Precooking the family business with a UNT education

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From humble beginnings of distributing spices and pepper sauces in a garage, to a now more than 20 million dollar salsa business, Doug Renfro is helping to build his family brand of Renfro’s Salsa, one spreadsheet at a time.

Renfro’s grandparents started Renfro’s Salsa in 1940, and while he worked his way through adolescence at the warehouse, he did not always envision his future to involve mixing spices. Instead, Renfro decided to open his options by pursing college and other career aspirations.

Having been exposed to UNT through middle school field trips, he knew it was the school for him at an early age. “I was familiar with UNT. I knew its reputation and it was close by and affordable,” said Renfro.

He spent a large portion of his days on the road, starting out in the early morning in Denton and driving back home to Fort Worth where he worked late hours before beginning his obligatory homework.

The hours may have been long, but it was when Renfro passed by a memorable professor, Dr. John Glasscock, that he caught his big break.

“Dr. Glasscock found me in the hallway, because we didn't have email back then, and flagged me down to say that he recommended me to the financial and accounting staff at EDS,” recalled Renfro. Electronic Data Systems (better known as EDS at the time), and Renfro’s UNT connections enabled this small-time salsa man to fulfill his dream of becoming a big-time financial analyst.

Six years into the corporate world, rising through the ranks as team leader, supervisor, and later department manager, Renfro realized that something was still missing. He decided to take on a 100% commission-based job for the opportunity to earn unlimited income potential through sales, but with it, came his biggest life lesson of all—unlimited loss potential. Still against spending his life as a cog in the corporate machine, he then took the plunge and rejoined the family business – trading in his suit for a hair net.

While Renfro had not anticipated coming back to the family business, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. His finance education at UNT proved more valuable to his family business than he would have ever imagined—enabling him to apply lessons in the classroom to management operations in the warehouse.

“My dad and my uncle knew they needed help, so I just analyzed things one at a time and the first thing I did was get them to buy a computer and move away from using yellow legal pads.”

Renfro learned his first spreadsheet program at UNT, and showed his family how his finance training from the 80’s could make their operations considerably more efficient.

Today, Renfro precooks everything at Renfro’s Salsa using Excel—and it has paid off.

“It doesn't matter what it tastes like if nobody can afford it. So, I precook everything in Excel and make sure that it meets my financial parameters.”

Those financial parameters are what has helped Renfro’s Salsa grow into the big name business it is today. While they are now seven times larger than when he first started, they have less than double the employees because of the automation and efficiency that Renfro helps to instill.

In fact, the family business has become so efficient that in a year where they would normally show growth of 2-5 percent, they are seeing an unheard of 10 percent growth margin. Ranking among the top ten brands in the nation, while co-packing for roughly 100 other brands, it is safe to say that Renfro successfully brought his finance degree into the warehouse.

Renfro was inducted into the Texas Food Processors Hall of Fame two years ago and is now set to add the Specialty Foods Association Hall of Fame to his list of accomplishments.

“It’s exciting and humbling to be included in this crowd and it’s a nice testament that people appreciate my contribution to the industry.”

Salsa may not be the typical path for all College of Business finance majors, but it goes to show you the versatility of a UNT degree and the students that graduate from the College of Business.