April 5, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Chic marketing darling

Juanita ‘the Taco Chick’ Carmack sizzles in national spotlight
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

The Spokesman-Review Juanita Carmack, owner of The Salsa Factory, watches the production crew of MSNBC prepare for filming at her shop in Rathdrum on April 1.
(Full-size photo)

Want to try some?

Taco Chic Salsa can be found at The Salsa Factory in Rathdrum, in the salsa section of many area stores, and on the Internet at www.tacochicsalsa.com. Fresh Taco Chic Salsa can be found in the produce departments at area Yokes, Rosauers and Super 1 stores; and in the deli department at Idaho’s Super 1 stores.

For the second time in less than a year, a film crew for a national television show has traveled to Rathdrum to film Juanita Carmack and The Salsa Factory, home of Taco Chic Salsa.

Although Carmack, known locally as the Taco Chick, seems surprised to find herself once again in the national spotlight, the charismatic Harley-riding businesswoman is fast becoming one of North Idaho’s most recognizable entrepreneurs.

Carmack remembers friends scoffed at her decision to build her salsa factory in Rathdrum in 2005, warning her nobody would find her there. She says her response was, “I’m not worried. I’ll just bring the world to Rathdrum.”

Making good on her boast, within three years Carmack was named one of the Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs for 2008 by Country Living Magazine. The resulting exposure in the popular magazine began a roller coaster ride on the national scene that hasn’t yet ended – and brought the world to her door.

Producers began calling within days of her return from Chicago where she was honored by the magazine and shared her story of inspiration and perseverance with a crowd of more than 600 women entrepreneurs from across the nation.

First, New York producers from CNBC’s “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch” called to set up a Web cast interview. After a midnight run to Wal-Mart to buy a webcam and a mad scramble up and down Rathdrum’s Main Street looking for a phone with the required features just minutes before the interview; Carmack made the connection with the billionaire entrepreneurial guru who said the words she was waiting to hear, “Yes, Juanita, you do have the million dollar package.”

Producers from NBC’s “Today Show” were next to call, according to Carmack, who was chosen to appear in their “Today’s Working Woman: Turning Dreams into Dough” series, following a whirlwind round of telephone interviews.

The “Today Show” crew arrived in Rathdrum April 8, 2008. They filmed for hours, watching as Carmack made salsa in her home using the methods generations of women in her family have followed; then moved to The Salsa Factory where she showed how she makes it today, in her FDA-approved kitchen.

The “Today Show” segment aired a couple of weeks later, sparking enormous publicity for Carmack. She found herself handling interviews in the local media while her Internet sales skyrocketed and local sales grew. She also began to receive hundreds of e-mail messages from women across America, asking her advice on starting their own businesses. She took time to send each a message of encouragement.

Then MSN called. Just a couple of weeks ago, Carmack received a call from a producer asking if she would be interested in sharing her story along with a group of other baby boomers across the country.

The MSN film crew arrived in Rathdrum last Wednesday. Ignoring swirling snow and freezing temperatures, the Hollywood film crew followed Carmack for hours, filming her making salsa at The Salsa Factory with her son and daughter-in-law, helping customers, making deliveries in her familiar Taco Chic Salsa truck, and riding her Harley.

Hours later, the crew ordered dinner from O’Malleys and sat down to conduct the “voice over” interview in Carmack’s home.

The MSNBC program is expected to air in mid-June as a “webisode” on www.MSN.com, according to an MSN executive.

So far, the national media has found Carmack, who created a thriving business out of her great-grandmother Victoriana’s salsa recipe, and her flamboyant style, engaging personality, and indomitable spirit irresistible. Throw in her leathers and her Harley Soft Tail and they can’t seem to resist.

Contact correspondent Mary Jane Honegger by e-mail at Honegger2@verizon.net.


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