Small to Big: Olé Mexican Foods

Veronica Moreno’s Atlanta tortilla company is on pace to reach $275 million in sales

Veronica Moreno
Photograph by Raymond Jones for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Veronica Moreno immigrated to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Coahuila in 1977, she found the tortillas sold in stores didn’t taste as good as the ones she made at home. She opened a small factory in Atlanta in 1988 and sold $10,000 worth of corn tortillas the first year. This year, Olé Mexican Foods, available at Wal-Mart and many other stores, is on pace to have sales of $275 million. As the business grows, Moreno leans increasingly on her sons: Eddie, 36, works with suppliers, and Edgar, 28, handles marketing and restaurant sales. That’s led to new challenges.

“In the beginning it was a very small tortilleria. My husband and I worked together to make sure the taste was right, that the appearance of the product was appealing to the customer.”

“People were coming from Mexico and spreading out across the country, and we were growing with the population. We went from a building that was 80,000 square feet to a building that was twice as big.”

“I had to learn everything. If I build a factory in Las Vegas, the plant is going to be too hot, and you can have sticking. If it’s too cold, the workers aren’t comfortable. You have to make sure the product is the same at all your plants. In the end, I decided Texas was the best in that moment for us. We built the [Grand Prairie] factory in 2007.”

“My husband stayed on the manufacturing side, and I went out to find opportunities. I have a big vision for the company. I tell my family, if they don’t see what I see, I’ll pass on the opportunity.”

“I wanted to be in the business of manufacturing cheese. I couldn’t convince my husband, so I went to my son [Eddie] and said, ‘We have the suppliers, and the price is right.’ He said, ‘If you think it’s good, do it.’ ”

“If you have employees, you tell them what to do, and that’s it. When you work with your family, you have to balance business with relationships. In the end, it’s more of a matriarchal system than a democratic one.”

—As told to Patrick Clark