Before he came up with the idea that changed his life, Richard Montañez, the son of a Mexican immigrant, grew up in a migrant labor camp in Southern California. He and his ten siblings lived in a one-bedroom apartment with their parents before moving to an 800-square foot three-bedroom home. Those experiences shaped him.
"I have a PhD of being poor, hungry and determined," the janitor-turned-inventor-turned-executive tells the Washington Post. "And I think when you've experienced those three things, there's a lot of wisdom. When you've been poor, there's so much innovation that comes out of that."
Montañez, now in his 50s, has been innovative since grade school.
When his mom sent him to school on the first day of 3rd grade with a burrito for lunch, he was embarrassed. It was the 1960s, and back then, "very few people had seen a burrito," he writes in his memoir "A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie." "There I was with this burrito and with everyone staring at me. I put it back in my bag and hid it."
The next day, when he asked his mom to make him "a bologna sandwich and a cupcake like the other kids," she instead packed him two burritos: one for him to eat and one for him to use to make a friend. By the end of the week, the seven-year-old entrepreneur was selling burritos for $0.25 each.