Salsa for a Cause

With the high-profile success of mission-based, for-profit enterprises such as TOMS, the popularity of social entrepreneurship has soared in recent years. But for David Contreras and his wife Rebecca, who recently launched their own purpose-driven brand called Spicy Mama Salsa, this is no temporary trend. “Austin is my home, and I’m a stakeholder in my city,” says David, the president of Spicy Mama Salsa, which donates 30 percent of its profits to fund LaunchPad, a nonprofit organization that the duo founded six years ago to serve at-risk youth in Northeast Austin. “Growing up in a single-parent home I had a lot of challenges,” David says. “And by the grace of God, I was able to overcome those issues in my life, so I said, I want to help kids who are not focused on education, knowing that that’s a key to achieving their goals.”

The Contrerases say they are now doing this with the help of Spicy Mama’s fire-roasted, poblano-and-jalapeño-pepper salsas based on a family recipe passed down from Rebecca’s grandmother. “People have commented on how good it was for a long, long time,” David says. “It wasn’t until recently that we thought to take the recipe and produce it [in] larger volume and see what happens.” Since the brand was launched a year ago, the locally manufactured salsas have taken off, and are now available in “Mild Mama” and “Hot Mama” flavors at nine stores locally, including Wheatsville Food Co-op and Central Market.

David says a major driving force behind the Spicy Mama brand has been to provide revenue to build a permanent, brick-and-mortar home for LaunchPad—now based primarily at Dobie Middle School where the Contrerases oversee 14 after-school programs in the areas of leadership, financial literacy, cooking, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and more. LaunchPad also provides parent education, mentoring programs and even community block parties. With the income stream generated by Spicy Mama Salsa and future donations, the couple hopes to purchase land near the middle school and build “The LaunchPad Center for Hope & Building Dreams” where they would expand their focus to include programs such as vocational and welfare-to-work training to more holistically address the needs of the community. 

In the meantime, David says he and his family are committed to serving the 130 young people that come through their programs each week. “These are some amazing kids,” he says. “They’re resilient, talented. They just don’t have the foundation. So we try to come in and expand their worldview on why education is important, and what it’s going to lead to—to try to tap into their potential.” —Nicole Lessin

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