WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Born and raised in central Kansas, Eddie Sandoval did not see many people who looked like him. “I grew up in a small town and I was the only Hispanic pretty much from kindergarten to where I graduated,” said Sandoval, founder and CEO of Pinole Blue.
Every year his family would travel back to Chihuahua, Mexico to visit loved ones and to bring back goods from his hometown. “We would always bring back pinole because you couldn’t find it here,” Sandoval said.
Pinole is nutrient-rich ground corn used in tortillas, baked goods and drinks. It’s a family ingredient Sandoval wanted to share with others. “It inspired me to always want to share my family’s heritage while being able to give back,” Sandoval said. But it wasn’t until his last year of college at Wichita State University that pinole really played a part in his life.
Sandoval was a senior in college and he was struggling to find a job. It was then that he decided to start his own business from his own garage. “And I found an organic blue corn supplier in Chihuahua, Mexico, and that’s where I was like, ‘Huh, I think this would be a good idea,'” Sandoval said.
Within a few days, he was at the Mexican border, loading half a ton of corn into the back of his pickup truck. “My mom thought it was the craziest almost dumbest idea,” he said. “They couldn’t believe I was about to graduate with a finance degree, I came full-ride scholarship to Wichita State, I’d interned at some big companies, and I was going to give it all up just to be grinding corn the rest of my life.” But Sandoval kept pushing toward his goal.
For two years he would drive from store to store, trying to make sales. Four years later, Pinole Blue’s products that are made in Wichita are sold in 300 locations across 18 states and shipped nationwide.
“It was finally worth everything I did,” Sandoval said. He said his heritage motivated him to work hard and give back by donating part of his proceeds to the Tarahumara community. It also shows his parents their hard work and dedication were not in vain.
Sandoval hopes to continue expanding his business for as long as he can and one day be able to pass it down to his children to continue his family’s heritage. He wants to remind the Hispanic community to shoot for the stars. “To show other Latinos and Hispanics, especially having immigrant parents where they want the best for you, that sometimes it’s okay to take the risk,” he said.