Carlos Flores and Sandra DaSilva: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs

Today’s Notable Young Professionals are hot sauce connoisseurs Carlos Flores and Sandra DaSilva, who are currently focused on turning No 7 hot sauce into a household name after successful ventures owning Cocoa Latte and Clay kitchen store on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
We make and sell, distribute, brand, eat, sleep and breathe all things No 7 Mexican Hot Sauce.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Sandra saw how much I loved being in the kitchen, and later she realized that people went crazy whenever I made hot sauce (which she didn’t even come close to in the beginning). Being my mom’s family recipe, it’s always been around and a big part of every meal.

So she said, “get ready, in a few weeks you will launch that hot sauce” And we did – at our Espresso Bar “Cafe con Leche” on March 19, 2013.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Well for us we feel we make a good team, and working together to reach the same goals is huge. We especially love to see people’s faces light up when they try the sauce. It confirms we are on the right track.

The most challenging of all would be these Canadian winters, especially Carlos being from California. Truly the hardest thing is it’s a non-paved road almost non-existent; by that we mean every day we get up and pave the road a little further and walk towards building the brand. Tomorrow we pave a little more and do the same again. This business we started is unfamiliar and there isn’t a road we can choose to take and go down. There is no handbook or manual, and no one who will guide you. You must be sensitive to stop and take it all in accordingly. One day at a time.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
We feel that balancing work and life is always a challenge but because we live together we kind of balance that specific area and each other. Carlos is very easygoing and always remembers to have a good time along the way in everything he does, life or work. Whereas I am more concerned about what’s on the schedule and what the deadlines are. So with those two traits we remind each other to go one way or the other.  

Where do you see yourself in five years?
We both have the goal of living a low-key and carefree life; no major commitments, no schedules; having the flexibility to move around and share the hot sauce love with others. We see ourselves having a great following within this year. Carlos, who doesn’t plan much ahead, feels that No 7 will be a household brand of great quality hot sauce with the ability to share that wealth with many others, from charities, to motivational teachings, leadership for youth, you name it. We are all about giving back. Giving is receiving! 

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Making the tempting decision about distribution for your very new brand. It seems like an easy way out – fast money. We took the decisions to build the brand on our own, before we can truly understand the different roles of taking your sauces from an idea to the consumer.  We also received a partnership offer and we decided ‘no, it’s just you and I as partners’.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
A question we have been asked many times and in many ways. Success is not about money and it certainly doesn’t equal happiness. Success to us is being able to enjoy every day, the opportunity to do what you’ve decided to do and have it become a reality because of all your hard work, determination and efforts. Success is when you are able to give back, inspire, encourage and then watching those people succeed knowing that you planted a little seed in their idea.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
There are so many precious moments we’ve experienced since launching No 7 – from people who come up to you and say how much they love the brand, to online orders, to people attending a trade show just to meet you. But the most memorable was this year when we took our one and only sauce to a total of six flavours when we only had one other in the works. As we now know, Carlos doesn’t like to plan, so to see them all lined up, labelled, and with batch numbers was a real wow for the both of us. How did we get here? 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Our best advice is to pick what you really want to do or accomplish. Give it your best without complaining or giving up. It takes time and dedication to build a solid foundation, but once it’s built, remember it’s SOLID. Now that your foundation is built, each level is a new challenge… but build UP, keep at it, and do it to the best of your ability! It is better to say “I tried” than to say “I wish I tried.”

One piece of advice we received from a friend was, “no matter who you are or what you do, do it the best you can; if you sweep floors, sweep it the best; if you practice law, do it well; if you are a beggar, beg the best out of all the beggars; if you complain, you are ugly, but be the best ugly you can be.” He also told us to learn to say “no.” It may save you a lot of headaches. 

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
For me I really enjoy Carlos’ cooking. Yes, I promise it’s that good. However, we enjoy going out and relaxing and trying new places in Toronto, as he always seems to hear about the most remote, newly opened places/supper clubs/drop-in dinners as these seem to work best with his personality. It’s very difficult to choose just one favourite.  

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
We like to sit and drink coffee with a treat of course. One of our weekly winding down hobbies is to go for a massage, a habit I learned from Carlos.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
California is our second home. For Carlos who was raised there, he really enjoys the food and weather. For me, I love San Francisco and the wine country just minutes from where we stay. Being able to adapt to a slower pace when visiting friends and family in California is great!

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
I never thought we would be asked this question but a few months ago Carlos and our summer intern thought we need a theme song before each trade show, so they picked “You Be Killing Em” by Fabolous. I didn’t think we need a theme song, so since then we never really picked one officially. On another note, Carlos always puts on Bachata whenever he is doing any hot sauce-related work at the espresso bar.

So if you thought maybe we would choose “Started From the Bottom,” you guessed wrong. Maybe sometime this year we will officially choose a theme song. Maybe. 

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
We’d be off doing something together either coffee-related, real estate design, or a product.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Yes we usually get involved with any charity event that reaches out to us, from raising money, to the two children we sponsor through World Vision.

What to you is notable?
We feel it’s important to recognize anyone who is out there not looking out for just themselves but reaching out to others as well. That should be noticed!

BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Carlos just recently switched to an iPhone with much hesitation, but in the end he is our social media guy and needs to quickly connect with all things social. I work from an iPad most of the time and use a BlackBerry.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)

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