Herculean Effort

Local couple’s salsa gamble is paying off

When life gives you lemons … make salsa? That’s the recipe Dan and Stacy Pillera decided on after a series of layoffs for Dan.

The 2008 recession forced many career changes. After Dan bounced between jobs from then until early 2014, the Pilleras decided it was time to reassert control over their lives.

Dan had been producing small batches of salsa for friends and family with ingredients from the family’s garden for years. Why not try to market it? The result is the award-winning Olympus Fare Salsa.

“If you’re gonna gamble on somebody, we’re gonna gamble on ourselves,” says Stacy, who is vice president of Olympus Fare.

The Pilleras abandoned their jobs (she was a mortgage company account executive), cashed in their 401(k) savings, and started to focus on Dan’s salsa recipe.

According to Stacy, it took only 30 days to go from an “aha” moment to product launch — a month that found them modifying a family recipe for mass production, designing a brand, and finding a commercial kitchen incubator in Lansing.

The Pilleras are creating what they call an all-natural, low-sodium salsa line that’s free of preservatives or added sugar.

Olympus Fare, like any good metro Detroit startup, doubles down on its Michigan identity. Stacy estimates that 95 percent of the resources that go into Olympus Fare’s operations are from Michigan, and the Pilleras are dedicated to turning the economic struggles they experienced into positive job growth for the state.

The Pilleras celebrated Olympus Fare’s two-year mark in January. They currently have four varieties — from a mild “Aphrodite” on up to the hot “Hades.” All of the versions have won national awards.

Olympus Fare products are available in around 40 metro area grocery stores, including around 10 Kroger locations. olympussalsa.com

—Spencer White

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