My husband and I were preparing to go on vacation in Pismo Beach. We love the slower pace of the Central Coast. And OMG! The cliffs of Montaña De Oro! They just call to us. For two weeks every year, we go to wind down from the hectic holidays and the insanity that goes on behind my hairstylist chair. Jason Brown, one of City Church’s founding pastors and my mentor at the time, said that he had a gift for us before we went. A gift? We love gifts! We went by his house, and he gave us a pound of coffee - Patria Coffee, a product that City Church Compton, a sister church, sells on their premises. The three plus hours it took for us to get to Pismo smelled heavenly thanks to Patria. Once unpacked and ready to settle down in Pismo, we decided to brew a batch of coffee. I have never had such sweet smelling coffee as Patria. And while it was really really good, I had no idea what it was going to do for the future of City Church Long Beach.
Inspired by Patria’s simple packaging and delicious flavor, I started thinking. “What a good idea… WE should sell something!” That idea stirred within me the entire time we were in Pismo. So much for vacation. The wheels had already started to turn. Rick, my husband, saw the gleam in my eye and knew we were in for a new adventure. After our two weeks of rest were over, we came back to the hustle of work and the joy of doing ministry at City Church. Tuesday morning came and I had my regular meeting with Jason - time to connect with my mentor and see what was in store for the new year. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Jason! That coffee! So good! You know what? We should sell something! Let’s make almond brittle and sell it!
Jason (in his typically calm voice): What? What about your delicious salsa? Why don’t we sell that?
Me: But the brittle is only three ingredients! I could totally master three ingredients! (Mind you…I have never made brittle in my life before, but three ingredients seemed doable.)
Jason (again, placid): But salsa is a staple in the kitchen.
Me (not so serene and certainly starting to feel a little stormy): I don’t want to make salsa! I have been making it since I was a little girl!
Jason (whose repose is now actually starting to agitate me): Diana, it’s the best salsa I have ever had.
Me (totally annoyed): Well Jason, if you want me to sell salsa, it has got to have a purpose because I have no interest in making salsa.
Jason: Your salsa is really the best I have ever tasted. Think about it.
Me (feeling slightly defeated): Grrrr….okay.
While Jason often raved about the salsa that I shared with him on countless occasions, I never really took his compliments seriously. I thought that he was just being like pastors were supposed to be: kind. But this time he added the words, “Think about it.” So I did.
And that is how, in January of 2015, a salsa enterprise was born in my heart. Over the next few months, I started to see the purpose salsa making could have. Being raised in poverty without much support for personal growth, I knew what was lacking in the lives of kids like myself, and I saw that the salsa enterprise could be a vehicle to render some hope for our youth. I knew how badly some of the younger folk could use the mentorship and the encouragement this venture would provide. I saw the vision for a social enterprise that would be set up to invest in the next generation and help them be empowered to their full potential. What if we developed a business and created jobs for the neighboring community while serving up the best salsa ever? What if we helped young people learn how to succeed on an emotional, spiritual, financial, cultural, educational, and a physical level? Could we actually accomplish that with the heat of our salsa?
I could feel the passion of this possibility surging up in me, and I began to pray, “Dear Lord, what the heck do you want me to do with this?” I was moved to speak about the venture with a couple of people. For some the idea sounded too far-fetched. Others just flat out said they were not interested. In the beginning, there were a lot of closed doors and dead ends, and after Jason and his family moved to Iowa, I almost put the entire thing behind me. Yet the idea would just not go away, though I often wished that it would.
Then during one of my regular Starbucks meetings with Bill (who has been mentoring me since Jason moved), I ran into Megan Grant and Chrissy McCauley. I sat with them to chat for a bit, and in passing, for no particular reason, I spoke to them about the salsa. I started to tell them about the indifference of some, and the downright defeats that I had encountered with the salsa idea. And to my surprise, the women responded to my salsa idea with, “We could do this…We could look into… We totally could do that!” I realized at that moment that I was hearing the word “we.” Well, duh! Isn’t City Church all about team? Isn’t Jesus all about community? At that very moment I realized that this idea was not mine, it was His. The salsa enterprise did not need a boss - it needed a TEAM! It seemed that the Holy Spirit had a plan that He had not clued me in on. After that chance encounter with Megan and Chrissy, I called a few friends who called a few friends and had them over for pizza and beer and we began to talk. Some of those who came over, quite honestly were purely invited for the pizza and beer because they are well liked and well, truth be told, they are just good people to have around. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that they would become part of this dream too.
I went into that very first meeting thinking that if the idea was received with a lukewarm response, I was going to put it to its final rest. (Remember, I never intended to be a salsa maker.) Enter this amazing team and almost immediately, it was christened with a name: Port City Salsa. We all agreed on its potential and have been diligently working on the project since that night. We have regular meetings with set goals to accomplish. Currently we are working on our mission statement and values. This team is no joke people. They actually call each other higher. Team…it’s the only way to go. We have people working on marketing; we have a legit grant writer; we have our first salsa apprentice; and that’s just a few of the people on this amazing team. Our team is robust and full of life. There is no doubt that Port City Salsa will launch this year. We have business people strategizing for our best success. I am proud of them and the future of Port City Salsa. I am excited for the opportunity to transform lives together as a team of people who value people. Our holistic approach to care for others is something that I think Jesus would be pleased with. We will keep you updated on our progress, and you please keep us in your prayers.
Our team consists of Ellie Wilbur, James Gowin, Laurie Hambleton, Erin Arendse, Megan Grant, Rick Macias, Diana Macias, Selene Zazueta, Alisa Macias, and Chrissy McCauley.