working together, Gil’s Picante took off. The product line has expanded, more recently adding bread and butter pickles and squash. Its products … are among others in two HEB stores.
A pride for a 100% local product.
“It’s made here in South Texas, all the more reason to try it, at least once,” Olivarez said.
Some of the places where you can find Gil’s Picante are the HEB Plus in Saratoga, the HEB in Weber and Holly, and the iga on Padre Island. Olivarez also has a store on their website.
Additionally, if you are a veteran looking to start a business, the Department of Veterans Affairs has several resources on their website to guide veteran entrepreneurs through the process.