Jorge Fierro was making himself a burrito after his dishwashing shift when he got the idea for the business that would eventually become Rico Brands, a $3 million food business and employer of 80. “I opened a can of refried beans,” Fierro says, “and I just couldn’t believe how bad they were.” Then and there, he decided to start a food company. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to save these people from bad beans.’”
It had taken years for Fierro to even think about entrepreneurship. At 24, he dropped out of law school in Mexico and moved to America. “I struggled through years of schooling, and I just couldn’t do it anymore just for the sake of pleasing my parents. I rebelled,” he says.
Alone, and without any money or English fluency, he crossed the border into Texas, and then flew to Rawlings, Wyoming. He says he “literally gave up his life for the American dream.” He worked as a sheepherder and then made his way to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he lived in a shelter. He worked in roofing and construction and as a dishwasher, “everything that other people don’t really care to do,” slowly saving up enough for a better place to live. He married, became a permanent resident and then a citizen.
But he knew he’d made the right decision to come here, when his business took off. Fierro started out selling beans and salsa in a local farmer’s market. He secured a loan from the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund, which enabled him to rent space and start approaching distributers. He added more salsas, tamales, and tortillas to the product lineup — all fresh and free of preservatives. By 2000, his products were in local supermarkets. By 2002, he was selling in Kroger and in 2010 he opened a restaurant, Frida’s Bistro.
“We need reform” in immigration, because “the economy in America demands more labor and demands more people.”
Now as an employer, Fierro knows just how difficult it is to find workers. “It’s really hard to find people who are willing to work with their hands and heart,” he says. “We need reform” in immigration, because “the economy in America demands more labor and demands more people.” He says those people should be able to live here openly and without fear. He himself became a U.S. citizen because he wanted to be sure he could stay in his adopted country. “When I became a citizen, I did it with full knowledge that I was leaving the country that gave me birth,” says Fierro. “I say I was born in Mexico but I was made in Utah.”