From Struggling Entrepreneur to Breathtaking Success
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The extraordinary story of The Original Red Cactus salsa started with a conversation.
Steve remembers: "1994, '95, is when the Lord all of a sudden spoke to my heart one morning: 'I want you to do a salsa business.' I'm like, 'A salsa business?' You know, He was like, 'Yeah, you know, the one in your family, the sweet salsa, I would like you to put that on the market.' I'm like, 'Well, you know, Lord, I don't know anything about sweet salsa.'"
Undaunted, Steve Lehenbauer and his mom worked on perfecting his Aunt Gracie's old family recipe. Young, unmarried and a new Christian with a promising career as an insurance supervisor -- Steve hadn't been looking for a new direction. That's until he got laid off. So, he used all his savings and severance to manufacture the product.
Steve remembers: "I loaded up my trunk and put some 12 packs of product into the back, and I started calling on grocery stores."
Two years later, struggling with low cash flow and doubt, Steve wavered about what he heard.
Steve recalls: "I had almost gone broke trying to take care of bills. Sales were good, but I wasn't for sure how to quite get it out there and grow it in the right way. And, I was also a young guy wanting to, you know, at some point start a family. I finally just screamed out at the Lord, I'm like, 'Lord, what are we doing? I'm going flat broke! I've got a degree and could be making money, and now look at me. Look at me now.'"
Steve took a job to support himself and worked his salsa business before and after his 9 to 5. Then, after two more years of long hours and endless miles on the road, a knock on his door brought the solution to his problems. A friend's brother shared with him a life-changing principle.
Steve recalls: "Then out of the blue, he said,' 'Steve, I don't think you're tithing. And as a servant of the Lord, you need to start tithing.' And, I was like, 'Well, yeah, you're right, I don't. And you're right, I should.' And it was an eye-opener. I mean, the Lord tells us to give of our first fruit. He tells us in Malachi to tithe."
Steve decided he was going to tithe. Four years later, Red Cactus Salsa was fully supporting his growing family.
Steve says: "I was tithing and even probably going beyond the tithe. In 2003, I was making around $40,000, and I was able to tithe $4,700. Every year that I continually gave, my salary continued to go up to be able to bring up four kids. And not only that, but I also mean, it's more than just even my salary. I mean, the blessings of family and children and just spiritual blessings. So many things that He gives. He far surpasses and gives us back."
Every year the demand for the salsa grew. The company expanded with more products, office space and a warehouse. In 2016 Steve began tithing off the business' profits.
Steve states: "You know, we can't outgive Him. And I believe if we support Him and the work of getting His name out there, that somehow, He takes care of us. Because He cares about us so much. I know that in my 26 years of doing this, we have been told by the accounts and even the bigger accounts we go to that it must be an act of God for us to do what we do. Because we're just a little old salsa that was out of a little old town, that now is, you know, covering half of the nation."
During the lockdown, when the world binged on Netflix and snacks – Red Cactus Salsa sales skyrocketed to three million dollars! Steve's income increased by 40 per cent.
Steve reports: "By the time 2020 was over, and we're moving into 2021, Red Cactus at that point was doing so well, I mean, like crazy well, that we were debt free and no longer had to operate on a loan."
While other snack products lost sales momentum in 2021, Red Cactus maintained its new all-time high.
Steve adds: "It even increased more. So, everything that we gained in 2020 continued to go up. And I believe all that was for the fact that we stayed our stance in God, kept the tithe, and kept moving forward in Him. God always somehow honors those that honor Him."
In January 2022, Steve was hospitalized with Covid. While recovering at home, he discovered The 700 Club and Operation Blessing.
Steve says: "It's incredible to see how much they're (CBN) doing. I thought as a person and as a business, we love to feed the hungry in our community. Here's a group (Operation Blessing) that is feeding the hungry worldwide. I thought, 'what a great idea.' So, I instantly got online, put in my monthly pledge, and put it on there. And all I can tell you is after I did that, I had the warmest feeling come over me like the first time I learned to tithe, and I finally just did it, and my life was blessed. If I've learned anything along the way, it is you cannot outgive Him. He tells us to tithe. It opens us up to Him, and everything that He can do, and He will do because He promises to take care of us."
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