Local grandma wants to cover the world in salsa

BENJAMIN TREVIÑO

STAFF WRITER

At 68 years of age, Rebecca Voore is looking to reinvent herself, though that wasn’t her plan when she developed her Salsa Vinagreta. Based on her grandmother’s pico de gallo recipe, Voore’s salsa starts with vinaigrette rather than tomatoes or tomato sauce. She mixes it with wine, jalapeño, and freshly-diced vegetables for a unique taste experience not found in traditional, store-bought salsas.

At the urging of her son, she mixed up some early batches of her recipe and did some test marketing at a local farmers market. She was overwhelmed at the responses she got.

“I was very insecure about releasing a new salsa to the people where it’s the salsa capital,” said Voore. “So I didn’t have any dreams of my salsa taking off or being liked. But then I learned my customers were using my salsa as salad dressing. They used it on crackers, on bruschetta. They used it to grill fish. They used it as a topping. They used it as a marinade, as a gravy, they used it in casseroles to cut down half the salt and calorie content. I was shocked!”

Inspired to move to the next level, Voore began pursuing her new project in earnest. She sought help wherever she could find it, knocking on doors at H-E-B supermarket headquarters in San Antonio, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and finally the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. She took advantage of the chamber’s programs designed to help emerging entrepreneurs and was selected as one of this year’s winners of its Innovation Grant Awards.

“Her salsa is just amazing,” said Steve Alhenius, president and CEO of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “She gets so excited about her product and I love her enthusiasm. That’s one of the key things that people need to have to be successful. They don’t take no for an answer. They just don’t quit. Persistence is one of the key elements to be successful.”

Voore believes some of the keys to innovative success are to network with other people and not being afraid to accept criticism of your product. She says it’s also important not to give up in the face of adversity. She has been on temporary hiatus from making her salsa due to a bout with carpal tunnel syndrome, but she is using the time off to fine tune her marketing skills and to commission a food panel analysis and a shelf life study. Voore has also developed three levels of spicy heat to her product and she’s done in all on a bare-bones budget.

“I started with only $400,” said Voore. “That was my investment. I had to buy coolers, make my salsa, and get a nice vendor table that looked attractive and professional. So I got started for less than $400 and I sold so much salsa that it paid for itself within a short time.”

What began as a social experience turned out to be the dream of a lifetime, according to Voore, who now wants her salsa to be the premier, number one go-to brand in the world. Though she’s done much of the work on her own, she says her initial success has been a community effort.

“What Steve Alhenius and the chamber have created in the marketing programs and others were invaluable to my progress,” said Voore. “The SBA also helped me out, as did my farmers market customers. It took the whole community. They provide a forum to be heard, to test your product, to network with others. They’re so approachable that I felt like I have my own personal support team.”

For more information on Voore’s Salsa Vinagreta visit: www.salsavinagretargv.com or email her at info@salsavinagretargv.com. For more on the chamber’s Innovation Grant Awards, visit: www.mcallen.org/business-community/innovation.