Pilar Gonzalez’s DIP-IT health dip was picked up by the H-E-B grocery chain stores from Mission to Midland.
A Mission entrepreneur is dipping into success after her line of healthy dips has gone statewide in H-E-B and Spec’s grocery chains – and she got her start with the help of a city-funded grant.
Pilar Gonzalez’s DIP-IT is a health dip that blends fresh ingredients and yogurt to create 100 percent natural flavored dips, including cilantro, jalapeño, green olive, chipotle and piquin pepper. In July, Gonzalez’s DIP-IT was picked up by the H-E-B grocery chain stores from Mission to Midland. H-E-B operates more than 350 grocery stores throughout Texas and northeast Mexico. DIP-IT will also be sold in Spec’s wine and liquor stores across Texas.
The move is the next step of Gonzalez’s incredible success with DIP-IT. And that success story began with the Mission Economic Development Corporation’s Ruby Red Ventures program. Gonzalez is a two-time Ruby Red Ventures award winner. The Mission EDC and City Council approved Ruby Red Ventures in 2013, which includes a $100,000 annual small business fund. The purpose of the business development program and funding is to “nurture entrepreneurial spirit and promote the creation of innovative businesses in Mission” as well as promote local job creation.
Her DIP-IT products earned her thousands in funding in two rounds of competitive Ruby Red Ventures. She also earned $15,000 and second place in 2014 from H-E-B’s “Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best” food product competition.
“Pilar’s determination, hard work and innovative ideas set a high bar for other Ruby Red Ventures participants, and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Alex Meade, Mission Economic Development Corporation’s CEO. “She embodies the entrepreneurial spirt, and hope that other Mission start-ups and small businesses can take her lead and run with it.”
Gonzalez discovered her passion for fine foods after retiring from a successful career in the radio and television. After opening several successful restaurants, Gonzalez turned her sights to developing DIP-IT.
In February 2014, Gonzalez won $25,000, the top prize, in Ruby Red’s first business development program’s first round. In addition to funding, Gonzalez received invaluable resources and support through the program. Adriana Rincon at the Small Business Development Center offered guidance on finding an accountant and a larger commercial kitchen and a label maker. Rapid Response Manufacturing at UTPA designed a more cost-effective way to produce the dip. The Mission Chamber also connected her to the H-E-B Primo Picks contest.
“Ruby Red put together all the resources that have helped me grow the business,” Gonzalez said. “It is team work. So many people try to help you. They will hold your hand to help you make it.”
Gonzalez is not the only success story generated by the Mission Economic Development Corporation’s Ruby Red Ventures program.
Mission resident Jennifer Shipp, who received funds from the Ruby Red program, appeared on the Home Shopping Network on July 25 and 26 to promote her invention, the Knife Glider, a device that protects hands while chopping food. Shipp appeared through the network’s American Dreams program and had the chance to meet international home goods mogul and HSN success story, Joy Mangano, during her stint.
Ruby Red Ventures is close culminating its 2016 program and will pick the winners of its product idea competition, or shark tank, in August. The program will also begin signing up new candidates for the next six-month program that begins the in fall, and perhaps find the next Pilar Gonzalez.
More than 150 entrepreneurs have gone through the Ruby Red program and more than two dozen have been funded up to $25,000 each since 2013. The Ruby Red Ventures program consist of two rounds of funding per year at $50,000 per round. Participants are required to attend small business workshops to help them prepare sound business plans.
For more information, please contact Mission Economic Development Corporation at 956.585.0040.
By Stephanie Scott